Second Chance

By Sango-chan

Chapter One

Back Then When We Were Two

"Inuyasha!" 

Hm?  The dog demon half turned in mid-leap to face the direction that the voice came from. 

Ssssthunk! 

The arrow zipped out of nowhere incredibly fast, burying itself deeply into Inuyasha's chest.  Shocked, he touched the wound, feeling for blood, and was surprised to find there was no pain.  As his fingers brushed the arrow, an electrical jolt sizzled through his bones, stunning him with its magical power.  An entrapments spell!  But who…?  Inuyasha sank into darkness and the last thing he saw was Kikyo standing before him, holding a bow and a quiver of arrows…

Inuyasha woke up drenched with a cold sweat, almost falling off of the tree limb he slept on.  Looking around, he remembered where he was and his body relaxed a notch.  Softly leaping onto the ground, the hanyou silently padded off into the forest by himself.  As he neared his destination, Inuyasha hesitated and bit his lip.  Do I really want to see this?  I haven't been here since…  Fighting back his doubt, he burst out into a small clearing to face the ancient Shinboku tree.  Walking forward, he pushed back the vines that covered the tree trunk and gently felt the shallow depression his body had made there by being held so long.  For a long time Inuyasha stared upon the ancient tree, waves of longing and regret washing over him.  If only I had been able to trust her…if only Naraku hadn't…  Shaking his head, the demon pushed back the thoughts and headed back to where the others were.  There was no going back now.  There was no second chance…

The sun was just beginning to brighten the eastern horizon, sending fingers of pale golden light prying through the still-dark sky.  Inuyasha bounding into camp, hoping no one had noticed his absence.  Relieved to see that everyone was asleep, he headed back to his tree limb.  As he passed close to the embers of their fire, Inuyasha paused.  The sleeping bag that was always here was gone.  So was the bright yellow backpack that always decorated the leaves.  Inuyasha growled softly in annoyance and turned back to the direction he had just come from, going off the right a bit.  Kagome better have a really good explanation this time.  She can't just wander off by herself all the time!

Skidding to a halt where Kagome's scent track had stopped, Inuyasha found that he was right in front of the Bone-Eater's Well.  No doubt she had gone back to her realm again.  Well, he would fetch her back!  Inuyasha jumped into the dark well shaft.  As he fell through the dark void of time, Inuyasha braced himself for the hard landing.  To his surprise, he touched down on damp bed of fresh leaves, still wet with dew.  Looking around, he discovered that there were no wooden walls surrounding him, nor was he in the Higurashi shrine.  Puzzled, Inuyasha spun in a full circle, trying to get a bearing on his surroundings.  What he saw just baffled him even more.  He was in the same forest, and everything was exactly the same except that the old dry well was gone.  Crouching down to try and figure things out, Inuyasha found Kagome's familiar scent leading off toward Kaede's village.  Well, he would follow it and see if she had any answers.

Kagome's smell became stronger and stronger, and Inuyasha knew he was getting close.  But there was something not quite right about this thing, and not just the change in his surroundings, either.  Something more subtle, something that tugged at the edges of his awareness, a something long forgotten and half remembered.

"Inuyasha.  Are you there?"

Kagome's voice called to him from somewhere under the hill where Inuyasha stood.  He relaxed, as he always did around her, basking in the warmth that her presence inflicted in him.  Her voice…  Inuyasha stiffened.  This wasn't Kagome's voice!  And yet it sounded so similar, so familiar.  Perplexed, the hanyou sniffed in deep draughts of the air, drawing in Kagome's scent, hoping it would cancel out his doubt.  But again suspicions nagged at him.  This wasn't Kagome's soft fragrance of spring rain and rose petals.  This scent had a different, sadder tone to it; it wasn't Kagome's vibrant, lively spirit.

"Inuyasha?"  The voice that was Kagome's and yet not Kagome's was closer this time, right behind him.

Inuyasha turned, not knowing what he expected to find.  What he did see made him fall over backwards in shock.  The poignantly gray eyes, the expression on the face before him.

"K-kikyo?"

Kikyo opened her mouth to speak again, but the confusion and the memories welling up in him were too much for Inuyasha.  He bounded away blindly, not knowing what direction he wished to go in.  Crashing through the forest, he tried to sort through his feelings.  The way he felt around her…and then the bitterness of her betrayal by Naraku's cruel manipulations.  Wait…Naraku!  What if this is just another of his cursed mind games?  Inuyasha slowly stopped, some far corner of his mind noting dully that he was where the well should have been.  If this really is Naraku, then there's only one way to find out.

Inuyasha rose into the air, scanning the thick forest beneath him for any flashes of the red miko clothes Kikyo always wore.  Whiffing the billows of warm air that rose up from the ground, Inuyasha targeted Kikyo's scent.  Landing softly just beyond her line of sight into the thick crown of an old tree, the half-demon peered into a empty clearing where long grasses waved back and forth, whispering mysterious messages to each other.  Kikyo sat by herself in the center, staring at the blue sky as if searching for something important in its azure depths.  Sitting like that with her arms hugging her knees, bow and arrows laying a few yards from her hands, the powerful priestess suddenly looked vulnerable and very alone.  Craning his neck to see from his roost in the tree, Inuyasha was unexpectedly overwhelmed with a strange feeling.  He'd never felt like this around anyone except Kagome…he wanted to protect her.

Heart thudding, Inuyasha pressed himself against the rough bark of the tree trunk.  Being this near Kikyo brought out feelings he'd forgotten long ago, and all he wanted at that moment was to be close to her.  But he had a mission to accomplish.  Steeling himself, half-hoping he was wrong and yet wishing that his guess was right, Inuyasha carefully sifted through the scents that flew through the air toward him.  The spicy smell of rain-washed trees, the warm aroma of sun-baked grass, the clean tang of water all washed through him…and her scent.  This wasn't the Kikyo he knew from the future; this was the one he had met fifty years ago…now.  No stench of grave soil and ashes permeated her soft fragrance, of flowers blooming under a gray sky.

It was her, and if he had guessed right, this was three days before the tragedy that had befallen them.  But now he knew about Onigumo and Naraku.  Now he could change the past.  Now he had a second chance…Inuyasha closed his eyes and reveled in thoughts of staying with Kikyo…as a human…

Inuyasha's eyes flew open, wide with shock, and his face paled.  If Naraku never tricked him, if Kikyo never shot him, if she never died, if her soul never left her body, there would be no Kagome.  Not now, not in fifty years, not ever.