Categories > Anime/Manga > Inuyasha > This Can't Be Good

(50) Awake

by Ithilwen 0 reviews

Hojo's fate.

Category: Inuyasha - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Humor,Romance - Characters: Other - Published: 2005-11-23 - Updated: 2008-12-05 - 7331 words

(A brown-haired girl in a WTF T-shirt stomps in with a crossbow.)

TANKBBG: Hello! I'm the two thousandth reviewer! What cool antics do I get to do?

YUSUKE: (playing cards) Right now we're trying to keep Hiei from throwing another fit.

HIEI: (sulks)

KUWABARA: (playing cards) It's not working.

TANKBBG: (claps Yusuke on shoulder) You'll do fine, guys. It's not like Sesshoumaru knows you thought Teles was going to pay Kurama for sex.

SESSHOUMARU: (fifty feet away) (ears twitch)

HIEI: He does now, moron.


SESSHOUMARU: (in pursuit) Disrespectful vermin! (prepares poison flower)

KUWABARA: (flees from Sesshoumaru)

YUSUKE: (flees from Sesshoumaru)

HIEI: (flees from Sesshoumaru) You are the dumbest guest star ever!

TANKBBG: (flees from Hiei who is fleeing from Sesshoumaru) Am not! (fires crossbow bolt)

SESSHOUMARU: (catches it and dissolves it in acid)


KUWABARA: (running) Can't you just shotgun him or something?

YUSUKE: (running) No! I used up today's quota on that busload of telemarketers.

(Still running, the boys clasp hands)

KUWABARA: Totally worth it.



I would like to thank my betas, therhoda and the inestimable Niamh.

I would especially like to thank Squeakyinuears, not only for her comments upon this piece, but for her miraculous ability to keep a secret.

"You may have only now discovered your true destiny," -D'Argo to Crichton, Farscape

"When the student is ready, the master will appear," - Utter Crap

The boy's fingers released the splintered edge of the well, as if he'd been caught in the act.

"Miss... Kikyo."

She had seen that look before, on Saiyo's face the night she'd left her village for good.

So someone had enlightened the boy. Kikyo's smile returned to her face, but with only half its usual detatched amusement. Something about his fear rang foul.

"You're not surprised to see me," she observed, eyes settling on the dim light at Hojo's throat.

Hojo shook his head.

"You knew I was coming."

He nodded again. The witchlight pulsed.

"How?" she breathed, barely audible in the whispering night.

Hojo took a breath, "Miss Kikyo, I-" She cut him off with a slicing motion of her hand.

"I wasn't talking to you."


He still felt warm. Her hands had been calloused as a mile of bad road, but so gentle that it just made him-

Twitch! Twitch!

Inuyasha pressed his ears down against his head. If he were lucky - fat chance - then maybe the stupid bouzu hadn't noticed.

"Inuyasha, are you all right?"

"I'm fine!" he snarled. Dammit but he needed something to take his mind off that stupid girl. "So why's Sango out to crack your skull this time? You usually leave her alone when she's injured."

If it was possible, Miroku actually looked sheepish for a moment. "She mentioned something to me about restraint, and how important it is to her. Truth be told, that was why I asked all those questions about your arrangement with Kagome."

"I won't do it for a whole week."

"I won't use the spell around your neck."

"I won't collar you."

"I won't make you heel like a yappy little dog. Who wants his ears scratched? Who wants a tummy rub? Who's my floofie little-"

"Do your ears always do that, or is this an uncomfortable topic?"

Inuyasha slapped his palms down on top of his head, "Mind your own business, bouzu."

"Of course, of course..." Miroku sounded just a little bit too accommodating. "You know, my master Mushin used to say-"

"When he wasn't asking for another mug?"

"-that too. He often said that when a man's body betrays him, it is often because of something trapped in his mind."

Inuyasha narrowed his eyes. "Did he?"

"...and if that which is trapped is released, his limbs will again obey him."

The dog demon gave Miroku a suspicious glare. "That doesn't sound like something Mushin would say."

"I know him better than you do, Inuyasha," Miroku pointed out. "Although," the monk sucked in air between his teeth, "instead of 'limbs' he actually said-"

"You can stop."

"My point is," he continued smoothly, "perhaps you should let me know what's on your mind."

"Bouzu, if you think I'm going to talk to you about-"

Miroku held up a hand, "Consider your alternatives."

. . . . .

"And that's what happened," he finished. Inuyasha folded his arms. "Well?"

Miroku hid a chuckle behind one hand. "Well," Miroku glanced at Inuyasha's ears, "the issue is a bit fuzzy."

"Quit with the snide comments, dammit!"

. . . . .

"I don't figure you expected me to come to you with this," Inuyasha explained. "But it was you or no one."

"Of course, Inuyasha," said Hojo. "Just let me get one thing straight. So you really are a pet?"

. . . . .

"So that's my problem. What do you think, Kouga?"


. . . . .

"I'm glad we could have this talk, Naraku."

"Kukuku... Now I know your weakness, Inuyasha!" Out of nowhere, a tentacle reached toward Inuyasha's scalp.


. . . . .

"All right, Miroku," Inuyasha sulked. "It's that stupid girl again."

"Ah, not calling Kagome by name," quipped the priest. "It must be serious."

"It is," he growled. "Kagome, she-"

Miroku leaned forward expectantly.

"She..." Inuyasha's shoulders went slack as he looked up. He had no idea how to explain. "She keeps... I keep telling her to stop, but she keeps on-And I'm not sure I want her to not to- You know what I mean?"

"Oddly enough, I do," Miroku answered. "Tell me, Inuyasha, a few days ago, Hojo let slip something about Kagome scratching your ears..."

"I'm going to rip out that pus-faced bastard's lungs through his squawkhole."

"So it is about that?" Miroku leaned back, tipping his eyes toward the new stars as arms stretched out into a shrug. "Hojo will be gone soon. He might not be so ideal of an apprentice as I made out earlier, but Mushin isn't one to turn his kind away."

Inuyasha stared at the grass. "It's not Hojo."

"Kagome, then?" Miroku's confused voice drifted over Inuyasha's shoulder. "If anything, Kagome seems to adore your-" the monk's eyes flicked to Inuyasha's ears, which flattened against his head in response "-your distinctive youkai traits."

"She adores Shippo, too," he snarled.


For some reason, Inuyasha's body wouldn't sink into the stone steps, wouldn't freefall out of its place and disappear, antlike into the grass.

"Do you believe," Miroku asked carefully, "that Kagome thinks of you as a-"

"Stupid crying puppy," the words burst from his mouth like a sickness. It felt strangely good to say it out loud, daring the world to tell him otherwise.

"Why would you think this?"

"Why the hell wouldn't she?" Inuyasha demanded. "What she was doing... It just felt so good - too good, and I..." his voice failed.

"You didn't ...lose your composure, did you?" Miroku seemed unsettled.

One twitch away from thumping his foot against the floor like a flea-scratching stray... "I sure as hell did. Hojo might even have walked in on that part." He gave a humorless laugh. "I don't even remember."

Miroku rubbed his gloved palm through his hair, beads clacking. "Well, such a lapse can be difficult to recover from. How did Kagome react?"

"I don't know." He shrugged. "There wasn't time. A minute later the fucking human walks in on us."

"Did she say anything about it afterward?"

"Not exactly," Inuyasha mumbled. "She did it again," he barely breathed. "Once, before the fight with Kagura. And she almost did two more times." He gave an evil snort. "At least I managed not to-" He shook his head.

"That's good," Miroku nodded. "If you're lucky, she thinks it was just a one-time thing. But tell me," he sounded confused. "What does this have to do with her thinking you're like Shippo?"

"What the hell is she supposed to think?" he fumed, suddenly on his feet. "If I'm squeaking like a lost cub anytime someone rubs my damn ears. How is she supposed to-How am I-" Inuyasha sank back down, knuckles twisting in the hair at his temples. "It means they were right," he breathed. "The wolf, my asshole brother, all of them. It means every one of them was always right about me being some damn mutt."

"So..." Miroku's voice wove left and right, like a man searching for the end of a maze. "You were alone, in the dark, with a pretty girl who was scratching your head..." Inuyasha stared into the treeline willing something - anything - big and hairy to come crashing loose and spare him this conversation. "...and you made a funny noise?"

"That's what I said."


"What the hell did you think I meant?" he demanded, not sure if he wanted to know.

"Ah..." The monk rubbed the back of his neck.

Two gold eyes went wide. "Dammit, pervert, not everyone's..." he fumbled "!"

"I don't have that problem," Miroku remarked with uncharacteristic defensiveness.

"I don't care!"

"All right, Inuyasha, let us return to the issue at hand."

The dog demon snorted.

"Somehow," Miroku pieced, "I don't feel that this is about what Sesshoumaru or Kouga, or Hojo for that matter, say or think about you."

"Who cares what they think?" he muttered.

"Exactly. Now Inuyasha, please humor me for the next few minutes as I presume to guess at the source of your discomfort."

You don't need to guess, priest. The ears tell it all: I'm a damn half-dog.

"I think this is more about how Kagome sees you."

"Who cares about that stupid girl?"

"We both know that you do. Inuyasha," the monk placed a on his shoulder, "there was something that Mushin told me long ago, something of which I've only recently been reminded," he said, taking a breath, "'A child constantly reaches for that which he desires, but a man will withhold or release his influence as the situation warrants.'"

Inuyasha snorted. "That makes you about six years old, priest."

"Fair enough," Miroku shrugged. "A shame that you won't receive those ten days Kagome promised you. It might have been interesting to see whether you could restrain your desires yourself rather than have our young priestess do it for you."

Fat chance of that now. "What the hell does this have to do with anything?"

"It means," Miroku explained, "that you've extolled your youkai senses and superiority and now - I think - now you want her to see you as a man."

The dog demon swallowed the sourness in his mouth. He should've just kept his damn yap shut. This hentai bastard had nothing but dusty memories to offer him.

"And you believe this... puppy sound makes her think of you as an animal."

Damn straight.

"I'm going to say something, Inuyasha..." Miroku began.

What the hell does it matter?

"I know you don't like to think about it this way..." the priest went on.

She's just going to go home to Hojo's world anyway.

"...but that could just as easily have been your human side."


Inuyasha's mind went completely, crystallizingly blank. He sat up, twisted at the waist, and turned two confused eyes and the ears in question toward the priest. The light was probably already too dim for his human eyes, but Miroku was looking at him expectantly, like an archer waiting to see if a new-loosed arrow would hit its target.

"But..." Inuyasha's voice was barely above a whisper, "but human men don't..."

"Yes we do."

"I mean..." Inuyasha waved one claw toward his throat. "The sound with the-"

"Inuyasha," Miroku took hold of the demon's forearm. "Yes we do."

"So it's not a..."

"Dog thing?" the monk shrugged. "Maybe not."

Although he never would have admitted it to -hell, anyone- he could be slow, very slow, when it came to anything but fighting. Out of the thoughts blowing like dry leaves inside his skull, one idea slowly coalesced:

Being human wasn't as good as being a demon; he'd never lied to himself or anyone else about that. Humans were weak and slow, and most of them didn't exactly gleam with wit, but damn! Being some human had everything over being some dog.

"It seems I may have been correct." The monk was dusting off his hands. "Women don't always want us to be strong and masculine," he placed one hand against his breast, "however much our natures may demand it. Kagome, in particular, seems to like it when you let her see your soft side."

"She's seen enough of my damn soft side."

"But you want her to do it again, don't you? Ear-scratching wouldn't be my first pick for what to do when I'm alone with a girl that pretty, but-"

Inuyasha snarled. "I'm not trying to get laid, pervert!"

"But I dearly hope you haven't ruled it out." He shook his head.

"That's it, monk. We're done talking." He swept one clawed hand fast enough to make the air hum. "I don't need you or your damn master's advice."

Miroku nodded. "Of course," he said. "You and Kagome can work this out yourselves. I foresee no problem. You should have no need of anyone's help."

Inuyasha folded his arms and started to walk away.

"...unless you've already told her off for trying to touch you and yelled at her to never do it again."

He froze.



Kikyo's gaze held the nervous boy. He looked a world worse than he had two nights before. Then, his face had held a luminous sadness, the sorrow of a man who had only just learned that the world was not kind. Now, though... The flame of discovery had burnt out. There was no light in those ashen eyes.

Why someone so ordinary?

"It's awake," she said to him. "It was asleep for a long time, but you woke it. It may have been the passage through the well, but more likely, it was that its keeper had some need of it. It will only grow more powerful as time passes."

The boy was silent. He did not look as though he understood. Even after she'd finished speaking, he had the look of someone who did not wish to interrupt the shikon no miko. It was a look that Kikyo had seen too often.

Her eyes fell to the softly glowing droplet at his throat.

"Someone," she said carefully, "will have to teach you how to use it."

His fingers followed. Skin touched demon glass as the light flickered, the scent of woodsmoke just barely reaching Kikyo's cold senses.

He nodded. "I know. Believe me," he fingered the pale bauble at his throat, "I don't want this thing hurting anyone."

"Why didn't you run?" she tried another tack.
He gave a sick little laugh. "I've learned one thing over the past few days, Miss," he said: "most things I'd run from could catch me." He looked away. "...or they didn't mean me any harm in the first place."

Kikyo was silent for a moment. "Over the past few days," she told him, "you have learned more than one thing."

"I suppose that's true," he answered, one hand tracing the wooden well-frame.

"The portal rejected you."

The boy nodded. "Yes."

"What will you do?"

His chin turned toward the ground at right. "Miroku said I could go and be a monk."

"Do you want to become a monk?"

"No," he told her, "I want to go home."

She took another step toward him. Years ago, the green blades would have bent beneath her feet. "Back to your ordinary life?"

He looked away again, searching for some substance in the shadows, "I think..." he trailed. "I think maybe life never is ordinary. Sometimes we think it is," he shook his head, "and it can be such a beautiful thing to think. If I'd never fought Kagura, or seen a serpent demon, never fallen through the well," his face softened, "or met Kagome... I still wouldn't've gotten what I wanted, my plan. Nothing has changed."

"You have changed," she said softly.

His fingers closed into a fist on the splintered wood. "Not enough," he said. "Miss Sango told me, when I first got here that my family would probably be more angry at losing a son than some necklace. Even though I know it's not just some necklace, I still think she's right."

"So cast it aside," she said. "Return to them."

"I promised," he answered. "And now I know there was a real reason she made me promise."

"The world does not make promises," Kikyo pointed out. "Did you not tell me that two nights ago?"

Something sparked in those dull eyes. "I'm not the world. I'm me." The momentary vigor passed. "Besides, who's to tell it would work anyway?"

"I am telling you," said Kikyo. "I lived in this village for many years. I slew many of the youkai whose bones were cast here to pierce the thread of time. The well could accept a sleeping talisman, but not a waking one. If you set aside your promise, it will send you back where you belong."

"Don't say that," he said. The rims of his eyelids gained a pink cast. "This is hard enough without you saying that." The boy seemed to steel himself, like rust falling away to reveal the bright blade beneath.

"Things happen for a reason," he breathed like a benediction. "I may only now have found my true destiny."

"You don't mean that."

He laughed. "I mean it. I don't like it."

Kikyo took another step toward him. "Your destiny is elsewhere, and you know it."

"My past is elsewhere. In the, uh," he scratched his head, "future... past." He closed his eyes for a moment. "Thank you for listening," he said softly.

Why wouldn't the boy see reason? "Do you think that if you keep your promise, that Inuyasha will keep his to me? That he will stay and the girl will go back to your world to be with you? Do you think that by keeping one promise you will change anything?"

"Yes," he said. "Something will change, even if it's only me."

"You still want to go back."

"And what do you want, Priestess?" he asked. Those plain eyes suddenly seemed as wide and as a glassy lake at dusk. The dirt stains on his hands turned smooth as he gently - terribly gently - touched his fingers to her wrist.

Kikyo didn't answer. Why had he thought to ask? Why hadn't anyone else?

She wanted children to smile at her for more than a day. She wanted sunlight on the roofs of her village. She wanted her love. She wanted her freedom. She wanted to breathe.

She wanted the jewel purified and the copy-girl gone forever. She wanted Naraku punished. She wanted Inuyasha punished. She wanted it all to end.

"I used to want an ordinary life," she said to nothing at all.

"I know the feeling," he answered.

She remembered his words on the hillside, after she'd come looking for Inuyasha. "An ordinary life with that girl?"

He nodded. "Not much chance of that now, I'm afraid. Miroku says she'll forgive me, but..."

She slung the bow from her shoulder, and drew it ready in her grip.

"Miss Kikyo?" he asked into her sudden smile. "What are you doing?"


Kagome buried her face in her hands. It was all too much at once. First the well rejected Hojo, then her worries about the future and then... Then she had to go and forget the rules.

Inuyasha doesn't like to be touched; he never has. Kagome rubbed a knuckle against one wet eye. I did it anyway. It's just... Oh god! A helpless squeak escaped her. Is this how Miroku feels?

Here he was, holding back from Hojo just to please her - okay, and to get ten days without that spell - and she couldn't hold back from those two cute little ears...

Why did he have to look so damn happy?

He'd actually relaxed, actually smiled, actually sat still long enough to let her in. Sure, it wasn't the same as a gift of flowers or a dance under the stars or a Kikyo-sucks-and-you're-great, but it had come from her. Why couldn't-

Something slid past her vision, something witch-white against the growing dusk, echoing the implacable loneliness of the dead.

Six legs, empty of an innocent soul, twitched coldly.

"Oh no..." whispered Kagome.


"There's no way around it," Miroku sighed. "You're going to have to come out and tell her how you feel concerning her actions. If you hadn't reacted so foolishly earlier, then perhaps this could have been avoided."

"Save the smug stuff. Just tell me what to say," snarled Inuyasha.

"With a girl like Kagome, you must convince her that it's not about getting her into bed."

Inuyasha's cheeks got hot. "It not, pervert."

"Then that part should be easy."

"I don't even know why I'm listening to..." Inuyasha trailed off as his eye caught something glide past the treeline. "Aw crap," he muttered as his heart pounded a little harder.

"Inuyasha," said the monk, eying the slippery spirit, "it seems that-"

"She's not here for me this time..." breathed the dog demon. "She must be up to something, but-" He shook his head. "Go find the others," he muttered, leaping off after the floating ghost.

"Wait!" Miroku reached after him. "Inuyasha, don't go alone!"


"I like not the look of this..." murmured Kaede. Sango nodded gravely.

"What's that thing?" asked Kouga, snatching one out of the air. He flipped it over, watching its six crab-jointed legs flail in irritation. "Hmm..." He sniffed deeply. "I'm going to eat it," he decided, stretching his fanged mouth.



"Don't look so frightened, child," Kikyo said with gentle ice, the clear line of bow, string, fist, arrow and those scant yards of empty space between her and him. "You were never meant for this world."

"That's kind of you, Miss Kikyo," the boy's eyes were fixed on the gleaming arrowhead, both hands stretched out in front of him, "but I really think I'd rather-"

"You haven't seen real darkness," she said. "The lower demons only wanted food. The wind sorceress wanted escape. The dog lord wanted information. You haven't seen real darkness."

A chill seemed to settle behind those plain eyes. "You mean Naraku, don't you?" He gulped. "From what I've heard, I can see how meeting him could be a character-building experience."

The priestess laughed. "You still don't understand."

"You're right," he said carefully, "but if you don't mind not shooting me for another few minutes, I can listen."

"You still don't know what walks this earth," she said.

"There is wickedness where I'm from, Priestess," he said. "Horrors that perhaps even you can't imagine. And I don't mean just demons-"

"You can still forget."

"Ah..." Hojo trailed. "I don't think I agree with you there, Miss Kikyo."

"You're not part of this. You are kind. You are honorable. And you have loved her all your life."

His breath seeped into the dimness. "Kagome..."

Her bow creaked as she pulled it taut. "And you've never broken a promise for as long as you've lived."

"I don't know about that," he pointed out, swallowing hard as he tried to back away. "I mean, I try not to, but nobody's perfect."

"You are everything that he isn't," she said, the words bitter even in her cold mouth.

"Who?" he asked. "Naraku?"

"Bone-deep," she murmured. "Nothing less will do."

Hojo's heel hit the stone base of the well frame. His throat flexed again. Something crashed, far back in the woods behind her. Kikyo didn't need to look.

"You said it yourself," she said. "He will drive her away with his wildness. She will tire of being the dust under his feet. She will forget her pledge to stay by his side, remember her dignity and leave forever."

"Miss Kikyo, what are you talking about?"

"And you will be there," she finished. "And you will make her forget that she ever knew Inuyasha."

Hojo finally tore his eyes from the gleaming point at the end of her bow. "You heard us talking," he admitted into the night air. "Miss Kikyo," he mourned as the sound of breakneck sticks grew closer. "Kikyo, you're wrong. Whatever Kagome decides to do, I'm not part of it any more. I-" he swallowed, not in fear this time. "I did something bad and she'll never forgive me."

"She'll punish you," Kikyo answered, taking a final sight along the arrow-line. "She'll make you bleed for hurting her, but she will take you back in the end."

"How do you know?" Hojo asked, something that was almost hope snaking through his thin voice like a spine. "How do you-"

The crashing in the woods came to a stop at the edge of the clearing. There was only one person who would have known where to come, and come there fast enough. Kikyo smiled. And oh the memories, the sweet, heart-deep memories that this little scene must have dragged from his mind.

"Kikyo!" Inuyasha cried out. "What are you doing?"

She released the arrow before she turned to watch the reflection in those fox-gold eyes. The blue light spread from the wound in Hojo's shoulder across every part of his pain-stricken body, flaring particularly bright around the pulse at his throat. The pulse dimmed, but didn't die. A twitch of her wrist, and two eel-white shindamachuu slid forward toward the well. In reflex, the boy leaned just a little backwards, and toppled over the rim into the shadows that reached all the way through time.

Go to sleep.

"Because she's me."


For once, he had nothing to say.

She smiled. Her soul-demons wheeled about her like the hands of some ethereal clock, and she only smiled.

Kikyo didn't move as he strode past her toward the well. He didn't need to call Hojo's name to know that he wasn't there any more, didn't have to blink to know that there were nothing but shadows and bones in that dry well.

Why wasn't the matter. She'd said why. He'd heard.

"She will forget her pledge to stay by his side, remember her dignity, and leave forever."

It stung worse than a poisoned whip, worse than another rock. It stung like an arrow's bite.

She will. The thought echoed in the emptiness inside his mind. She will if she's any kind of smart.

"How?" he asked.

Her cold fingers closed on the fletching in her quiver. "The waking power at his throat upset the balance of the well. It only needed to be sleep for a moment. Kaede could have done it the day he arrived."

Ordinarily, Inuyasah's vocabulary would have served him very well at that moment.

"So it was that ...thing. The thing he wears."


"And you purified it?"

"For now. It will wake again." Her gaze never left him, but there was some change in those cold clay eyes. "The world does not reward anyone for faithfulness. I had to do it myself."

"Kikyo..." he trailed off, taking a step toward her.

I know you're sad.

Her smile evaporated.

I know you're angry.

He reached out to take her wrist.


She stretched one finger, chill as the night air, to brush against his skin.

I know.

His claws closed on nothing as she retreated, familiar spirits lifting her by each arm, backwards into the newborn dark.

I know...

Inuyasha's eyes slid shut, and he sank down, back against the stones of the well.

"I know because she's me," she'd said.

Kagome would forgive him and go back. Kagome would tire of anyone who treated her the way he had. It all rang true. It dispelled any doubt that Kikyo shared Kagome's soul. She truly knew the girl.

"But you don't know me anymore," he breathed even as a familiar scent touched his nose.

"Kikyo?" she called. He could hear the twigs catching on that stupid skirt of hers. "Are you here? Kikyo? Kik-" Her footsteps slowed as she stepped past the tree line. "Inuyasha?" she asked. "What happened?" He opened his eyes. "What happened?" She ran toward him. "Was Kikyo here?"

He nodded.

"Are you all right?" Her hands were on either side of his face.

"Yeah," he breathed. Did she know that Hojo had been there?

"What happened?" she asked again, eyes searching the dimness. "Blood..." she whispered. "Did she hurt you?"

He shook his head. "Not me."

There was a silence.

"Hojo..." she whispered.

Words, real words, finally formed in his throat. "The well."

"She made it work?" she asked. "Is Hojo..." Kagome set one foot against the well frame. "I have to see if he's all right," she told him. "I'll only be gone a-"

"No," his hand closed on her forearm, tight as the clenching in his heart. "She did something to the well."


Days passed before he'd even let her try. Nothing worked, not tears, not bargaining, not the rosary on his neck. Kagome had to admit, if only to herself, how quick she would have been to jump down that well if he hadn't fought her so hard. The idea of a one-way trip struck a chill in her, bone deep.

Even when Inuyasha relented, he'd insisted on being there, seeing the shards in their bottle in her hand, and on Kaede, old bones and all, waiting beside the well.

There were things, however, upon which he had not insisted.

"You must not take this risk, my Kagome," said Kouga, blue eyes smoldering like fresh ashes. "If that evil harridan has cursed this well-"

"Hey!" snarled Inuyasha.

"-such that you should find yourself unable to return to the upper world, I do not know how my heart would bear the thought of you trapped beneath the ground."

"Ah, Kouga..." Kagome tugged her hands free of his eager grip. "That's not exactly-"

"My darling, I love you even now that I have discovered that your kin live in the dirt like moles," he leaned to peer down into the well, "Although how they all fit down there is a bit of a mystery."

"Kouga," Kagome insisted, "perhaps you shouldn't stay for this part. I know that the other wolf demons must have missed you by now."

Kouga closed his eyes for a moment. "Every time I begin to doubt, Kagome, you only make me more certain of you," he said, actually sporting a misty tear. "You may be a bit softhearted with foolish suitors-"

Inuyasha gave a snort.

"-letting Hojo live long beyond his time, but you have such an eye for responsibility, always thinking of our tribe. Truly, I could not have made a better choice for my bride."

"She's not your bride, wolf turd!"

"Cram it, dog breath! She is if I say so!"

"Hey!" Kagome snapped back. "There's only one thing that makes me anyone's bride and that's my saying so!"

"And it warms my heart to hear it," he answered, clasping both her hands to his chest.

"That's not what she meant, moron!" Inuyasha shot back.

"How would you know, mangy mutt?" sneered Kouga.

"You both offer the same point," Kaede interrupted what would have been a promising fight. "There is some risk that the portal will not work as it has in the past, but I do not think that my sister meant such a thing. From what Inuyasha tells me-"

It was Kouga's turn to scoff.

"-she aimed only to mask the presence of Hojo's family talisman long enough for him to pass back through the ages."

"She said you could've done it, baba!" Inuyasha half-accused.

"Only if I had thought of it, Inuyasha. I did not hear you suggest such a thing while we discussed Hojo's fate."

The dog demon folded his arms and grumbled.

Kaede arched her uncovered eyebrow and moved on. "Now that my sister's servants have gone from this forest-"

Kouga held his stomach and stifled an urping sound.

"-I think she, at least, believes his time here is well ended."

"So perhaps it is time for you to go, Kouga" Kagome picked up. "The others need you. You've stopped to help-"


"-my friends and me for so long already."

"You have a point, my darling." The wolf prince narrowed his eyes. "Hey dog breath," he called, "you're not going to do something stupid like let the human whelp back into our world, are you?"

"Hell, no. Now get lost!"

"Then I shall honor your wishes, my Kagome," Kouga finished with a half-courtly bow. "Never let this bone-gnawing mongrel lower your spirits."

"Don't call him a-"


"Finally," Inuyasha muttered as twin dust devils sprung up around Kouga's ankles and bore him hard away.

"He never listens," Kagome murmured as the air began to settle.

"You're figuring that out now?" Inuyasha sighed. "Let's just go."

And of course, he jumped in with her.

The light came, and the sense of floating. If Kikyo had changed the well itself, it hadn't lasted.

On the other side, Inuyasha proclaimed a smell of blood, but not of death. Inside the house, Kagome met an unusually tearful and relieved welcome. When Hojo had returned half-conscious with blood loss from an arrow wound, said Kagome's mother, they had feared the worst.

For neglecting to mention the arrow, Inuyasha faced Kagome's wrath. Repeatedly. For this or whatever reason, he was persuaded to remain behind while Kagome left with her mother for the hospital. There, the doctors had given Hojo nineteen stitches, some donated plasma and a sound scolding for playing with the Higurashi shrine's historic weapon collection. They arrived just as the boy was being discharged.

Kagome and Inuyasha returned to the past that day.

"He disappeared," she said sadly, "just like I asked him to. He asked me what to say at school, and now he's gone."

"He'll be all right," Inuyasha told her, hauling her and her big-ass yellow bag out of the well. "He's in your world. He knows his way around there."

"My world can still be dangerous, Inuyasha." She took his face in both hands. "Some day, we will defeat Naraku. I have no doubt in my mind that we will, but no one can ever take evil out of the world. There will always be monsters."

Inuyasha looked away, but didn't make her move her hands, "I guess there'll always have to be people like us, then," he said.

She smiled. He could hear it. "I guess," she answered. She took a breath. "We should be getting back. The others might be worried."

"Keh," he muttered.

Behind him, he could hear Kagome's feet shift in the gravel. Her breath shook in and out. "It was ten days, wasn't it?"

Inuyasha twisted his head around. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"Hojo got home," she said. "You win. That's ten days starting now."

The dog demon stopped walking. He probably stopped breathing as well.

"Inuyasha," Kagome began. "I know Hojo didn't exactly make it safe and sound, but it wasn't exactly an easy trip, either. With all the stuff Hojo pulled, I know you must've wanted to beat him senseless." She ran her teeth over her lower lip, "but you didn't. You even helped him."

Ten days no sits.

No freebie demon slayings, no letting Shippo getting away with his stupid pranks, and no... Inuyasha's eyes strayed behind them, to the well.

"I hit him."

Kagome stopped. "What?"

"You said I couldn't hit him. I did. I hit him."

"When?" she asked.

"Just once," he answered, "the night you sent him out into the woods. He figured out I was there and he..." his claws flexed.

"She's going to come back home forever."

"I'll do everything I can to keep her from going back to you. I'll fill in the well."

"He said some things," Inuyasha finished. "He said some things and I hit him."

"Were they about Shippo?" she asked gently.

He shook his head. "They were..."

"She loves you. You're smart, strong, good-looking, and on the day you met, you saved her from a giant bug."

Inuyasha found himself looking at Kagome's hands, her good hands.

"It wouldn't take much from you to make her happy."

"They were things I should have said myself," he admitted.

There was something that Inuyasha couldn't read in her eyes. "You hit him once?" she asked quietly.

"I wanted to hit him more than that."

"I know." She smiled. Gods, why was she smiling?

Moving faster than he realized he could, Inuyasha smacked his right hand down on top of her wrist, trapping it between his hand and his collarbone. "What are you doing?" he asked.

Under his grip, Kagome's fingers flexed against the string of beads that she'd just begun to lift off his neck. There was an odd color to her cheeks. "Inuyasha," she said at last, words slipping from between her pink lips like pebbles in a waterfall, "you don't need this any more." She started to lift her hand, but Inuyasha just pressed it harder against his chest, heart thudding like a beat of doom.

Just let her, something whispered. It's damn time, anyway.

No more obedience, no more holding back. Not ever.

Inuyasha closed his eyes, feeling the weight of Tetsusaiga against his hip. "And if I go full demon again?" The words burned like acid in his mouth.

Kagome's fingers stilled. She gave a tug, and he let her pull her hand away.

"Fine," she said.

The whispers were gone. There was only thunderous shouting:


"From this moment on," Kagome was saying, not that Inuyasha was paying much attention.

She's NEVER going to offer you that again, you know!

"From this moment on that spell is around your neck because you want it there," Kagome told him, placing one hand on his wrist, "to protect your friends. Other than that, that word doesn't exist any more, and I'm never going to say it again."

Inuyasha choked on his own spit. "What?" he demanded. He must have eaten something strange, he decided, something strange and hot that was making this warm, light feeling spread from his stomach through his spine all the way to the top of his head.

"You heard me," said Kagome.

"No way," he said. "You're never going to sit me again? Not even if I pull my same old crap?"

It couldn't last.

She'd get tired of it. She'd change her mind.

That just wasn't how things worked in the real world.

Kagome gave a tiny smile, "A promise is a promise."


A few days later...

Inuyasha took a breath, "Kagome?"

"Yes Inuyasha?" The girl looked up from what she was doing.

"You know that ...thing?"

Her brow creased. "What thing?"

"You know..." Inuyasha trailed off. "That thing you did."

"What thing that I did?"

Inuyasha stifled a growl. "You know, the-" his ears twitched.

Kagome's eyes got big. "Oh, you mean the..."

"Yeah, that."

She looked down. "I said I was sorry, Inuyasha. I haven't done it since and I won't try to again."

"That's what I want to talk to you about," Inuyasha snapped back. He folded his arms and studied something important up in the clouds. "If you really have to," he said, "then I don't mind."

Kagome frowned. "Huh?"

"You can," he said, still looking away. "It's all right." At her silence, he sighed, closing his eyes. "I actually ... I like it when you do that. I... I don't mind." He tapped one foot uncomfortably. When she still didn't answer, he pried his arms away from his sides and crouched down next to her, eyes making it as far as her hands. "I want you to do it again."

Kagome's frown deepened. "You mean" She gestured to the newly quiet battlefield around them, where five or six large beetle demons lay in assorted states of dismemberment. "'Cause this isn't such a good time."

"Ack! No, I don't mean now!" Inuyasha waved both arms. "Just..."



Unbelievably, Kagome smiled. "...okay..."


Hojo craned his neck at the graceful torii marking the boundary between holy and profane space and tried to ignore the fading ache in his shoulder. The arch needed a new paint job, but it was a bona-fide attended shrine, and not an empty either. Somewhere in there was the dull pulse of power, and promise.

"Doesn't look too respectable, does it?" he murmured into the air. He shuffled his feet uneasily. This time of day was for rushing off to school., it was for walking there at a firm but unhurried pace because he'd gotten up nice and early and eaten a good breakfast and laid out his clothes the night before, and-

The thing resting at his throat fluttered like a sleeping bird.

"Yeah," he shrugged. "We've already tried most of the respectable ones."

Most of the "sacred" places he'd come across had been about as holy as banks. Big and pretty, but empty of true power. He could see it now, glowing like hot ashes. He didn't know why. That was only one of his questions.

Six temples in three cities and no one had known anything about foreign demon amulets, let alone been ready to instruct a wayward boy in their proper and responsible use. Most of them had been violently insulted that he'd even asked about it. Some of them had threatened to call the cops. One had.

Hojo covered his grin with one hand. Strangely, the officers had been more upset about the fact that their tires had mysteriously melted to the pavement than about the polite, apologetic youth who'd offended the local shrinekeeper.

Still, Hojo had to wonder why he was doing this. Universities didn't look favorably upon the student who took an extended leave of absence, even if he did have only the most plausible of medical excuses, courtesy of a dear, dear friend's great experience with them.

"Did you ever think," he'd asked someone not long ago, "that maybe my world needs heroes too?"

Hojo exhaled, as if blowing out a candle, or trying to make kindling catch. He settled the shoulder straps on his backpack.

Here goes.




KURAMA: Surely there is some way you could sell the costume to Lady Teles. Don't tell me that this garment has no price.

Do bribes count?

SESSHOUMARU: (holding a bruised TankBBG upside-down by one leg) Did I miss anything, beloved? Have you yet given up this foolish venture?

TELES: (pointedly) Of course not, beloved. This person refuses to sell me the garment if I intend on making changes to it.

It's a classic!

KURAMA: It's a travesty.

TANKBBG: Hey, is that the original Sephiroth costume?


SESSHOUMARU: Silence, beastling! (To Teles) She has made her decision. Let us go home.

TELES: Sesshoumaru, if you think you're getting out of-

TANKBBG: Why not just rent it?

Because I wouldn't want it back.

TANKBBG: No, I mean rent it and send it to a tailor to be copied. Do you guys really want a costume that's still covered in Sephiroth's sweat?

KURAMA: At least I hope that's what that is.

Yeah, and you weren't wearing underwear.

KURAMA: You are not prolonging your life.

TELES: (pouts) I suppose I could settle for an imitation. Very well. I promise to make no alterations to the costume.

Here you are. No charge.

TELES: (accepts garments with a gleam in her eye) Excellent. (to Sesshoumaru) I will be waiting in the car, my darling. (to Kurama) I cannot say how good it has been to see you again.

KURAMA: Be well, dear lady. And congratulations on your forthcoming blessing.

TELES: (strides off, past Yusuke, Kuwabara and Hiei's broken and swirly-eyed bodies)

SESSHOUMARU: (To Tank) You have been of use to me, human. This sartorial escapade may well outlast my mate's hormonal fancy. As such, I will spare your wretched life.

TANKBBG: Wow, thanks!

SESSHOUMARU: (drops her)

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