Reborn

The Warmth of Morning

A flash of red. White hair whipping about. Swift bare feet bounding away from her.

Towards another.

Kagome woke with a cry. "No! Don't go! Please!" Tears pricked her eyes as a wave of utter loss swept her. Sitting up in bed, she looked past walls of a modest, unfamiliar room, trying to grasp on to the last traces of her dream.

A touch came at her shoulder.

She spun around and gasped.

A man with long black hair looked at her in concern. Kouga.

His face flooded her memory. He had been beside her in the riverbed. The dream vanished, its importance forgotten in the relief that washed over her. "It's… it's you," her whisper held awe.

Kouga nodded, sitting up next to her. "Kagome?" The hand at her shoulder moved to her face, finger tracing her jaw in question.

She gave a hesitant smile. Pressing her palm lightly to his bare chest, she took in the fact that he was here, unhurt and whole. They had made it. Letting her gaze trail down his torso, she noticed a momentous detail.

He was very naked.

Kagome ignored the blush creeping across her cheeks, ordering herself not to stare at the sheet loosely around his waist. "We made it," her smile widened. Leaning forward, she wrapped arms around him in a hug. Breasts felt cold air before they grazed against a warm heartbeat. Kagome gasped, realizing she was just as naked as him. Her hands stiffened and she began to draw back.

A sound of protest issued from him. It was his turn to blush. Kouga met her gaze and shook his head. Lifting a purposeful arm, he pulled her with a bold force against him. "Protect you, remember?" He said softly, belying the confidant move with a shy curl of unsure fingers at her waist.

Kagome knew she should be embarrassed and pull away to cover herself. That's what normal people would do. She felt her smile stay and wondered if she wasn't one of those people. Her insides relaxed as calm certainty fell over her. She had nothing to fear. Among the cold and mud, this man had been by her side. Kagome moved her hand briefly to his, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "I remember you… Kouga," her mouth found his neck. Without thinking, she planted a chaste kiss to his skin, breathing in the same smell of pine and outdoors. The taste of him swept away her reservations. Kagome allowed the hand at her waist to remain.

Kouga's breath caught in his throat at the press of her lips and the feel of her curves against him. He laughed, masking his surprise and pleasure. "Who am I then?" He asked

She heard his approval. His cheeks had gone pink, but his eyes were anything but embarrassed. They drank in the sight of her. Kagome wondered if he could read her as easily. "Someone I'm very glad I woke up next to," she answered.

Kouga smiled.

She marveled at how familiar they were. A fang appeared and poked from his mouth as his grin grew.

How did she know him? Had they been friends? More than friends?

The tips of pointed ears stuck out from beneath a head of disheveled hair. Kouga raked a hand through the tangled mess, still wearing his smile. "That's a good start," his tone was light. "At least I know I'm nice to see the morning after."

His cheer was infectious. "Even with your lack of clothes."

"Don't you mean 'especially'?"

She flushed bright red.

He noted the response and eased back. She was inexperienced. The youkai palmed his chest and modeled a wounded look. "This isn't my fault."

"No," Kagome conceded, oblivious to the information she was giving out. "But the space between us is."

He laughed. "I'll admit to that," testing eyes watched her. "Do you want me to let go?"

She liked the way he spoke. None of the pained gravel from before. His voice was deep and filled with ease. "Not really."

Kouga's grin widened. "Then maybe it isn't all my doing."

Kagome blushed. He could read her.

She watched as his gaze began to roam, flicking from her ear, to mouth, to neck, and down to…. Her cheeks darkened. She hugged an arm over her chest. "What're you doing?" The question came out sharp, her playfulness gone.

An eyebrow arched. "Looking."

"Well stop," Kagome tried drawing back, but the hand at her waist stayed firm.

"Why?"

She fidgeted against his hold. "I barely know you."

"That's not true."

"Stop."

"But I want to," confusion filled his face. Was she being coy? Her innocence seemed too vast to be authentic. "I can't?"

"Kouga!"

He pulled her gently to him. Warm breath fell on her shoulder. Kagome's heart sped up as he gave her a long, serious look.

"I remember only your name, your face. I'm curious," Kouga shrugged, trying not to show his growing interest. "Aren't you?"

"Not that curious."

"Oh?" The amusement returned. "Didn't you stare when we first woke?"

Kagome felt her cheeks heat once more. "That's different. You're covered in sheets."

"You didn't know that."

Her mouth opened for a rebuttal, but none came. She kept a stubborn elbow across herself and exhaled loudly.

Kouga gestured with his chin to the offending arm. "So now I'm to be punished?"

"That's what you get for ogling."

"It was innocent interest," he smiled.

"Hardly."

Bright blue eyes gauged her, assessing her level of upset. She sat still, no longer trying to back away. He kept his grin. "You almost sound disappointed," his look turned sly. "Want me to leer next time? I could whistle…."

Kagome grit her teeth at the note of teasing. Was she rising to the bait of this stranger? Their exchange almost sounded like flirting.

Echoing her thoughts, Kouga tilted his head to the side. "Are we starting to flirt?"

She spoke automatically. "Do you want to be?"

His grin spread from ear to ear. "If this sheet wasn't around my waist, the answer would be obvious."

"Kouga!"

"Oh come on. I'm joking!"

Kagome's expression soured. She felt witless in this uncharted territory. "What better way to make a first impression than with innuendo?" She said dryly.

Hurt broached his features. "How is this a first impression?" He turned defensive. "I can read your body language like you're actually talking. Obviously we know each other in some kind of intimate capacity."

Her mouth dropped and Kouga noted the surprise.

His bravado faded. "Don't… don't you feel it… too?" Embarrassment burst out in his face.

Kagome grew quiet. She searched the thick black of her mind, trying to find a thread of insight. It was disconcerting not knowing who you were, or what kind of person you had been. She met his gaze.

Kouga's eyes clouded with hesitation. His arm began to loosen around her. "I'm sorry Kagome… I shouldn't have assumed… I didn't mean—."

She pushed a finger to his lips, cutting off the apology. "It's alright," her hand lifted to his neck. She thumbed the side of his stubble-covered jaw. For some reason, the facial hair didn't seem like it belonged on his face. "You're right. We do have some kind of connection. Even losing my memory couldn't keep me from remembering you."

Her mix of nativity and intimacy was dizzying. He couldn't keep up. "Are you just saying that to make me feel better?" He asked cautiously.

Her eyebrow hiked high. "What's my body saying right now?"

"That I should probably stop talking?"

"I think you've got something there."

Relief spread in Kouga's frame. His shoulders sank with its warm weight as the room stopped its near-vertigo spin.

Kagome's stare grew tentative. "We used to be friends, right?"

Vivid blue eyes measured hers. "We had to be," he echoed her volume, turning thoughtful. Fingers absently stroked the skin of her waist. "But what happened before we woke?"

Kagome noted the touch, but said nothing. Her brow creased. "We were washed up somewhere… in the mud…."

"At the bottom of a waterfall," he finished. His claws traced circles in her hip. "Why were we there?"

Kagome frowned.

Silence filled the room as they looked at each other. Sunlight from a break in a nearby thatched wall crept across the floor, illuminating piles of neatly stacked bandages and medicinal stopper jars. Large and small footprints in the dirt ran a path from the bandages to the bed.

Kouga's expression darkened as he caught sight of them. "We need to remember."

Kagome nodded. At hearing 'waterfall', she was already hunting for more.

The youkai bit his lower lip, baring a fang as he tried to gather up fleeting pictures moving back into the darkness of his memory. A battle of struggle and pain flashed before him, permeated by the stench of earth, decay and bone. The smell was hauntingly familiar. A vision of Kagome in tears, running blindly, filled his head. She wasn't watching, stood as a girl lost and gone… took a step too far….

"You–you fell!" Kouga grabbed her hand as the cliff drop flashed in his mind. "You were running, and I saw you slip. I raced over the edge, my heart in my throat—."

Kagome closed her eyes and instantly felt the fierce winds that had circled her, throwing her hair without remorse to her face. She called back the ache of despair and the cold wet of tears on her cheeks. And then the voice – his voice – above her.

"You grabbed me in the air! I remember!" She squeezed his palm back. "You told me I wasn't alone," she opened her eyes as a shudder rippled through her. "And then… we hit the ground."

Kouga drew her up against his chest, moving the arm at her hip to the small of her back.

"You saved my life," Kagome bent her head against his collar, unable to express the emotion welling up in her throat.

They sat together for a quiet moment, collecting their thoughts. The silence was tentative, filled with a struggle to remember more.

A face swam in Kouga's mind, its owner a hulking giant of a man, holding him down and keeping him from Kagome. "Those people who found us…," a growl entered his voice. His hold tightened.

Kagome took up his train of thought. "How'd we get here?"

On cue, the door-hide to their left was drawn open, followed by a purposeful cough. "We brought you," a voice answered.

The amnesic pair spun around, greeted by the man Kouga remembered, and a woman at his side.

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