After The End: New Beginnings

It was an honest mistake

Spotting a splash of red up in the treetops, Kagome hastened her pace and closed the final gap between them.

“Inuyasha!” she called out a third time, coming upon the tree he was perched in and craning her neck back to gaze up into its branches. “Inuyasha, please come down here! We really need to talk!” she said, not really wanting to shout out her love for him this close to the village while he remained stubbornly up in the tree but mentally prepared to do just that if that was what it would take, eavesdroppers or no. Thinking of something else, Kagome hesitated for a moment, biting her lower lip in concern, but then nodding and squaring her shoulders, she added, “Don't make me test if the rosary still works!”

Honestly surprised by the not-so-subtle threat, something funny stirred in the pit of Inuyasha's stomach at the thought of her subduing him with the kotodama no nenju again after all this time, his eyes glazing over in memory for a moment as he absentmindedly fingered the beads around his neck. Quickly shaking such random nonsense thoughts free, he figured he'd better jump down before she actually made good on the threat.

The first thing he noticed upon landing on the ground in front of her was that she was wearing one of Sango's spare dresses, the pink and white floral yukata with matching pink wrap skirt fitting her nicely. It was a pleasant, if not somewhat puzzling surprise. He wouldn't ask her about it, though. He didn't want to come off sounding too hopeful. He figured he'd already buried himself pretty deeply with his disappearing act, so it was going to take a while to convince her that he really did have her own happiness in mind. A fact made even more evident by her utterly miserable expression.

Standing face to face with him now, Kagome felt the bite of tears stinging the backs of her eyes and blinked rapidly a few times, willing them not to fall. She had to get through this.

“Are...are you mad at me?” she asked quietly, unable to keep the quiver out of her voice.

His eyes widened at her question, before closing in shame. “Of course not. Don't be stupid,” he answered softly, breathing deeply.

He'd really fucked up, and now it was time to make amends. He might still be a bit of a selfish bastard at times, but he wasn't as immature as he'd used to be, at least.

“I'm sorry,” he began then, unprompted, ignoring her open look of surprise as he plowed forward. “I just...I just needed to think...about things, but I hadn't meant to stay away for so long, and no, I'm not mad at you. How could I be mad at you? You came back. That's all I've ever wanted.”

Kagome felt her eyes tearing up again at his words, although for an entirely different reason. Inuyasha's own eyes widened a bit at the sight, and for a split second he moved forward, as if to comfort her, but then he visibly hesitated, holding himself back, his expression unsure, and that sealed the deal in Kagome's mind.

“Why...why didn't you tell me the truth, when I asked you if it was all right with you if I become a miko?”

His eyes widened again at her question, and then his gaze lowered, staring at the ground between them, his ears back. It was a reaction he wouldn't have given, she knew, if it really didn't bother him. He would've been surprised by her being off track, and he would've told her she had it all wrong.

“There's really no 'becoming' though, is there?” he asked quietly then, deflecting her question while simultaneously confirming her suspicions. “You are a miko. You were born to be one. You said so yourself.”

Her next statement really caught him off guard.

“So what? Just 'cause I have these powers, just 'cause I'd like to learn herbs, that doesn't mean I have to be an official miko, tending to the shrine and doing purification rituals. I could live in a cave and be called a witch for all I care. I didn't give up my life in the future, my family, to become a shrine miko. If all I'd wanted to do with myself was be a shrine miko I could have done that in the 21st century.”

He stared at her, blinking slowly, his mouth hanging open but no words coming out.

She stepped closer, getting right in his face, and reached up to fist his forelocks with both hands.

“I came back to be with you!”

That said, she yanked him down into a kiss, and because his lips were still slightly parted it was more than a mere chaste peck. Having no actual experience because she'd never wanted to share her first kiss with anyone else didn't mean she didn't know what she was doing, in theory, at least, and Inuyasha certainly didn't seem to have any complaints. It took a few agonizingly long seconds for his brain to catch up with what was happening, but finally, the feel of Kagome's lips molding against his own, her tongue dancing within his mouth, her hands shifting to the back of his head, all snapped him out of his stupor and he reached up almost frantically to wrap his arms around her in return, his tongue plunging into her mouth as he practically crushed her body to his, devouring her hungrily.

Neither cared that they hadn't started things off with a shy, tender kiss. This was far overdo as far as they were both concerned, and they each had over three years' worth of fantasies fueling their verve.

All good things had to come to an end, though, especially when those good things were depriving a certain human girl of much needed oxygen, and so reluctantly pulling apart after a moment, Inuyasha and Kagome stared silently into each other's eyes, the latter noticeably breathing a bit heavily while the former didn't appear to be breathing at all.

Inuyasha was too afraid to breathe, too afraid to blink, too afraid to do anything that would take his current reality away from him.

Kagome was the one who spoke first.

“So tell me, honestly, does me being a miko bother you? Because if you don't want me to do it, then I won't, simple as that. I'd like to, but you are far, far more important to me.”

“I...” he started, blinking a few times to prevent some mysterious moisture in his eyes from gathering. He lied to himself that it was only because he'd refrained from blinking for so long. “I'm confused,” he admitted then.

“So it's true, then,” Kagome said, a part of her having clung to the hope that he'd only not wanted to share her, like how Kaede's ex-boyfriend had felt. She'd known it was the less likely scenario after weighing all the evidence, but still, she'd hoped.

“You honestly thought that I'd chosen being a miko over you, didn't you?”

He looked guilty at her accusatory tone, and rightfully so, she thought.

“I can't believe...after everything we've been through... It was only you, you know. When the well opened, I had been thinking about you, and how badly I wanted to be with you again. Sure, I missed the others, but I could have lived out the rest of my life never seeing them again and not been utterly miserable because of it. Never seeing you again?” She shook her head. “My exact thought, when the well suddenly decided to work for me, was that I wanted to be with you.”

He sighed, glancing down again before minutely shaking his head and looking back up, forcing himself to meet and hold her gaze, even though the power of it was piercing right through him.

“Kagome, I...I'm sorry I doubted you. I had thought that you'd come back for me. I had thought that, I mean, I'd thought that I knew that your feelings were still the same, and that you knew my feelings hadn't changed, either, but then...”

“But then suddenly there I am in miko robes, telling you I'd like to be a miko, and you thought that that meant we couldn't be together,” she finished for him.

His ears lowered in shame, and then his arms were back around her again, as he pulled her into a tender hug.

“I'm sorry, Kagome,” he murmured softly in her ear. “I...I honestly didn't know what to think. Had I been wrong? Did you only want to be friends? Or maybe you thought it was your duty to take your place as village miko, regardless of our feelings. And who am I to stop you if that's what you wanted? If that's what you felt you had to do? If you wanted to be a miko then I...I'd wanted to be there for you, as a friend, because I love you too much to get in the way of what you want.”

He pulled back again so that she could see the sincerity in his eyes.

“But why couldn't I do both?” she asked then. “Did that not occur to you, that we could be together whilst I was village miko?”

“Does Kaede-babaa know you want to be with me?” he countered. “Because I don't think-”

“She said the villagers would praise our union, that you and I are both blessed by the kami, the 'Shikon miko and her youkai protector', and therefore, we belong together.”

His eyes widened again at this new bit of information, and he remained silent, staring at her with something akin to wonder in his eyes. She took the opportunity to lean forward and plant another kiss, this one much more chaste, on his lips. It was a bit of a delayed reaction, but they both blushed deeply in that moment, a lack of adrenaline better allowing each of them to realize what they'd just done moments prior. Inuyasha cleared his throat nervously and looked away, his ears turning this way and that, and Kagome could tell he was checking to make sure they were still alone, that nobody from the village was spying on them, probably most specifically a certain monk and slayer.

Kagome didn't care if they had an audience or not, their friends or otherwise. She had things she still needed to say, and she was going to say them, embarrassment be damned.

“I am not Kikyou,” she began in that moment, her expression and words both calm and unassuming. Inuyasha's eyes snapped back to hers, but he remained quiet, letting her continue.

“I do not long to be an ordinary woman,” she explained. “I had that life, and I chose to walk away from it. I chose to come here, and become the wife of an inu-hanyou.”

They both blushed again at her words, and finally, Kagome was the one who had to look away, her eyes lowered as she smiled shyly. Still, she plowed forward.

“And miko do not have to remain husbandless, if that's what you were led to believe. Kikyou...shehad had such a tremendous responsibility, and so had I, for a while there, but the jewel is gone now, Naraku is gone, and as a normal miko, without such an all-consuming obligation as guarding the Shikon no Tama day and night, there is more than enough time for a private life. Just because some few devout miko choose not to split their time between their duties as a shrine priestess and the duties of a wife, that does not mean it's an actual rule that miko cannot also be wives and mothers if they choose to be. Look at Miroku-sama. Most would say a monk should not be married, either, but do the villagers here have a problem with his wife and children?”

She met Inuyasha's eyes again when she finished, biting her lower lip nervously as she remained quiet, letting the hanyou know she was done for the time being and that it was now his turn to speak.

He absorbed everything she'd said slowly, making sure to take it all in before replying. Her words about Miroku made perfect sense, he knew. But monks weren't supposed to be perverted womanizers, either, so since when had Miroku ever followed the rules? Looking back on it, though, Inuyasha realized that he should've known the local villagers, at the very least, most likely wouldn't have a problem with he and Kagome being together. The same couldn't be said for other people from other towns, of course, but at least here at home he knew where he stood in the villagers' eyes, and he knew where Kagome stood, too. They really did see her as a gift from the kami; honestly, they saw her as a replacement for Kikyou. He had heard the whispers last night, some of them talking about 'Kikyou's reincarnation', even though they could at least fortunately also accept that Kagome was her own separate person. He needed to make damn sure she knew that he knew she was her own separate person, too.

“Hell, Kagome, I know you're not Kikyou,” he began then, conviction in his tone of voice as he once again held her gaze. “I hope you don't think that I...” Shaking his head, his expression suddenly took on a brazen smirk, as he said, “You wanna know what I was really thinkin' when I first saw you in those robes?”

Before she could answer, he leaned forward and whispered his not-quite-pure thoughts into her ear, earning a much darker blush from the future-born miko although much to his relief she didn't get upset or scold him for his naughty thoughts.

“Well...” she said after a moment, clearing her throat. “I'm glad to know that seeing me in those robes honestly doesn't bother you like it used to.”

He snorted.

“Hell, even you bein' a miko don't bother me now that I know it wasn't a 'me or it' decision and I lost.” He offered her a warm, sincere smile. “I did tell you the truth, Kagome, when I told you that your spiritual powers were the strongest I'd ever felt, and that the villagers would be lucky to have you as their miko.”

She blushed again and looked away, a new smile creeping back up the edges of her mouth.

“And I would be lucky to have you as my wife,” Inuyasha added boldly, and Kagome's eyes snapped back to meet his, her smile increasing.

“You really mean that?” she asked, practically beaming. He smirked again.

“Hell, woman, do you really think I'd kiss you like that if I didn't mean it?”

She hoped he'd know she was just teasing, but...

“And it's not just 'cause I look like Kikyou?”

The sparkle in her eyes gave her playfulness away, and he snorted again, amused.

“In that dress, Kagome, you look more like Sango. You gonna start thinking I've been pining after her all this time?”

He chuckled, and then gave her an undeniably heated look, reminiscent of the look he'd given her two nights prior. “You are the one I want, Kagome, and you've been the one I've wanted for a long, long time.”

She laughed, the sound a result of how absolutely happy she felt in that moment, as she wrapped her arms back around him. He automatically returned the hug, holding her to him tightly, settling his chin on the top of her head.

“For the last three years all I wanted was for you to come back, and beyond that...sometimes I didn't dare to dream,” Inuyasha murmured softly as he ran his hand tenderly through her hair. “I have had dreams, but sometimes I thought that maybe I was being greedy, that maybe you'd come back if I stopped asking for quite so much. When you finally came back, and then when I thought you'd chosen being a miko, for whatever reason, I'd been fighting with myself to not ruin it for you. I was going to try to still be there for you as a friend, and just be grateful that you were in my life again, but fuck, it was going to be hard.”

“I'm so sorry,” she apologized against his chest. “I didn't mean to put you through that.”

“I know,” he assured her. “Not your fault all those people showed up right then. I get it now, that we were gonna go talk about it right when Miroku's neighbors came by. If it weren't for that then I wouldn't've had the chance to misunderstand, and then I'm the one who dragged it out. My misery this morning was my own damnfault. I should've just taken you away last night like you'd wanted.”

“But you'd been worried about propriety. I can understand that,” she said.

He snorted again.

“Hell, we should still be worried about propriety. Miko or no, married or no, these woods ain't exactly private.”

“I suppose not. At least not this close to the village,” she conceded then, reluctantly pulling out of his embrace. He released her just as reluctantly.

“There ain't nobody around right this second, but that can change pretty quick. So, do you wanna go deeper into the woods, or should we go let the others know we got our shit together first?”

“Oooo, you wanna run away with me into the forest now?” she teased, laughing when his face darkened to match his suikan.

“I-I hadn't meant anything like that!” he blurted, and she laughed again.

“One day, you know, that'll be exactly what we mean. What do you think husbands and wives do?”

“I...but, you...we ain't married yet!”

Laughing again, and deciding to take pity on her hanyou, Kagome placed a calming hand on his shoulder and assured him, “I'm only teasing. I'll admit it, I've had my own dreams, but just because we've both dreamt it doesn't mean we're ready for it yet in real life, right this very second. I'm trying to act mature and not feel embarrassed about all this, but just 'cause I'm not a little kid anymore doesn't mean I'm suddenly a total hentai. I want to share that with you, but I also don't want us to rush into anything we might not be fully ready for just yet. Soon.”

He exhaled slowly at her words, and despite his seemingly perceptual blush, he nodded his agreement, a shy grin revealing the tips of his fangs. “Soon.”

“So, back to Kaede-baa-chan's, then?”


Returning to Kaede's hut side by side was a surreal experience for both hanyou and miko. The few people who saw them greeted them both with friendly hellos, and nobody seemed perplexed by Kagome's casual dress, calling her 'Kagome-sama' all the same. Reaching the elderly miko's property revealed Rin still playing with little Mizuki and Misaki outside, although Kagome suspected they weren't still outside only because nobody had told Rin it was okay to come back in. The three girls appeared quite engrossed in their little game of drawing pictures in the dirt.

Of course, feeling the approach of their favorite canine uncle quickly distracted the twins, as Mizuki looked up first, Misaki snapping her eyes up as well at her sister's cry of “Doggy!”

Kagome snickered quietly when she heard Inuyasha's sigh. Glancing his way out of the corner of her eye, she couldn't miss the happy sparkle in his own golden orbs. The girls might try his patience at times – after all, they were only two years old – but the simple fact that he had friends, and friends who would let him play with their children... Kagome could tell how much it obviously meant to him.

As the twins ran up to Inuyasha, a laughing but also apologizing Rin on their heels, Inuyasha brushed off the eleven-year-old's concern and actually crouched down, opening his arms wide for both toddlers. They eagerly latched on, and he stood back up then, a girl in each arm. His cheeks colored a little bit when he caught the proud smile Kagome sent his way, but unlike the old him, he didn't try to cover up his display of affection by suddenly acting gruff or uncaring.

Heading inside, Rin entered before them, the girl immediately gathering the things she needed to start tending to the vegetable garden since she had not yet done so that morning. As Kagome and Inuyasha entered behind her, they spotted Miroku and Sango in the back corner of the hut, the couple in the process of sorting through the villagers' gifts from the night before. Accepting for themselves only a modest portion of the foodstuffs, they were leaving the vast majority of things for Kagome. They glanced up and offered the hanyou and miko both warm welcomes at their entry before getting back to what they were doing, each of them doing an admirable job of ignoring the elephant in the room since they had no idea what, specifically, the couple had or hadn't discussed during their time alone. Sango and Miroku had agreed while they were alone that they would wait and see what either Inuyasha or Kagome might say, first, before jumping to conclusions and risk going against Kagome's previous request that they not say anything until she'd had the chance to get it all sorted out.

They didn't have long to wait, as it was Inuyasha in that moment who, after setting the twins down by their parents, looked the monk and slayer in the eyes and asked, “So, Miroku, do you still think the carpenters wouldn't have a problem building me a house?”

His eyes immediately lit up at the question, and looking up, the houshi met Kagome's eyes briefly before Inuyasha's, the miko having given him a happy nod.

“I have absolutely no doubt that the local carpenters will have no issue, and as for the rest of the building party, you know it's not as if our neighboring villages despise your existence.”

Thinking back on the time when the gathered building party, which consisted of men from their own village as well as the two closest neighboring towns, had been working on the construction of his and Sango's own house, Miroku reminded the hanyou, “What did you say the other villagers' whispers had been, when you were helping with the heavy lifting? They had been surprised by your presence, but then our local men, they had assured the neighboring townsmen that you were welcome here, that you were our youkai guardian and more importantly, my comrade in arms. Tales of our adventures have traveled far and wide by this point, not only of our previous search for the sacred jewel shards and the defeat of Naraku, but also the fact that you and I now reside in this village and are available for hire by those who need our help. If they were hired to aid in the framework of a house for you, and with your earnings you've got more than enough money to cover the costs should you be required to do so, then I feel I can safely assure you that there would be no complaints from any of the hired workers, either.”

Thinking about it, Sango added, “I dare say only the hired men from outside our village would even require payment. I bet as soon as Haruto-sama talks to our local carpenters about your desire for a house they'll volunteer to do the work for free.”

“I will certainly offer my own services,” Miroku stated then. “I'm no stranger to lighter carpentry, like roofing. I acquired plenty of experience in that field repairing the roof of Mushin-sama's temple when it required it. It's only the framework we'll need professional assistance with.”

“Yeah,” Inuyasha agreed. “I don't know nothin' 'bout framing a house, except that it takes a lot of know-how. But I'll certainly help out as much as I can, too. Ain't like I wanna just stand back and watch it get built.”

Kagome observed the conversation with a bright, happy smile that was impossible for the other occupants of the hut to ignore. She wished Kaede was still present so that she could have been a part of the happy news as well, but knew the elderly miko was currently in the village treating a sick farmer with the poultice she'd been making.

“I'll help too, however I can,” she spoke up in that moment. “After all, it'll be my house, too.”

She returned Sango's happy smile at her comment, although Miroku's more lecherous smirk made her blush despite herself. Inuyasha shot the monk a look in return, and the holy man cleared his throat and schooled his features.

“My sincerest congratulations, Kagome-sama, Inuyasha. All joking aside, I truly am very happy for you both.”

Kagome grinned again at Miroku at his words, trying to ignore the heat she could still feel in her cheeks as she decided to demonstrate how she was indeed a big girl now and could therefore take a joke or three without getting horribly embarrassed.

She just hoped Inuyasha would forgive her.

“Hey, you wouldn't be you if your thoughts didn't wander in that direction first and foremost. What can I say? It's not like we won't be doing those things.”

Miroku only grinned, while Inuyasha spluttered, and while Sango had a light blush on her cheeks Inuyasha's obvious discomfiture made her laugh as well. He shot them all a glare, Kagome included, although she could tell his eyes were sparkling playfully rather than in any kind of genuine anger. He opened his mouth to retort, but before he could say anything little Ichirou decided the room was getting far too exciting to remain lying peacefully glancing around, and so he started fussing in that moment, wanting to become the center of attention.

Sango scooped up her son and started to nurse him, and after a moment Miroku was able to get more serious again, getting back to sorting through the various gifts the villagers had given Kagome the night before. The miko and hanyou helped him figure out the last of it, insisting that he and Sango take more of the various foods than they had been prepared to. Kagome just didn't think they could eat all of it before it spoiled, and another deciding factor was also the fact that some of the things Miroku and Sango were going to leave for them smelled too spicy to Inuyasha. Inuyasha told Kagome that she could still have it for herself if she wanted it, but she both pleased and embarrassed her future husband when she pointed out how she didn't want to risk her breath becoming too spicy for him, and why. He blushed at the amused look Miroku shot him at the comment, but fortunately the houshi decided to keep his jokes to himself, agreeing to take the spicy treats.

All non-food items were left for Kagome, hands down. Besides the two different lengths of fabric, which Sango complimented looked absolutely lovely as the taijiya promised Kagome she'd help teach her how to sew, and the leather sagemono courtesy of their resident leatherworker, there was also a very well-made basket, compliments of the village's best basket weaver, which had definitely come in handy since Kagome had used it to carry a great deal of the items back to Kaede's last night. There was also a well-made wooden inro sagemono, a multi-sectional container that was ideal for medicines. Even though Kaede didn't own one, and merely used a basket to carry her various medicines in when she did her village rounds, Kagome imagined that when it was her turn, when she was the miko doing the morning rounds, the inro would be perfect for smaller things, and she could still also use a larger carrying basket when need be. The inro's design was fairly simplistic; Kagome knew they wouldn't evolve beyond their mere utilitarian function into more elaborately crafted works of art until the Edo period, and she would also not be able to acquire a cute little netsuke figurine to replace it's normal toggle at the end of the cord as they did not exist yet, either, but even so, it was a charming little wooden box, and she was glad to own it.

Once everything was properly sorted, Kagome and Inuyasha went with their friends back to their place, helping the couple to carry everything, or more accurately, helping the couple carry their children so that they could carry everything. With little Ichirou once again strapped to his mother's back, Sango's arms were loaded down with goodies, as were her husband's, a happily chirping toddler in both Inuyasha and Kagome's arms as the engaged couple walked close enough together for the twins they held to interact with each other, the two-year-olds babbling to each other in broken speech only they seemed to understand.

Catching Inuyasha giving her a funny look, Kagome automatically looked down at herself, to make sure her yukata wasn't crooked, and then looking back up and meeting his eyes, she grinned a little at his smile and playfully asked, “What?”

“Keh, nothin'. Just realized you look good with a brat in your arms, is all.”

She almost tripped over her sandal-clad feet in her surprise at his comment, but thankfully managed to catch herself, especially considering her precious cargo.

“So do you, you know.”

He nodded shyly, blushed mildly, and looked away.

“There's no hurry...with anything,” Kagome spoke back up then. “We can take everything one day at a time. Right now, I'm just so glad to be back, here, with you.”

“Me too.”

She smiled.

Of course, if we're anything like Sango-chan and Miroku-sama, once we can finally express our love for each other as we want, I bet it won't take long for the little ones to show up, Kagome thought, deciding she would just let nature take its course and whatever happened, she'd welcome it with open arms.

She smiled down at the toddler she held in her arms in that moment, envisioning what a little girl similar to Misaki might look like if she had little black puppy ears sticking up out of her hair and cute little fangs poking out past her upper lip.

How quickly would a quarter-inu baby develop its fangs? Fangs and breast feeding didn't sound like a good combination, come to think of it. But shaking those random thoughts free, Kagome again resolved to just let nature take its course and not worry about all of the various possibilities, since she knew the different paths their life together could take were virtually limitless. Instead of wasting away her present by worrying about 'what if' she would enjoy her present and deal with whatever changes and challenges came their way one day at a time.

Inuyasha's thoughts were running along similar lines, as he too at first started to imagine what it would be like to have children with Kagome, before realizing he would completely freak himself out with that line of thought if he didn't change the subject in his mind. He figured that it was fairly obvious they'd eventually have kids, but she'd only been back for three days, for crying out loud, and they weren't even married yet, nor did they have a home to call their own, so it made much more sense to focus on the more pressing matters at hand and save the freaking out about becoming a father for after she was actually pregnant.

Of course, the thought of Kagome pregnant led him, backwards, to the thought of how she'd have gotten that way, and he blushed again. Just because he'd had a ton of fantasies, and sometimes actual, literal dreams on the subject, both before and during their separation, that didn't mean he was all psyched up and raring to go. He likened it to something he'd witnessed with one of the small boys in the village a couple of years back, the youth desperate to learn how to ride a horse, wanting to get on one and ride it so badly. The boy's father had brought him over to the stables near Kaede's house, a stable hand prepared to help the boy get up on one of the horses' backs, and the youth had then proceeded to freak out, hugging his father's leg and begging to go back home.

While Inuyasha wasn't afraid of being with Kagome in and of itself, there were all sorts of little things that went along with the idea of it that had him completely terrified. He had absolutely zero experience in the love-making department, for one thing. What if he didn't satisfy her? What if he hurt her? What if his...differences...were more than she could handle? He knew she loved him, and that his youkai blood and features didn't matter to her, but she wasn't aware of all of his youkai features. He knew she'd never hold it against him or actually say anything negative, but in a weird sort of way that was even worse. Because she wouldn't want to hurt his feelings he was afraid he'd never know how she really felt, and if she was...bothered or not, by his lack of humanity in certain areas.

He knew it was a really stupid thing to be worried about all of a sudden. Here he finally had the girl of his dreams, and they were going to be married...he should be the happiest man on the planet! He knew for damn sure he was the happiest hanyou on the planet. By a long shot, he'd imagine. How many hanyou actually grew up to marry the person they loved, who loved them in return? So he wasn't going to let his fears hold him back, even with as real and at the surface as they were suddenly becoming. In his fantasies it'd never been an issue, but they'd been fantasies.No point in worrying about something when you thought it'd never really matter in real life, when you thought those fantasies were going to forever remain just that. Now, though, it was no longer a dream. Kagome was here, in real life, and they were going to be married. But even though she might have differing opinions and reactions than his dream-Kagome had had, regardless, she was Kagome, and Inuyasha knew he'd take reality over fantasy any time, no matter what.

Reaching the monk and slayer's house, Inuyasha brought his mind back into the here and now. Miko and hanyou continued to keep their assigned two-year-olds preoccupied while Mom and Dad went about putting away their newly acquired foodstuffs, and then after that, everyone settled down around the firepit while Sango put on some tea. Inuyasha and Kagome stayed over for a little while, visiting with their friends. Hanyou and houshi discussed some of the details about arranging for a building party, and both agreed that discussing things with the headman could wait until the following morning, since it would be time for lunch before too much longer and Kagome and Inuyasha just wanted to enjoy the rest of their day together before jumping into anything else that would gobble up all their alone time again.

Shippou popped back in at one point, and they immediately told the kitsune the happy news. His reaction was comical. At Inuyasha's off-handed comment of, “Oh hey, Shippou, so you know, Kagome and I got everything worked out and we're gonna be gettin' married,” the fox child blurted out, “Well it's about damn time!”

Everyone laughed, and Kagome didn't even feel like scolding Shippou for his language.

The engaged couple stayed with their friends for a little while longer after that, but then slowly but surely as real life and its responsibilities reared their ugly head hanyou and miko excused themselves so that their friends could get back to doing the things they needed to be doing. With Shippou babysitting it made Sango's time in the vegetable garden much more pleasant, and since Miroku needed to do a few things at the temple before lunch he offered to walk with Inuyasha and Kagome on their way back to Kaede's house. Thanking Sango again for washing her futuristic clothing as she collected her outfit from the clothes line, Kagome then bid Sango a pleasant goodbye for the time being, the slayer promising that some other time she'd help teach Kagome a few things about gardening, and then the trio were on their way, Miroku's staff jingling peacefully in the quiet afternoon.

The walk back to Kaede's was pleasant enough, the houshi surprisingly able to refrain from making any inappropriate comments, and once reaching the elderly miko's dwelling Inuyasha and Kagome said their temporary farewells to their other friend as Miroku continued on his way, heading up the shrine steps towards his temple. Kaede was back home by that point, and so it was finally time to inform her of the good news, as well, and after offering her sincerest congratulations to the couple Kaede then personally reassured Inuyasha, once he shyly admitted to the misunderstanding, that there would in fact be no objections among the local villagers regarding he and Kagome being together while she was also acting as village miko.

“Kagome does not belong to us,” she told him. “Nobody here can rightfully dictate what she may do or whom she may marry. She is a stranger, albeit a wholly welcomed one, and we feel blessed to have her join our society. But she does not have any family here, and if anyone were going to be considered a part of her family, Inuyasha, it would be you. In the villagers' minds, you two came to us on the same day, her sudden appearance leading to your revival, and then the quest for the jewel shards began, and you were always together. Even though she is thought of as my sister's reincarnation, it seems to me that the majority of the villagers believe she came back to us to conquer the Shikon no Tama more than anything else, and now that the jewel is no more, our village peaceful for the last three years thanks to your protection, the fact that she has now returned after all this time, I am certain it is obvious to most people that she has returned for you, not us.”

“It's not like I actually told any of the villagers yesterday that I came back to become a miko, to take over for Kikyou,” Kagome added then, meeting Inuyasha's eyes affectionately. “Even though I was wearing the robes, I only said that I came back because this place is where I belong, and I only mentioned my spiritual powers and how they weren't needed in my old homeland as a part of the reason for why I'd finally realized that this place is where I belong.”

Thinking about something for a moment, Kagome spoke back up and added, “Honestly, I'm surprised none of the villagers were whispering to themselves about us like that last night. I'd have thought that somebody would've been speaking like that loud enough for you to hear, even if they didn't realize it at the time. Sango-chan even told me that they'd talked about it with their neighbors before.”

Inuyasha's eyes widened a bit at that unexpected bit of information.

“They've talked about that, with their neighbors?”

Kagome giggled.

“I think they meant just more about how much it was obvious you missed me and were hurting. They said they'd only discussed it briefly and when they knew you weren’t around to possibly overhear 'cause they didn't want to rub salt in the wound.”

He snorted at that.

“Some of the villagers last night, they were sayin' things like how much they bet I was glad you were back, or how obvious it was that I'd missed you, but nobody said nothin' perverted, or at least not that I heard, so I just didn't think about it that way, I guess. But 'bout everyone knows how good my hearing is, so the only times I overhear stuff they don't know I'm hearin' is when they don't even realize how close by I am. If I'm right there and they can all see me, I've noticed how much everyone suddenly watches what they say. Never heard no bad things about me bein' said behind my back, though, so I never really thought much of it. Just figured it went with the territory of being all respected like a guardian youkai 'n' shit.”

“You're probably right,” Kagome agreed then, nodding as she thought about it. “I suppose entertaining in your presence would've been in bad taste, come to think of it,” she relented. “Especially with me wearing miko garb at the time. Even if they were thinking that we were going to get together they probably just didn't want to risk angering you by saying it out loud, if you'd have thought them saying such things was being disrespectful in some way. Getting on your bad side is apparently a real concern of a lot of them.”

“Keh, don't know why. Not like I ever went off on anybody and gave 'em reason to fear me.”

“It is not that they fear provoking a monster who would attack them without just cause, Inuyasha. You are above them. They fear angering you from a place of status; they fear dishonor and retribution,” Kaede explained. “You are the son of a lord in the youkai realm, and everyone knows this. They know you are also half human, but your mother was also a nobleman's daughter, and they know this as well. You are our spiritual guardian in the flesh. I quite believe, should you one day fall in battle, that they would worship your ghost as a forest kami.”

Inuyasha snorted in amusement at that thought.

“I know, it''s just weird. After spending over a hundred years being treated like a common oni I don't really feel like the son of a lord, ya know? And a kami? Give me a break.”

“It's clear that's how they see you, though,” Kagome agreed with a tender smile. “I saw how quickly their demeanor changed when you shook your head to get rid of whatever you'd been thinking about and then had to lie about having a fly in your ear to assure them they hadn't said or done anything to anger you.”

Said ears lowered to his head as she called attention to them in that moment.

“Didn't think you were gonna call me out on that one.”

Kagome only giggled again, reaching over to gently touch his hand, even though what she really wanted to do was rub one of the aforementioned ears.

“It's okay, you don't have to tell me what you'd been thinking about. I'm sure it had something to do with our misunderstanding, but that's all been resolved now.”

Surprisingly, he smirked at her, and leaned over to whisper in her ear, “I don't mind telling you what I was thinking, but later, when we're alone.”

That implication alone was enough to have her cheeks turning a darker shade of pink than the wrap skirt of the yukata she wore, and shaking her head in amusement at the young couple, Kaede merely chuckled to herself before deciding to save her new apprentice by asking Kagome in that moment to assist with lunch preparations.

The younger miko jumped at the chance, almost literally, as she scurried away from where she'd been sitting next to Inuyasha to head over into the kitchenette side of the hut, rummaging through a cabinet for the rice she then immediately started washing. Watching her work with an amused smirk that slowly morphed into a tender smile, the sight of Kagome performing such mundane tasks the most beautiful thing in the world to him, Inuyasha decided to help out in that moment by adding some more wood to the fire. Kagome murmured her thanks to him as she put the rice on to cook, while Kaede headed out to the garden and told Rin to come inside. Looking over her vegetables for a moment, the elderly miko decided to leave her garden alone for now, and coming back inside she went through the assortment of goodies they had acquired courtesy of the villagers. There was some dried fish and some vegetables she didn't have in her own garden that would make quite a lovely stew, indeed.

Afterward, Kaede thought, she would inform Kagome and Inuyasha that she 'unfortunately' needed to work with some of the herbs that she knew were very unpleasant for the hanyou's nose. She didn't honestly have a need for cooking up those particular herbs at that moment, and the medicine would be wasted if nobody suddenly needed it within the next couple of days, but she had plenty of those herbs on hand for the time being and it was a small price to pay to give the inu-hanyou the perfect excuse to stay out with Kagome for a while. Those two needed it.

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