After The End: New Beginnings

There's no place like home

As soon as the blue lights of time faded and Kagome found herself standing in the bottom of the well, blue sky overhead, a tremendous feeling of excitement mixed with trepidation mixed with relief rushed through her. It was a strange, conflicting sensation, to be so nervous and overjoyed at the same time, but she'd been gone for three years and she knew she shouldn't get her hopes up. She had absolutely no idea what to expect.

Even so, she was home now, and one thing she did know was that the village would welcome her back with open arms. She was sure Kaede would take her in, provided the elderly miko was still in good health, but even if, heaven forbid, she...wasn't an option, then Kagome knew the village headman would help her figure things out if nobody else was still around. That was her fallback plan, if it turned out her friends had all moved on, although she was pretty sure Sango and Miroku had had plans to settle down within the village, and hopefully, provided they were still there, then Inuyasha would still be, also.

On the one hand she wanted to believe that of course Inuyasha would still be around. Why would he leave? But on the other hand, three years was a long time. What if staying near the well had been too painful for him? She knew her questions wouldn't get answered just standing around at the bottom of the well, though, and so she quickly nodded to herself in determination in that moment, as she started the daunting task of climbing out of the ancient time portal this one, final time.

It's a good thing I've stayed in practice, she mused, maneuvering her hands into what she knew were the best places to grip.

Suddenly, though, her senses were almost overwhelmed by a sensation she hadn't felt in a long time: a rapidly approaching demonic aura. She slipped in her surprise, gasping softly.

I'd hoped he'd still be around, but I hadn't expected to be greeted at the well like this! she thought excitedly with a huge wave of relief as a shadow fell over her. Looking up, she grinned broadly as Inuyasha stuck his hand down into the well for her to grab.

Grab it she did, and he immediately hoisted her out. Placing her left hand on his right shoulder for balance, Kagome stood for a moment on the lip of the well, her right foot propped on the edge, Inuyasha's left hand on her right side for extra support. Wordlessly, they gazed into each other's eyes, and their faces were so close together that Kagome felt the sudden urge to kiss him. She wasn't quite brave enough to be so bold out of nowhere, though, and so she broke the silence in that moment, instead.

“Inuyasha, I'm sorry...were you waiting...?”

Her voice cracked some as she spoke, and she could feel her eyes tearing up again. For him to rush to the well right as she returned, he'd obviously been near enough to sense her arrival. She was so relieved, so pleased and so proud of him, that he hadn't run off into the wild to do kami knew what in her absence.

“Kagome...” he replied then, his tone of voice revealing his awe.

She's back, she's actually fucking back... he thought in wonder. If this was a dream, he'd kill whichever dream weaver had sent it to him as soon as he woke up.

Resisting the urge to kiss her, knowing she probably wouldn't mind it but still not feeling quite brave enough to be so brazen out of the blue, he sat her on her feet on the grass in that moment, instead, wrapping his arms around her. She eagerly returned his embrace.

“You idiot...” he murmured softly, the supposed insult having no bite. “What have you been up to?”

Before she could answer, Kagome felt it as Inuyasha stiffened, turning his head to glance over his shoulder, the hanyou's ears picking up the approaching footsteps she couldn't hear yet.

“What is it?” she asked quietly, furrowing her brow at his displeased expression.

Damn it, can't even give me five fucking minutes... he thought, frowning.

He couldn't really say he blamed them, though. They loved Kagome almost as much as he did.

“We're about to have company,” he murmured softly, the look in his eyes strangely regretful. She didn't get a chance to respond.

“Ka...!” came Shippou's broken, shocked exclamation, followed immediately by Sango's voice crying out “Kagome-chan!” in disbelief and amazement.

The miko immediately understood where Inuyasha's shift in mood had come from as their other friends arrived, and a small...very small...part of her was disappointed by the interruption as well. Even so, she was very glad to see their other friends, having strongly suspected they'd settled down based on Inuyasha's appearance but having admittedly not known for sure.

And they've got kids! Cute! she squealed in her mind, answering aloud with, “Miroku-sama, Sango-chan, Shippou-chan, I'm back.”

The next few minutes were a blur as Sango said they had to inform Kaede of her return, and then Kagome and Inuyasha both found themselves ushered by their friends towards the elderly miko's domain. Kagome did her best to answer all of Shippou's questions along the way, and sharing a few stolen glances with the hanyou walking beside her, Inuyasha's eyes held a playful apology for Shippou's antics but also primarily his simple and tremendous joy at seeing her again.

“What took you so long? Did you bring back any ninja food? What have you been doing all this time? Are you here to stay now? Why didn't you come back sooner? Did you bring me any pocky? Do you still have to study for those tests? You're not going to leave again, are you?”

Laughing, Kagome replied with, “I didn't mean to be gone for so long, no I didn't bring any food with me, I mainly spent my time studying so I could finish high school, yes I'm here to stay, the well wouldn't let me come back any sooner, sorry, no pocky, and no, no more studying for anymore tests and I'm not going anywhere.”

Inuyasha chuckled a little under his breath as they neared Kaede's house, impressed with Kagome's ability to keep up with the kitsune's interrogation. The runt had asked the most important question, as far as he was concerned, and hearing that Kagome was in fact there to stay, he could just bask in that knowledge without even hearing about what she'd been up to for the last three years, although granted, he was curious.

When they reached Kaede's, the elderly miko was just as surprised and ecstatic to see that Kagome had returned as the others had been, especially given the conversation she'd had with Inuyasha that very morning. She and the inu-hanyou shared a brief look, her genuine happiness for him impossible for the hanyou to miss, and he nodded, letting her know just how happy he was for himself, too.

“Come in, come in, child! This is cause for celebration!” Kaede stated enthusiastically as she gestured for everyone to enter her one-room hut. Inuyasha snickered as they all piled inside, thinking back on Kaede's comment about missing the company. Careful what you wish for.

Shuffling inside with everyone else, Kagome did her best not to feel overwhelmed by the flurry of activity, a task that got a little harder when she was suddenly glomped by an eleven-year-old.

“Kagome-sama!” Rin squealed in delight.

It took the future-born miko a minute to recognize the girl.

“Rin-chan! Is that you?”

Releasing Kagome, Rin nodded enthusiastically.

“I didn't think I'd ever see you again! Rin missed you so much.”

Kagome smiled tenderly at the cute mixture of both first and third person, which was how she remembered Rin had spoken in the past. She assumed the girl had picked up the third-person speech from being around Sesshoumaru, who did it a lot in that pompous kind of way aristocrats tended to do. For Sesshoumaru to speak of himself using first-person vernacular in your presence meant that he thought highly enoughof you to consider you not as far beneath him as the dirt on his boots; a true compliment, indeed.

Not that I can recall ever seeing dirt on his boots. Kagome mentally chuckled at the thought.

She'd figured that Mr. High and Mighty would've been long gone now that Naraku was dead, but Rin's presence in the village suggested otherwise. She'd find out more about that later, she supposed. There was a bunch of stuff she knew she needed to get caught up on, the most important being the three newest members of the inu-tachi.

“And who might these lovely ladies be?” Kagome asked her friends then, walking up to Miroku who was still holding the girls. Shippou hadn't let anybody else get a word in edgewise during the walk to Kaede's.

The kitsune jumped down from Miroku's shoulder as the monk bent over to set his daughters back on their feet, introducing them to Kagome at the same time.

“This one is Mizuki,” he began, gesturing to the girl wearing the dark kimono. She waved hello shyly. “And this lovely lady is Misaki,” he elaborated. She hid her face in her father's robes.

Sango chuckled at the younger twin's reaction, and then explained their names to Kagome.

“They were born at dawn, Mizuki arriving while it was mostly still dark out with only the faintest bit of light to the east, the full moon setting in the western sky. Misaki joined us with the sun, as the flowers were opening, so we figured 'beautiful moon' and 'beautiful blossom' were fitting names.”

“Well I agree that they're both beautiful,” Kagome stated then, bending forward enough to meet both girls at only a little above their eye level.

Misaki glanced up at her for a moment before turning and burying her face again, and Mizuki giggled at her sister for a moment, but then hid her face as well when Kagome smiled at her for giggling.

The young miko straightened back up, then, and met Sango's eyes. “They're adorable.” Not forgetting about the baby still strapped to Sango's back, Kagome asked next, “And who's this little guy?”

Feeling a little left out all of a sudden, Inuyasha chimed in before anyone else could answer. “Keh, that's Ichirou, and if the bouzu has his way, he will be the first of many sons.”

Miroku only chuckled, not about to deny it. He then assisted Sango with unstrapping Ichirou, the pair taking a seat as Kaede urged everyone to settle down, stating that she'd put on some tea. Kagome's stomach growled a little as she sat down beside Inuyasha, something she was going to ignore, but the hanyou heard it and his ear twitched as he turned and looked her way with tender concern in his eyes.

“Have you eaten, Kagome? Are you hungry?” he asked.

She blushed a little at the question, mildly embarrassed that her stomach was making such noises against her will. Food had honestly been the last thought on her mind, but... “I actually did kinda skip lunch. This all just happened so suddenly, and eating first wasn't an option.”

“Ah, then let me put on some rice for you, Kagome. Won't take but a few minutes.”

“Thank you, Kaede-baa-chan.”

“Would you like me to go catch you something?” Inuyasha asked the younger miko then. “You should eat more than just rice,” he stated matter-of-factly.

Kagome chuckled softly at his conviction, the look in her eyes both genuinely grateful and amused. She was honestly touched by his open show of concern, but found it unnecessarily ardent.

“You can go catch me something for dinner if you want, how's that? I don't want to send you away right now, I just got here,” she replied, sending him a playful smirk and wink.

He blushed mildly, but muttered a complacent “Keh.”

“So, you must tell us, what happened all of a sudden? We're thrilled to see you, but we hadn't expected your return after all this time,” Miroku spoke up in that moment.

Accepting her tea from Kaede, Kagome launched into her story, starting from the beginning and what had happened as soon as Inuyasha had been yanked back down into the well, and how she'd felt at that time. She emphasized her fears, and expressed her realization of how it had most likely been those fears that'd been holding her back for the last three years. Besides that, she also expressed how graduating high school had been important to her, as a goal she'd previously set for herself and something she hadn't wanted to give up on for that reason, not to mention the blemish on her family's honor it would have been for her to drop out after having already been accepted. It would have been a lesser disgrace to simply not go in the first place, since high school wasn't mandatory, but just about everybody went, and it basically meant you were a failure if you didn't pass the tests needed to get in. Since she had gotten in, even though the only reason they'd accepted her was because they'd had an open seat, to fail after the fact and quit without completing would have been a much bigger disgrace, and something she simply hadn't been prepared to do.

Every time she'd tried the well, wishing and hoping and praying to see them all again, a nasty little voice in the back of her head had spoken up with doubts and fears, all about what if she got trapped in the past. While those fears had primarily been about how she'd feel never seeing her family again after never even getting to say goodbye, she'd also worried about how her family would deal with the school board if that happened, asking them where she'd gone, and how it would've forced her grieving family to lie on her behalf. And what if somebody discovered she was actually gone? Sometimes, the paranoia had run away with her and she'd taken the fantasy all the way to a police investigation, and her family getting in trouble with the law because of her 'suspicious' disappearance, although most of the time she'd been rational enough to realize that that outcome wouldn't really have happened. Her grandfather would have just called the school up, like he'd gotten used to doing all throughout their mission to slay Naraku, and he would've most likely told them that her health problems had come back and were so severe that they were pulling her out of school. Nobody would've come by to verify it, and her three school friends had already been filled in on the truth of everything, so at least they would've known what had really happened.

Even so, it had been a possible scenario she had simply not been emotionally prepared to deal with back then, getting cut off from that world before finishing high school, before she'd felt adult enough to leave her childhood home and mother behind.

“I've done a lot of growing up over the last three years, and I realized today that I wasn't afraid to leave home any longer. I realized today that if I really did have to choose, that I'd choose this time, with you guys. This place has felt like my true home for a long time now, ever since you guys first became so important to me.”

She cast a sideways glance Inuyasha's way at her words, blushing mildly as their eyes met, which caused him to blush mildly as well before they both looked away. Miroku and Sango shared an amused, knowing look as the couple across from them did their dance.

Ah, clearly still in love, even after all this time apart, Miroku thought.

Inuyasha had admitted his love for Kagome to him, once, but it would be amusing to observe how long it took for the hanyou to admit it to Kagome, herself.

She'll probably have to be the one that broaches the subject, and if she doesn't then I'll have to have Sango pull her aside for a little talk.

He would give them a few days to figure things out on their own before interfering, though.

With her own thoughts running along similar lines, Kagome actually wanted to admit to the whole group that it'd been Inuyasha, himself, who was the most important person to her, that he was the one she hadn't been able to fathom living without, and she was even pretty sure it wouldn't be a surprise to anyone in the room if she said it, but she chickened out at the last minute, to put it bluntly, cursing herself as she looked away. It just didn't feel like the right time, she told herself. She wanted it to be her and Inuyasha alone, just the two of them, when they had that discussion. They shouldn't have to have an audience.

Feeling Miroku's eyes on her after a moment, Kagome glanced the houshi's way and sent him a 'you shut your mouth' glare at his knowing look, his position on the matter communicated perfectly.

Inuyasha wasn't paying attention, too busy staring at the far wall, chanting a silent mantra in his head to not make a fool of himself in front of everyone. Noticing Inuyasha's distraction, Kagome cleared her throat and addressed the whole group again, ignoring the elephant in the room for the time being as she continued with her tale.

“Even though I'd been an adult three years ago by this world's standards, my world had still considered me a child, and even though my family had let me come here because they'd known how important it was, I hadn't been old enough to permanently leave home. Now, though, I'm an adult, and I've graduated high school. My responsibilities to that world are over. I've fulfilled my obligations, and as such I'm finally free to do what I want. Now, my family won't get in trouble with the authorities for me becoming a 'missing child'; I'm just a grown up daughter who's moved away.”

“Perhaps, then, the well did indeed know what it was doing these last three years, preventing you from returning before it was truly time, before you were truly ready,” Kaede stated, nodding her agreement to Kagome's hypothesis as she handed the young miko a small bowl of rice and a pair of chopsticks.

Of course, she too knew what had to have been the true driving force behind Kagome's desire to return, but she wouldn't give the young couple any teasing looks like their friends were currently doing. At the first opportunity, she'd have a serious discussion with Kagome.

“Thank you,” said eighteen-year-old stated as she accepted the proffered rice, growing quiet for a moment as she began eating, which allowed the others a moment to contemplate things.

Inuyasha watched her eat in silence for a moment, casting glances at the others, who were also watching Kagome with something akin to wonder in their eyes. Except for young Mizuki and Misaki, of course, who were hardly paying the adults any attention, preoccupied with some kind of game they were playing between themselves. Looking back at the young miko sitting beside him, something started nagging at the hanyou in the back of his mind that needed to be addressed.

“Your family...wasn't upset with your decision to come here?” he asked hesitantly.

During her rundown she'd only said how upon making her decision the well had opened for her right then and there, and how she'd told her family a quick goodbye in the well-house before leaping in, too afraid to even pack anything in case the well's offer had only been temporary.

Kagome sighed at his question as she sat her rice down, getting a far off look in her eyes for a brief moment before glancing his way and offering him a warm smile.

“They were sad to see me go, but encouraged me to come here, knowing it was what I wanted most, knowing that this world is where I belong. They didn't beg me to stay, where I had to be cruel and put my foot down that I was going no matter what. They'd known for a long time that I wasn't happy, and I think...I think they'd probably known that this possibility might happen one day. I'll always love them, and I'm sure at times I'll get sad, missing them more on some days than others, but I will never regret my decision to come here.”

“Rin is glad you decided to come back to our world, Kagome-sama. I think this is where you belong, too,” Rin said, the eleven-year-old girl the only one out of the loop regarding the young miko's deeper feelings for their hanyou companion.

“Thank you, Rin-chan,” Kagome replied, offering the girl a warm smile.

“Rin's not the only one happy that you're back,” Shippou commented then, sending a very obvious look in Inuyasha's direction.

The hanyou blushed mildly again, but only replied with a quiet “Keh...”

Embarrassed or no, he wasn't about to do something stupid and potentially detrimental to his future like deny his feelings outright, like the old and stupid him would have done in the past.

Finished with her rice, Kagome handed the bowl and chopsticks back to Kaede, who accepted them and put them aside to wash in a few minutes. The future-born miko then turned and glanced Inuyasha's way again, their eyes locking for a moment. Smiling shyly, she leaned into him a little bit, bumping his shoulder with her shoulder. He chuckled under his breath and bumped her back.

“It's good to have ya back, wench,” he said then, his eyes sparkling with teasing mirth at the old, previously dreaded nickname.

Kagome didn't mind it in the slightest. In that moment, hearing Inuyasha's voice say anything was like a balm on her soul. Looking into each other's eyes for a moment longer, Inuyasha could see the thousands of things swimming in her stormy eyes that she wanted to say, but it wasn't hard to guess why she was holding back. He didn't exactly want to spill his guts in front of the others, either. They'd have to find the opportunity to get some alone time, although he knew it'd be too rude to take her away from the others so soon. As Kagome continued to gaze into his eyes, she could see his thoughts on the matter reflected back in their golden depths, and she knew their silent agreement was understood by the both of them. They had lots they needed to say, but not now. She turned back to address the others, then.

“Now,” she said to officially change the subject, clapping her hands together enthusiastically. “It's your turns! I want to hear everything I've missed over the last three years.”

Choosing not to comment on the moment that had obviously been shared between hanyou and miko, Miroku got things started at her request, launching into his tale of how he'd spoken with the village headman three years prior and had arranged for he and Sango to have a home built for themselves within the village. There had been nowhere else they'd wanted to go, which had worked out perfectly since the local villagers hadn't wanted to letthem go, either, even going so far as to have Buddhist temple buildings added to the shrine grounds so that Miroku, despite being married to Sango, could also take on the role of monk for the locals who wanted it. He was only too happy to oblige, since he wasn't a farmer and really had no other way to contribute to the village and earn his keep. If they wanted a Buddhist temple and monk to go with it, they got it.

Hearing the monk talk about his and Sango's house, Kagome turned to Inuyasha and asked him, politely and conversationally, trying not to sound too nosy or hopeful, if the villagers had also built him a house.

With the miko successfully masking her deeper reason for wanting to know, Inuyasha didn't immediately catch on and merely explained how and why he didn't have a house of his own, explaining how he hadn't really felt he'd neededone, and how he hadn't wanted to press his luck with the locals or especially the hired carpenters from the neighboring villages. He told her how he still just stayed with Kaede on the rare occasions he needed shelter, and that the rest of the time he was more than happy to hang around out in the eastern forest that bore his name, telling her how the local villagers had even dubbed him their resident forest dwelling youkai protector.

The simple fact that nobody feared or hated him those days was far more than he'd ever thought he could ask for, the occasional hunter venturing into the forest sometimes even murmuring a short prayer for his protection against predators, like he was some kind of a kami or something. It was an amazing experience for the hanyou, and he took his role of protector seriously, patrolling their borders often and keeping lower youkai and even mortal predatory animals away. He also told Kagome about his and Miroku's pseudo-career as youkai slayers, the two of them still doing the occasional extermination for anyone in need, but for a price, not that there was anything wrong with that. Miroku did have a family to provide for, after all, and even so, even with as much of a swindler as the monk could be at times, he was a good man at heart, and never charged anybody more than what he knew they could afford. If somebody in need honestly couldn't afford to pay anything at all then they'd still get rid of the youkai problem, free of charge.

Smiling at her husband at Inuyasha's words, Sango then told Kagome how Kohaku was doing those days, the boy off with Kirara doing his own youkai extermination jobs, training to become a strong taijiya. He came by to let them know how he was doing every once in a while, although he never stayed for very long, his sister's house 'too crowded' for him as he'd teased them once, after the twins were born.

When it was his turn to speak, Shippou also told Kagome all about his regular trips to the Kitsune Inn, studying with the older foxes to get better at his kitsune magic. He'd never used to understand why she had to go away to go take tests at school all the time, but now he understood, he told her then, since even though it was very different in a way, in another way what he did was just like going to school and taking tests.

Rin also chimed in during their conversation and told Kagome of how Sesshoumaru came by every once in a while, so even though he had told her to stay at the village for the time being, he hadn't forgotten about her or abandoned her.

Kagome was glad to hear that, feeling happy for the girl that her lord hadn't turned his back on her, since Rin's admiration for Inuyasha's half-brother was all-too apparent in the young girl's voice. Kagome had also seen for herself just how important Rin had actually seemed to Sesshoumaru back then, even though she hadn't quite understood why, and so she'd honestly been surprised upon arriving at Kaede's to see that he'd apparently left the girl behind. She was pleased to learn now that he did still come by from time to time, and not just for Rin's sake, actually. She cast a playful glance in Inuyasha's direction, amusement sparkling in her blue-gray eyes.

“Does this mean you two can finally look at each other without trying to kill each other?” she teased, having always secretly wanted the brothers to get along, for both their sakes. They were family, after all.

He snorted at her sense of humor, amused, and replied boastingly with, “Feh...he's coming into my domain, so he knows to behave himself.”

Rin giggled behind her hand.

Visiting would have lasted longer, but the twins started getting fussy in that moment, and Ichirou needed to be changed.

“Please join us for dinner this evening, Kagome-chan,” Sango said then, as she and Miroku both rose to excuse themselves for the time being. “Inuyasha was already invited, and the more the merrier.”

“I'd be delighted,” the future-born miko replied, smiling as Miroku picked up their daughters, Ichirou held in Sango's arms, as the family began heading for the door.

“Keh, that's if we can keep word of her return under wraps, otherwise the headman will probably want to throw a feast in her honor,” Inuyasha said, his tone of voice only mildly perturbed by the notion, and not the least bit sarcastic.

“You make a good point, my friend,” Miroku agreed from his place in the doorway. “Let's tell Haruto-sama the good news tomorrow, then, after we've had a chance to have Kagome-sama all to ourselves for a while longer.”

He sent the hanyou a wink at his words, earning reddened cheeks in response, although Inuyasha didn't offer a verbal retort or deny his desire to do just that.

The exchange didn't go unnoticed by Kagome, of course, who chuckled a little under her breath and shook her head in amusement at Miroku's antics, sharing a brief, knowing look with Sango before the group was finally out the door and on their way.

“Keh, nosy bastard,” Inuyasha grumbled then, earning a louder giggle from Kagome that time.

“Oh come on, he wouldn't be Miroku-sama if he didn't tease like he does. You know he only does it because he knows it'll get a rise out of you.”

Inuyasha couldn't deny that, and he stared at Kagome in wonder again for a moment, simply trying to take in the fact that she was actually there, that she'd actually come back to him- them. She'd actually come back to them.

Keh, gone for three years but she can still make such a comment and be right; she knows me so well, and Miroku too, for that matter. Hell, she knows all of us, and that's why she came back; this is her home, and we're all her family.

Of course, the thought of 'Kagome' and 'family' together had the hanyou blushing again and quickly looking away to hide it. Now he wished he would've let Miroku talk him into seeing if the villagers wouldn't have minded building him a house, after all. Although, on the other hand, he didn't know if he'd have really been able to be so bold as to offer her a place to stay with him in his own personal home even if he had had one. Miroku would have teased him until his face turned a permanent shade of red, for one thing, probably causing him to blow up and say something stupid that would have ruined his chances with the miko and defeated the purpose of her staying with him like that, anyway.

Besides, he shouldn't really allow himself to think such thoughts until he heard it from Kagome herself that she still felt that way about him. Three years was a long time, and he knew feelings could change, and even though the fact that she'd given up everything to come back to their world did tend to suggest there had been something very important that'd caused her to make such a decision, she hadn't said as much in her explanation. She'd only told them that she'd been miserable in her world, and that she'd missed it there, in their century, and that she'd missed all of them and that they'd all been so important to her that she hadn't been able to handle the thought of never seeing them again.

Sure, he thought the little glances he and the miko had shared throughout her story had meant what he'd hoped they meant, but he still wanted to make sure, first, before risking making a total fool of himself. If it turned out all she actually wanted from him anymore was friendship, well, that would still be good enough to bring him a sense of contentment. He'd missed her so terribly, and just to have her back in his life, in any capacity, would be a thousand times better than life without her.

Kaede immediately noticed it as Inuyasha's thoughts went off to a place far away, as he'd turned away from Kagome to conceal his reddened cheeks, and she spoke up in that moment, engaging the younger miko so that Inuyasha could be alone to his thoughts without further embarrassment.

“Kagome, I have a few of your things,” she said, drawing the future-born miko's attention as expected. “Your pack had been left behind when you disappeared into the meidou, and the bow from Mt. Azusa returned with Inuyasha after he saw you safely to your family.”

Hearing his name pulled Inuyasha from his thoughts, and he turned back just in time to see Kagome's surprised, delighted expression.

“Oh! I'd forgotten all about my bow,” she admitted, blushing a little herself that time since she knew how important that bow actually was.

“At the time, I'd let go of it at some point while floating in the meidou with Inuyasha, but it'd stayed floating right beside us, and when we suddenly found ourselves in the well-house and my family was right there, I ran out of the well and into Mama's arms without a single thought about the bow. I remembered it later that night, and noticed it was gone, when I'd been in the well-house staring into the well, crying and praying for Inuyasha to return...”

She cast a shy glance Inuyasha's way as she let her words trail off, blushing mildly at her confession, but he only offered her a reassuring, and somewhat apologetic smile.

“Anyway, that was three years ago, and so coming here now, I'd completely forgotten all about it.”

“I did try to return to you, Kagome. I tried all the time, but the well wouldn't let me through, either,” he explained.

“Well, thank you for returning my bow to Kaede-baa-chan for safe keeping,” Kagome said then, meeting Inuyasha's eyes with gratitude.

He scoffed.

“Keh, what was I gonna to do? Chuck it in the river?” His eyes and tone of voice were playful, teasing.

“I suppose not, no,” Kagome agreed, chuckling a little. “And I'm glad my bag is still here, too. I had a small mirror in my backpack, and a hairbrush, toothbrush...a few familiar comforts will help make my transition to living here much easier, I'm sure.”

At those words, her eyes widened marginally at her presumption, realizing she hadn't even asked Kaede yet if she could stay with her, she'd just been assuming. Although by 'here' in that sentence she'd more or less been referring to their century as a whole she did need a roof over her head, and while she was about 99.9% positive it wouldn't be a problem to stay with Kaede she really ought to ask first before just outright presuming. Casting a shy, slightly embarrassed look in Kaede's direction, then, her unasked question was clear to the elderly miko, who chuckled some at the teen's obvious nervousness.

“You are of course welcome to stay here, Kagome, do not even ask,” Kaede stated, her good eye reflecting her mirth. “My home is your home, for as long as you wish it.”

Kaede sent a knowing look Inuyasha's way at her words, letting him know her home was also his for as long as he wished it, too. Bashfully, the hanyou nodded his understanding and agreement, not about to turn down her offer this time since there was one very good reason why he should indeed stay with her rather than out in the woods all by himself. Their silent communication was an exchange Kagome missed since the young miko was too busy mentally scolding herself for her own foolishness.

“Thank you, Kaede-baa-chan,” she replied, clearly relieved, her eyes revealing her gratitude.

She hadn't really thought it'd be a problem, but even so, she'd hated the fact that her appearance was so presumptuous in and of itself, in a way, forcing somebody to take her in since she was basically homeless. She'd known that somebody in the village would undoubtedly take her in, but she hadn't honestly wanted to stay with anybody other than Kaede until she could figure out something more permanent for herself. The elderly miko was like a grandmother to her.

Of course, if Inuyasha'd had a house of his own I wouldn't have minded staying with him, although that might have been too presumptuous, too, in a different way, she thought, blushing again and turning away from the hanyou so he wouldn't notice, pretending instead to focus on whatever Shippou was saying to Rin in that moment.

Thinking about it, Kagome quickly decided that perhaps it was for the best, after all, that Inuyasha more or less still lived with Kaede and Rin, himself. It was much less likely for her hormones to get the better of her with their elderly chaperone and a small child both in the same room, after all. She wanted to be with Inuyasha, and had fantasized about it for years now, but the last thing she wanted to do was to ruin a potential fairytale romance by jumping into bed with the guy right out the gate. Three years was a long time to be apart, and she wanted, no...needed to make sure she knew where his heart truly lied. She wanted him, but only if he honestly wanted her in return. She would not throw herself at him and risk ruining their friendship. What if he felt so guilty afterwards that he couldn't even look her in the eyes anymore?

Baby steps... she told herself then, the silence of the moment having thankfully been filled by Shippou and Rin's chatter so that she'd been permitted her moment of wandering thoughts unnoticed by the other occupants of the hut.

“May I, Kaede-sama?” Rin asked her guardian then, Shippou having asked Rin if she wanted to go play with him and the other village children, whom he could hear were playing a game out by the paddy fields.

“Aye, Rin, you're finished with your chores for the time being, and Inuyasha is not presently away with Houshi-dono. Go and have fun,” Kaede answered, passing an expectant look Inuyasha's way.

He nodded his response and rose to his feet, holding a hand out for the mildly confused Kagome as Shippou and Rin both eagerly dashed outside.

“Come on,” he said to the future-born miko as he helped her to her feet, explaining, “I always keep an eye on Rin whenever she's out playing. Sesshoumaru would have my ass if anything happened to her, so Kaede only lets her go off with the other kids when I'm in town, just in case. A skinned knee ain't no big deal; I don't coddle the girl, just keep a sharp look out for potential threats.”

“Ah, right,” Kagome stated in understanding then, waving a quick goodbye to Kaede as she followed the hanyou outside.

It was sudden and unexpected, but the perfect opportunity to be alone with him, and since he hadn't even asked her if she wanted to stay and get settled in with Kaede or go with him, automatically acting like her place was by his side, Kagome wasn't about to show any hesitation regarding her desire to follow him anywhere. By his side was exactly where she wanted to be.


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