After The End: New Beginnings

Whatever we deny or embrace, for worse or for better...

Inuyasha's mood continued to deteriorate as the evening progressed. As word of Kagome's return continued to spread throughout the village like a wildfire it became one well-wisher after the other, practically non-stop, out front the monk and slayer's house. Shippou had even joked that they should've been charging admission.


He'd deal with that runt later.

'She came back for you, you know...' Inuyasha mock-repeated in his head, remembering the kitsune's words.

At least he didn't feel quite so bad for being a complete idiot and missing the signs, if Shippou had also been under the impression Kagome had come back to be with him. That was better, the hanyou relented, than everyone else being completely aware of the fact that Kagome only saw him as a friend, and Shippou making fun of him for having thought otherwise. As much as Shippou liked to tease and trick him, he didn't think even he would have gone so far as to deliberately tell him how obvious Kagome's affections were just to make him think so, to make him make a move and humiliate himself.

No, Shippou was a jokester, but he wasn't that cruel.

Still, Inuyasha was glad that in the hustle and bustle of seemingly half the village coming and going Shippou had had the good grace to leave him be, not trying to make amends. Even a sincere apology for being wrong would've been rubbing salt in the wound at that point. Right now, all Inuyasha wanted to do was stay by Kagome's side and make sure none of the villagers got too close.

She was still his to protect, after all, and so if things got too overwhelming for Kagome all she had to do was give him the word and he'd whisk her out of there.

Unlike the old him, though, he understood that it'd be rude to snub the villagers like that, and unlike the old him he actually gave a rat's ass about being rude those days, especially since the villagers weren't exactly overlooking him as they fawned all over her, calling him '-sama' just as many times as they did her. For the first time in his life he was liked by a whole village full of humans. Hell, more than just like him they considered him above them, even knowing that he was a hanyou! There was no misunderstanding; they didn't honestly think he was a forest spirit. They knew he was half youkai, half human, but he was still their hero, and they still considered his status above theirs. The last thing he wanted to do was get on anyone's bad side and screw it all up.

Before too long, though, it was time to excuse themselves, so that they wouldn't be late for dinner with the headman and his family. A perfectly legitimate excuse that nobody found rude in the slightest. And so that was how Inuyasha found himself and Kagome, along with Sango, Miroku, their children and Shippou, all making their way down the road to the headman's compound with a parade of happily gushing villagers trailing after them.

Haruto, having apparently anticipated such a scene upon the inu-tachi's arrival at his gate, greeted the villagers at the street with a well-rehearsed speech praising the kami for Kagome's safe return to them. He didn't even seem surprised to see her dressed in miko garb, as if that were what she'd been wearing all along, instead of her weird, futuristic clothes.

Did everybody know but me? Inuyasha wondered, forlorn, although he didn't say or do anything to interrupt the headman's speech.

After officially welcoming Kagome among them, Haruto then instructed the villagers to bring whatever offerings they chose, if they so chose, declaring that evening an auspicious night of celebration for one and all. With many cheers and exclamations of joy, the villagers departed, some with the mindset of having their own celebrations at home while others started work putting together gift bundles for their blessed miko. Much saké would be shared this night.

It didn't take long for the actual feast to get underway, the guests of honor led to an outdoor covered table that was large enough to seat the headman's entire extended family. Everyone who lived within the compound was present. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren... Inuyasha didn't bother taking a headcount, but there were a lot of them; at least two dozen if you counted all the little ones. He was glad the youngest children were with their mothers at the opposite end of the table, Shippou agreeing to keep an eye on the twins as they joined the children's area as well so that their end of the table could remain the 'adult' section, sans little Ichirou of course, although so far the baby was sleeping quietly on his mother's back. Inuyasha didn't really mind Sango's kids, but he really wasn't in the mood to deal with other people's children at the moment. Especially after the way so many of them had already been fawning all over Kagome back at Miroku's house, calling her 'Miko-sama' instead of by name. He understood that it was more respectful, but it was also a reminder he really didn't need at the moment.

Instead, Inuyasha tried to concentrate on the food. It really was delicious. The women had really gone all out with the meal preparation, Kazue having been assisted by her daughter-in-laws and granddaughters, everyone making their own dishes to include in tonight's celebration. There were rice dishes, and stews, and grilled skewers, savory and sweet dumplings, several types of pickles...the list went on and on. Somebody had even made noodles, although nothing would ever compare to ramen. Inuyasha noticed pretty quickly that his deer had been incorporated into a great number of things, although not all of them, but since Kagome was served third, following only after the headman and himself, Inuyasha nodded in satisfaction to see that she was getting the best of the best.

Noticing his satisfied expression as she got ready to start eating, Kagome glanced down at her plate and made a subtle gesture towards the meat, her eyes inquisitive. He nodded confirmation, and she smiled in answer, mumbling a quick prayer under her breath for the deer's soul before immediately taking a bite. It was delicious, of course, and that he had gone out of his way to have his hand in tonight's menu, the miko was truly grateful. Honestly, Kagome was really proud of how maturely Inuyasha was behaving all the way around, all things considered. She hadn't been able to miss the way he'd closed himself off as soon as all those people had shown up at Miroku and Sango's house, not that she could really blame him. It had completely eaten away at the free time they otherwise would have had to themselves before tonight's celebration, and she knew how he felt about crowds in general, never mind a crowd that had just interrupted their plans. That he had just stood there quietly and let her play hostess to the impromptu gathering, not telling anybody to leave them 'the hell' alone as he stormed away, it really hit home for the future-born miko that Inuyasha did acknowledge and take seriously his new status among the locals. Now hopefully later tonight, after everyone had gotten it out of their system, she and Inuyasha could finally have a moment's peace and quiet.

Resisting the urge to show any frustration on her face at the thought, Kagome continued to smile warmly as she ate the delicious food, truly appreciative of the headman and his family for putting such a fabulous meal together.

It didn't take long for the saké to start flowing, and not wanting to be rude Kagome accepted one cup, with no intention of having any more after that. She sipped it slowly, contented to sit back and listen with an amused grin as some of the men who'd already had more than one cup began regaling her with boisterous tales of Inuyasha's periodic heroics in her absence. The hanyou by her side, who had declined the offer of saké, had a flush on his cheeks that would have onlookers believing otherwise, but he didn't get up and storm away despite his embarrassment at suddenly becoming the center of attention, and sympathizing, Kagome reached over and gave his arm a gentle, friendly pat on the shoulder in a show of moral support.

There was really nothing to be embarrassed about, after all. That large piles of cut firewood had 'mysteriously' appeared in the center of town overnight the winter before last, with Miroku instructed to spread the warning that a very harsh snow storm was fast approaching and everyone needed to get prepared, that was the sort of trick a local protector spirit was supposed to do, wasn't it? Or when the blacksmith's youngest grandson had slipped on a wet rock and hit his head while trying to catch a fish, and Inuyasha had come running at the other boys' screams, retrieving the disoriented child from the river and setting him carefully on the grass, making sure he was breathing and not seriously hurt, all before any adults had even made it to the scene...what else should he have done? How was being thanked for saving the boy's life embarrassing? Kagome felt that the villagers were well within their rights to praise him, and he just needed to get over it.

Miroku, who had also decided to indulge in the headman's saké, was no help when he started telling stories about his and Inuyasha's occasional travels, and some of the more impressive youkai they'd faced off against together over the last three years. Inuyasha was just about at his breaking point, which of course earned a quiet giggle from the mildly tipsy miko, but apparently not quiet enough for the kami not to hear and pay her back for it because it was then that somebody asked Kagome to tell them a story, about a youkai that she'd faced off against, and flashing a quick look of panic Inuyasha's way she made a mental note to smack him later for the smug grin he sent her in return.

Thinking quickly, and deciding that even though it'd be sweet revenge for that grin of his she would not contribute to his previous embarrassment by telling any number of stories that could have portrayed him in a less flattering light – something she would make sure he knew he was required to thank her for later – Kagome decided in that moment to tell one of the few stories from their quest days that didn't involve Inuyasha. No youkai she'd ever faced off against was more fearsome than Naraku, so he was definitely her foe in the tale. What she told them was an edited version of her encounter with Hitomiko, and how she had been able to find a way out of Naraku's trap while also saving the undead miko's soul.

The story went over well enough, and then once it was finished somebody else asked Kagome to tell them a tale of something that'd happened back in her homeland. The vast majority of the villagers only understood that Kagome had come to them from some other strange land, not really aware that it was their own future, even for those who knew she had arrived via the Bone-Eater's Well. Sure, she was Kikyou's reincarnation, but since fifty years had already past nobody thought anything of it. She could've been born and raised in their very own village and still been Kikyou's reincarnation. Thinking it'd be best to avoid talking about her old homeland in any detail, Kagome tried to play it off that the land where she'd been born was actually rather boring, admitting that nobody else that she knew of had any spiritual powers such as her own, nor were any such powers required because there were also no youkai threats, which she stated had helped her to realize that she hadn't been meant for that world but that instead, she was meant for their world, which was why she had chosen to return to them, returning to where she belonged. That bit of information was quite the crowd pleaser, to say the least.

It didn't take long for the conversation to drift in a different direction, smaller conversations among two or three people sprouting up here and there while somebody at the table told a joke the people nearest to him listened to with rapt attention. It was around this time that one by one, other families from the village began descending upon them, albeit politely; people who had not yet already said their personal hellos to Kagome. Excusing herself in that moment as she stepped away from the table – she couldn't eat another bite by that point, anyway – Kagome quickly moved into a more central location on the family grounds, near the main house, so that she could better greet the incoming barrage of villagers, Inuyasha loyally by her side throughout the entire process. He was actually glad for the excuse to get away from the dinner table at that point, so standing guard while she accepted gifts and well-wishes from the rest of the villagers who hadn't already bade her welcome was a welcome divergence, truth be told.

Yes, it was hard listening to the lower class villagers refer to her as 'Miko-sama' instead of by name, and for a split second he'd found himself regretting his honesty when he'd initially told her that seeing her in the robes themselves didn't bother him anymore, because if he'd had any foresight and had told her instead that he couldn't stand the thought of her in miko garb this whole mess never would have happened, but then the longer he thought about it the more he knew she'd have been miserable if he had argued against her desire to train under Kaede, and the last thing he wanted to do was make Kagome believe that she had to choose between their friendship and her career. What else was a single girl from a foreign land and with no family supposed to do with herself if not become a shrine miko?

He wouldn't ask Miroku that question, knowing what would be the pervert's answer. He had to suppress the desire to growl just thinking about it, and suddenly found himself very grateful for the fact that theirs was a humble farming village with no such facilities for orphaned women. He'd take Kagome being a miko a thousand times over that alternative.

Although, at least then I bet I would have gotten to...

He shook his head rapidly to clear it.

So not finishing that thought!

Grabbing his mind by the back of its throat and forcefully hauling it out of the gutter, he brought his awareness back into the here and now just in time to realize Kagome was looking at him worriedly for the way he'd just seemingly shook his head in aggravation. Even a few of the villagers were looking at him cautiously, as if afraid they had offended him somehow.

He blushed, and decided to go with a harmless white lie that would excuse his obvious embarrassment.

“ got in my ear.”

That turned out to be a perfectly believable thing to say, for the villagers, as they nodded their understanding and quickly got back to practically worshiping Kagome, although if the way said miko only paid them half attention as she passed him a few more concerned glances was any indication then she had apparently not fallen for his fib. He'd worry about that later, though, seeing as there was currently a seemingly endless stream of people for Kagome to meet and greet. She would be busy for a long while yet, and then hopefully as the night progressed she'd either forget about it or at least decide to let it go.

Wondering just what it was Inuyasha had been thinking about, because she knew shaking oneself out of unwanted fantasies when she saw it, Kagome did indeed decide to let it go in that moment, deciding his thoughts had probably been something along the lines of wishing they were anywhere other than where they currently were. For that, she couldn't blame him, and knew it obviously wasn't something he could voice aloud in mixed company, so since the villagers had bought his excuse about an insect – even though she knew his hearing was so sharp he'd hear one coming a mile away and have his ears flattened to keep it out long before it was in range – she wouldn't say anything to call him on his lie. This was just a one time thing, a one-night-only event, and then neither of them would ever have to worry about it ever again. They could get through this.

Glancing briefly at the nearly full moon as it slowly crept above the houses, Kagome mentally sighed, and then made sure her 'polite hostess' smile was firmly in place as she greeted the next family to approach.

Well, at least we've got plenty of food to last us a while, Kagome thought, trying to see the positive side of an evening wasted as she, Inuyasha and Shippou all carried armloads of food and other gifts courtesy of the villagers back to Kaede's.

Some things she had tried to leave with the headman, trying to make it a payment of sorts for that fabulous dinner, but Haruto wouldn't hear of it, absolutely refusing as he insisted that anything she left at his home he'd merely have somebody take to Kaede's in the morning. At that moment Kagome wondered why she hadn't taken him up on the indirect offer, since trying to get it all to Kaede's themselves was a bit of a balancing act.

Miroku and Sango would have helped, but they already had their hands full, the slayer and monk each carefully cradling a sleeping two-year-old, Sango's burden made doubly precious by the sleeping infant strapped to her back. Ichirou had woken earlier, while Kagome had been entertaining the hoards of villagers that had come to see her, and so the baby was fed, changed, and ready to hopefully be settled into bed without waking.

“We'll sort through everything in the morning,” Kagome whispered to the married couple so as not to wake the children, when they reached the westbound cutoff along the main road that led to Sango and Miroku's house.

They had already agreed that they would split some of the food, seeing as there was far too much, Kagome felt, for her, Inuyasha, Kaede and Rin to go through it all before some of it spoiled. And she and Inuyasha weren't the only heroes, after all. She was just the missing one from their group who'd finally shown back up. Miroku and Sango had already received their thank-you gifts from the other villagers three years ago, but as far as Kagome was concerned, if the offerings were all hers now, then that meant she could do whatever she wanted with them, and she wanted to share them with her friends.

The food offerings, anyway.

A lot of the village's crafters had also given her tokens of their wares. She wouldn't forget how humble Riku had looked when he'd shown up at the end of the line, bowing the lowest, before presenting her with a really well made leather sagemono pouch, like the kind she knew Inuyasha carried his tinder in. She'd sincerely thanked the leatherworker, knowing the pouch would definitely come in handy. A couple of the village's best weavers had also gifted Kagome with lengths of fabric, no doubt from their collection of bolts they normally sold on Market Day, based on the intricacy of the patterns. The fabric, Kagome really appreciated. She couldn't wear miko robes all the time, after all. She'd definitely need to learn how to sew.

“We'll come by some time after breakfast,” Miroku whispered in reply, pulling the miko from her wandering thoughts, before he and Sango turned left, departing from their friends as they headed home for the night, the miko, hanyou and kitsune continuing north on their way to Kaede's house.

After a few minutes of silence, Kagome spoke again.

“Man...after this crazy evening, what I wouldn't give to get away from the village for a night.”

She figured the hint was beyond obvious enough for Inuyasha to pick up on. Shippou had certainly gotten her not-so-hidden meaning, as he cast her a sideways glance, the boy walking beside her currently using his fox magic to make himself adult size so that he could more easily carry the large basket of fruit in his embrace.

They shared a silent, knowing look, that was missed by the hanyou walking a couple of paces ahead of the duo.

“Keh, better get used to it. As village miko you'll need to be available to your people all hours of the day and night,” he said without looking back.

Kagome and Shippou both paused, surprised by his reply, and then both remaining silent, they quickly resumed walking again. The kitsune sent Kagome a questioning look, but she shook her head, and frowning, he nodded, agreeing to abide by her wishes and stay quiet.

Whatever happens between Kagome and Inuyasha, it's between Kagome and Inuyasha, the kitsune told himself, knowing that he didn't really have to worry about Inuyasha screwing things up too badly since Kagome wasn't waiting for him to make the first move anymore; she was just waiting for the right opportunity so that she could.

Said miko lightly bit her lower lip in thought at Inuyasha's words, unsure of how to take them. If his tone had been notably sarcastic she would have assumed he was upset with her for some reason, and even beyond that, that he was upset with her desire to become village miko, but his tone had been calm, amiable even, and his words themselves had certainly been true enough. He'd almost sounded more like a professor explaining what all a student's chosen career path would entail. And the way he'd referred to the villagers as her people... It reminded her of the way he'd already called them his villagers, since he was their resident youkai protector. They were his to protect, just as she was, although she knew she meant more to him than the rest of them did. She knew that where she was concerned, it was about far more than mere inu-youkai protective instincts. But still, it got her thinking about the two of them as a team, the two of them together more or less adopting the village as theirs. He, the mighty forest youkai, and she, the Shikon miko, choosing to call this village their home. The villagers were theirs to protect.

When you looked at it that way, she supposed her statement could have implied that she hadn't cared, that she'd grown weary of dealing with other people and had wanted to escape, to abandon her duties, and after only one night, no less. What kind of a miko was she? But surely he would have known that hadn't really been what she'd meant if he'd only gotten what she had meant, right? Apparently, his mind was currently elsewhere. Or so she thought.

In fact, Inuyasha knew that while he might be a bit slow at times he wasn't that slow, and the fact that Kagome apparently wanted to get away with him for the night, alone, just the two of them, had been pretty damn obvious. What he didn't immediately understand, though, was why. He knew she preferred the creature comforts of a hut rather than sleeping out in the woods. She'd made enough of a fuss about it back on the shard hunt. So why choose to stay out in the woods, then? Especially when the nights were still so cold. Just to finally be able to talk in private? It couldn't be that important; surely whatever she had to say could wait until morning at that point. Why do tonight what you could put off till tomorrow, right?

Honestly, he just didn't want to deal with it at the moment. So he'd let her tell him all about her plans and desires involving her miko training in the morning. The things she hoped she could learn. The things she couldn't wait for Kaede to teach her. Maybe, if the fates were feeling especially cruel, she could even tell him how she'd since realized his feelings for her were still there, and he'd get to listen to her apologize and say how she just didn't love him 'like that' anymore but she hoped they could still be friends. He was pulled from his spiraling thoughts when Kagome spoke back up again, the miko apparently not so willing to take his brush off for what it was.

“That's true...I know that. I didn't mean we should go far...” she said, explaining that it wasn't really abandoning her duties that she'd had in mind. “But we've had so little time to ourselves, and the interruptions should finally be over with, now. Wouldn't you like to get away for the night?”

There... Kagome thought, satisfied. No way to misunderstand that.

She just had talking and snuggling in mind, but even if he thought she meant something more...well...she'd only promised herself that she wouldn't push things too far too quickly, in case he wasn't ready and would regret it afterwards, but she most certainly wouldn't turn him down if he were the one whobraved doing the pushing.

Inuyasha fumbled for a split second, but quickly caught himself, the move so fast and subtle that Kagome's mortal eyes didn't catch it. Knowing she wouldn't have seen his misstep, he was grateful the miko was behind him, and therefore couldn't see his shocked expression and heated cheeks. While a part of him would love to believe that she meant what the nasty little part of himself that lived in the darkest corner of his mind wished she meant, he knew that wasn't the case, and even if he weren't certain, the fact that absolutely zero arousal was present in her scent confirmed it for him. She just meant to talk, to stay up and talk, enjoying each other's company alone, just the two of them, but platonically. Just like it'd used to be during the early shard hunt days. Problem was, the villagers might not see it that way, and heaven forbid they got the wrong idea and believed their innocent little miko wasn't quite so innocent after all.

“I...don't think that'd be appropriate, Kagome. Besides, you've had a long day; you need your sleep.”

Mentally sighing, Kagome resisted the childish urge to stomp her foot. First her hints were completely lost on him, and now he'd jumped to the most perverted conclusion possible? He was either way denser than she gave him credit for, or really did know she just wanted to talk and cuddle and was deliberately blowing her off. After all, there was nothing 'inappropriate' about snuggling with him up in a tree. Well...okay, so maybe technically it was a tad inappropriate, especially for the time period, but that sure as heck hadn't stopped him the day before!

What gives?

Feeling a headache coming on, Kagome abruptly decided to drop it. After this song and dance she really was tired and wanted to sleep. The look she sent Shippou's way at the kit's combination surprised-worried expression told the boy not to worry about it, that she'd deal with it later.

Realizing she hadn't said anything in reply to his diversionary statement, unsure if it meant she was feeling embarrassed by the realization of how it would look if they went off together or indignant by his accusation of how it would look if they went off together – he'd deliberately let it sound that way in the hope of pointing out how the villagers would see it – Inuyasha quickly decided that silence was better than confrontation and that he'd worry about any potential upset on her part tomorrow, as well. She needed to be made aware of the fact that, as an official miko of the village, things couldn't be exactly the same between them anymore. Yes, he would still be her friend. He loved her far too much to cease their friendship. But that didn't mean he could cuddle with her up in a tree whenever they felt like it. Not where anybody could conceivably see them, at least. It would ruin her reputation, and he would not risk doing that to her.

Maybe, sometimes, occasionally, she could go with him on his morning rounds under the guise of fighting a random encroaching youkai, and they could then spend a few hours looking up at the clouds, just enjoying each other's company, miles away from the village, but those stolen moments would have to be kept secret because the villagers just wouldn't understand the closeness of their friendship. He knew she'd said there was no conflict, that Kaede didn't think their friendship would be a problem, but he'd rather not take any chances, for Kagome's sake. Within the borders of the village, they would have to act more appropriately towards one another than she was used to, for her own good.

He swore to himself that he wouldn't deliberately be cold in the hopes of getting her to change her mind about being a miko. On the one hand it would be nice if she ended up deciding against it because their lack of closeness wasn't worth it to her, but on the other hand he'd feel guilty for ruining her career. He wasn't that same selfish bastard anymore. He wasn't.He was, however, grateful for the kitsune walking with them in that moment; he was grateful for the amount of gifts from the villagers having required that third set of hands. Who knew what kind of 'conversation' he would've been forced to endure during the latter part of their walk back had Shippou gone with Miroku and Sango?

Spotting Kaede's house at the end of the road, he released the breath he'd been holding, knowing he was home free.

Deliberately not meeting Kagome's eyes, for fear that she'd fix him with a glare if he did, Inuyasha used his body to move aside the door mat and allow Kagome and Shippou entry after Kaede's voice bade them welcome.

“Thank you for the help, Shippou-chan,” Kagome said quietly as they entered the hut and the kit sat his burden down on the raised wooden floor.

“Oh my, but the villagers were certainly generous to you, child,” Kaede said as she watched, both surprised and impressed, as Kagome and Inuyasha both sat down their armloads as well, while Shippou, exhausted, turned back into his standard appearance.

“I'm tired after that,” he said, panting and hunched over a little, hands on his knees. “Can I stay here, Kaede? If I go to Miroku's now I might wake the baby, and then nobody'd get any sleep.”

“Aye Shippou, you needn't ask. That's a very courteous consideration on your part.”

“Plus I don't think I can even make it that far,” the kit added with a laugh that turned into a yawn, as he crawled closer to the firepit on his hands and knees, near Rin's sleeping roll, and then practically collapsed face first onto the floor, snoring loudly. The girl, in bed but awake and watching, giggled quietly at the kitsune's antics.

Kagome smiled down at Shippou from her side of the room, knowing the boy had probably put on a bit of a show just to put that smile on her face, although she didn't doubt how tired he was. She knew how hard it was for the kitsune to maintain an illusion for so long. Casting a quick glance in Inuyasha's direction, she watched as he settled down against the same spot along the wall where he'd slept the night before, near where she planned on setting up her sleeping bag, and for that, she was grateful. Maybe turning her down hadn't been personal, and the way he'd said what he'd said about propriety was just his way of covering. Maybe his heart and mind just hadn't been into it, and he'd just wanted to go to sleep, but hadn't really known how to tell her so without it sounding like he didn't want to spend the time alone with her, and so by pretending he thought she wanted to be 'alone' alone with him he was able to tell her no in a way that made him seem gentlemanly and looking out for her reputation instead of merely uninterested. That had to be it, right? He was just tired. Just not into the idea of anything else after evening they'd just had to deal with.

She couldn't really say she blamed him, if that were the case, although even if they hadn't spent half the night talking she sure would have loved to have spent it sleeping curled up in his arms, proper or no. There was no way in all the hells she was going to embarrass him by being so presumptuous in front of Kaede, Rin and Shippou, though, so grabbing her pajamas in that moment and ducking behind the privacy screen to change, when she reemerged dressed for bed she merely spread out her sleeping bag in the same location as before and settled herself within it. If Kaede and Rin had been asleep she would have maybe dared whispering a teasing observation about him having been in the room while she changed yet again, but as it was he didn't even seem to have noticed, his eyes already closed, appearing for all the world like he was asleep. She knew better, of course, but wouldn't bother him about it. They'd both had one hell of a day.

“Goodnight, Inuyasha,” she said sweetly then, and she was rewarded with him opening his eyes to glance her way, although his expression was unreadable at best.

“Goodnight, Kagome,” he replied, his tone placating.

She would have puzzled over his strange behavior more if it weren't for suddenly realizing just how tired she really was. Maybe staying out all night wouldn't have been the best idea, after all, especially since spring was still so new and the nights were still rather chilly. A good night's sleep by a nice warm fire was sounding more and more appealing, as she let the gentle crackling of said fire sooth her weary nerves like a lullaby.

There would be plenty of time for her and Inuyasha to talk in the morning.

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