We Belong Together
dejectedly as she slowly sipped her tea, staring hypnotically into
the fire, Kagome mentally went over yesterday's events, trying to
figure out where it had gone wrong, and why.
Inuyasha was definitely avoiding her. Of that she was now certain. She'd woken that morning around the same time as Kaede and Rin, despite how tired she'd been the night before. Feeling grateful for not having overslept, she'd turned to glance in Inuyasha's direction, only to discover he was gone. Was he doing his morning rounds already? Before breakfast? A quick scan with her senses had told her that he wasn't merely up on the roof. Why would he have left? Why, when all of the villagers should be done interrupting them now? Why on this first day where they were sure to have plenty of privacy, would he have left?
At first she'd tried to tell herself that maybe he'd just wanted to get his morning rounds over and done with as quickly as possible, so that he could come back sooner and then enjoy the day with her. That would have made sense, if it weren't for the fact that he'd come back into the area sometime shortly after she, Kaede, Rin and Shippou had finished their breakfast, lingering now in the forest that bore his name. Did he think she couldn't sense him? She had been able to see the glow of Kikyou's arrow on her first day here, on her fifteenth birthday, completely unaware that she possessed miko powers and with the majority of those powers sealed away. Now that those seals were lifted his aura shown even more brilliantly to her, when she thought to look for it. It was something she had to focus on, but it didn't really require much concentration. It was like consciously moving the muscles of her eyes to turn and look at something physical; she could do the same with her mind's eye just as easily those days.
Now, with Rin washing that morning's dishes and Kaede mashing some herbs together into a poultice she needed for a sick villager, Shippou out playing somewhere in the village, Kagome found she was torn, when left to her own quiet thoughts. Part of her wanted to go out there and talk to him, to make sure everything was all right, and get to the bottom of what was wrong if it wasn't, but another part of her also wanted to give him his space, figuring he'd come to her when he was ready. Plus Sango and Miroku would probably be showing up soon, and they needed to divvy up the donations. Maybe she'd wait to talk to them, first. After all, they'd been around Inuyasha the last three years, and she hadn't. They probably knew him better at that point than she did. That thought caused an ache to form in her heart, but wishing it weren't so didn't make it any less true.
Sango and Miroku showed up with their kids right on schedule, and Kagome sincerely thanked her friend as the taijiya presented her with one of her yukata that she had decided to part with for the greater good, so that Kagome would have something to wear besides her miko robes. It came complete with a matching wrap skirt, and she'd even thrown in a kosode, knowing Kagome only had the one and figuring the extra one would certainly come in handy. She'd also brought back Kagome's yellow backpack, which had gotten left at their house the night before, and told her that she'd washed her future-clothing for her that morning, the outfit currently still hanging to dry.
“Thanks, Sango-chan. I'm sorry I forgot my stuff at your place.”
“No need to apologize, Kagome-chan. You weren't expecting to be bombarded like that,” Sango stated as she waved off her friend's concern.
It was then that little Mizuki glanced around the quiet hut and asked, “Where's Doggy?”
Everyone had to give themselves a moment to stifle an amused snicker, and then Kagome bent down to the toddler's level and told her, “Inuyasha's out in the forest right now. He has to make sure there's no sneaky bad youkai hiding out there.”
Miroku raised an eyebrow at Kagome's comment, knowing that she could sense as well as he could that Inuyasha was close by. Closer than the Goshinboku. He wasn't still on his patrol.
“How long did he say he'd be gone?” Miroku asked, watching what was said in front of his daughters.
Kagome met his eyes, knowing she had to spill her heart out in code because of the children but also knowing that her friends would understand. At least, she hoped they still understood each other after their three-year separation. She wasn't that far out of the loop, was she?
“He didn't say,” she said, sounding cheerful for the twins' sakes. “He must have wanted to get a start on his patrols early this morning.”
Sango and Miroku both correctly understood that she meant he'd already been gone when she woke up, not a word to anyone.
Kagome looked down at herself in that moment, wearing the miko robes again only because she'd had nothing else to change into, and clutched the yukata she held in her hands a little tighter.
“I think, maybe...maybe I should go change. Maybe the robes bothered him more than he let on.”
What else could it be? That had to be it.
Disappearing behind the changing screen, Sango followed closely behind, stopping just on the other side of the screen.
“Do you really think so, Kagome-chan?” she asked. “I mean, we all know that he's at peace now over what happened with Kikyou.”
At the other end of the hut, with Rin finished with the dishes, Miroku asked her quietly to take the twins outside to play so that they could have an adult conversation. Nodding her understanding, curious but knowing it wasn't her place to ask, the eleven-year-old complied, taking Mizuki and Misaki outside.
“I don't know,” Kagome answered. “He told me he also thought it was a good idea, even complementing my abilities, but...” She let her words trail off as she stepped back around the screen, folding her miko robes and placing them atop the chest that housed her pajamas and sleeping bag. “What do you think, Kaede-baa-chan?”
Kaede, who had been listening quietly as she worked, spoke up in that moment with, “I do not think the sight of you merely wearing the robes would still bother him at this point in time, however, perhaps the prospect of you actually acting as village miko does secretly worry him, even if he stated otherwise. It is possible he is remembering the way Kikyou-onee-sama lamented her duties, longing to be an ordinary woman, and if the way you explained your decision to become a miko made it sound too much like you felt it was your duty, as well, because of your abilities, then perhaps he fears you will ultimately come to regret that decision. It is also possible he fears voicing this concern for fear of you believing he is once again comparing you to my sister. You and I know better, but it could possibly be what he's thinking.”
“I guess that could make sense,” Kagome considered. “Kikyou wasn't just any shrine miko, though, in charge of protecting the jewel like she was. That was an all-consuming responsibility, so it was no wonder why she came to bemoan her position, feeling like she and Inuyasha couldn't be together, she couldn't be happy, while she had such a massive obligation. She wanted to be rid of the jewel, to become an ordinary woman, so that she could love Inuyasha freely without her duty to the jewel hanging over their heads, but I have no such burden.”
Something in what she'd just said made her own eyes open wider as another, different possibility suddenly struck her.
“You don't...you don't suppose he thinks we can'tbe together if I'm a miko, do you? I mean, I told him you said there was no conflict of interests, although right when we were about to go talk about things in more detail was when everyone started showing up, so he might not have realized what I meant because I never had the chance to elaborate, and then when I tried to get him to take me away last night he brushed me off, saying something about a miko's responsibility to the village being night and day and that it wouldn't be appropriate, when I said I wanted to get away with him for the night.”
Sango and Miroku's eyes both widened at this new piece of information. Even Kaede looked up a moment, surprised.
“He said that?” Miroku asked, completely taken aback. “You told him you wanted to get away with him for the night, alone, just the two of you, and he rebutted that a miko's responsibility to her village was never ending and that it wouldn't be appropriate, as a reason to not take you away?”
The monk was openly shocked, especially since he knew Inuyasha was in love with Kagome. What warm-blooded male would have refused such an obvious invitation?!
“I hadn't necessarily meant what I think you have in mind, Miroku-sama,” Kagome said, too worried about Inuyasha to be overly perturbed about how the perverted monk's mind had obviously interpreted her meaning of 'getting away' for the night. “But yes, even though I had just meant to talk, and maybe also enjoy sleeping snuggled up against one another, he basically turned me down, siting propriety and a miko's responsibility to her people. At first I'd tried to tell myself that maybe he just hadn't wanted to get away last night 'cause he was too tired, trying not to read too much into what he'd said. And hell, I'm a big girl, I admit it, had he had more than snuggling in mind, I wouldn't have protested. So I also thought that maybe he thought that I had totally meant what you just thought I meant, and he'd gotten nervous, turning me down because it was like I'd put him on the spot. That would have made perfect sense. Either way, I'd also thought that we were finally going to get away this morning to talk it out, and then everything would've been fine, but now that he's staying away, now I'm not so sure anymore. About anything.”
It was Kaede who spoke up again once Kagome was finished, her good eye thoughtful as she studied the herbs she was working while she spoke.
“I would not have previously thought that to be the reason behind his strange avoidance, but now that I have heard what you just said, Kagome, I believe you may actually be correct. After all, Kikyou-onee-sama had made it quite clear to him that they could not be together while she was a miko. Even though that was only because of the jewel in her case, and there are many miko who are wed to yamabushi across the land, it is possible he is unaware of this, and mistakenly believes that miko cannot have husbands. I doubt he's had very much personal experience dealing with miko until my sister, and he was asleep during the brief time when I, myself, had a suitor, before choosing to dedicate myself solely to the shrine.
“That decision had come from a place of needing to be here in case he ever awoke, or in case any other youkai seeking the jewel eventually made their way to our village. Plus our village had needed a miko to tend to the shrine, jewel or no jewel. But it was not my duty to the shrine that had forced me to choose being a miko over becoming a wife, it was the boy who would have been my husband who had said he would not have me being a miko, did not want me being so dedicated to the others of the village, and he was the one who had forced me to choose. He made the decision an easy one.”
Adding a drop more water to her mortar, and then deciding after a moment that the poultice was finished, Kaede sat her mortar and pestle aside and met Kagome's eyes seriously.
“But even if Inuyasha is aware of the fact that miko as a rule do not have to remain unmarried, even you, Kagome, were worried at first if the villagers would have a problem with the two of you being together. While you do not harbor prejudice in your own heart against those of youkai blood, you are aware that such prejudice does exist, and while I can safely assure you that the people here will have no problem with the two of you being together I cannot, in fact, say that this view will be shared by the rest of the world. Some people, people who do not know you and have different views than ours, may indeed have a problem with it.
“A miko having a husband is a fairly common occurrence, but a miko having a demonic husband is something else entirely. It would be an oversight, I believe, to assume Inuyasha does not share this same concern. I know it had been your intention to explain everything to him right away, but because that conversation got put on hold, and he now knows only of your desire to become a miko without you having explicitly told him also of your desire to become his wife, he may have jumped to the wrong conclusion. He may not think you cannot be together, but believes it unwise. The villagers respect him as our youkai guardian, but he may not realize how deep their dedication to him truly lies. He may fear incurring their wrath, or that at the very least, they would denounce you as a miko and you would lose your status in their eyes.”
“But who cares about status? Surely he must know that if I did have to choose between him and being a miko, I'd pick him!” Kagome protested, hurt that he'd think she'd pick being a miko over him. “Shouldn't it have occurred to him that if I said I was going to become a miko, it must mean that everything's all right then?”
“But you said you two hadn't yet had the opportunity to discuss your feelings in private,” Sango reminded gently. “If you'd already talked about getting married, and then afterwards told him you wanted to train to be a miko, I'm sure he would have made that connection, but since it didn't happen that way, maybe he's worried about where your heart lies.”
Kagome remained silent, biting her lower lip in worry, knowing her friend was right.
“He may think that being a miko is what you want most, and he's willing to let you do it, wanting you to be happy, even if that happiness is not with him,” Miroku added.
“He's used to being the outcast,” Sango chimed in again. “Until becoming the local hero here, he always used to be hated, ostracized everywhere he went. Even knowing they feel differently here, he hadn't thought asking for a house was a good idea, in case it pushed things too far and wore out his welcome. If he thinks he can't even have a house, how's he supposed to feel about having a wife? And not just any wife, but the village miko? Like Kaede-sama said, he might think that being married to you, if you're also an active miko, would turn the villagers against you both. I know that isn't true, and we've had a few conversations with our neighbors to prove it, but we'd never discussed such things, how they felt sorry for him because of your absence, when we thought he might possibly overhear. We didn't think you'd ever come back, so what would have been the point in openly discussing how badly he obviously missed you?”
Miroku nodded his agreement to that. He never would have thought that Inuyasha would have thought it was a problem. If you'd merely asked him his opinion on the hanyou's thoughts, he would have laughed at the absurdity of this hypothesis. After all, Kagome wasn't Kikyou, and Inuyasha above everyone else knew that. Only Kikyou had been the one to say that they couldn't be together back then, therefore, logically, the only thing standing between he and Kagome, even with Kagome as a miko, would have been Kagome herself, if she too had refused him, which they all knew she'd never do, and so therefore it wasn't a problem. But now, after hearing what the hanyou had said to Kagome the night before, turning down her invitation, and why, that evidence suggested the others were actually right about this, after all.
Kagome was quickly drawing the same conclusion.
Going back over everything that'd happened in her head one more time at her friends' words, with this new theory in mind this time, Kagome knew it was really the only plausible explanation for why he'd been so clingy and lovey-dovey one minute, and avoiding her as if they'd had one of their classic fights the next. She knew he had been about to kiss her before Hideaki and Yumiko had interrupted them, and there was no denying his initial, shocked expression upon walking into Sango and Miroku's house to see her wearing miko robes. Sure, he'd brushed it off quickly enough, but what, exactly, had he said? He'd said that he understood she didn't have any other clothing, and that until they could get her some 'normal' clothes she could wear the robes and it wouldn't bother him.
He doesn't mind seeing me wearing miko robes for the sake of wearing miko robes, but that doesn't mean he doesn't mind me actually being a miko.
Maybe it secretly bothered him the same as it'd bothered Kaede's ex-boyfriend. Maybe the jealous inu-youkai in him couldn't stand the thought of her having to occasionally get touchy-feely with some of the village men, when they'd require her treatments. But she'd never known Inuyasha to conceal it whenever he was jealous; it was the one emotion he'd never been able to hide and she doubted three years had made that much of a difference. But whether it was because he was angered at the thought of having to share her, or depressed by the belief that he couldn't share her and she belonged solely to the village, either way, why had he told her it was okay, then? Why had he totally agreed with her logic that it was the right thing to do, even complimenting her on her abilities? If it really wasn't okay with him then he'd sure put on one hell of an act, and there was really only one reason why that would be, that she could think of.
For her sake.
But if he'd decided to suppress his unease at the notion of having to share her with the villagers, of her occasionally smelling like other men from having to diagnose, heal and bandage, then why the hell would he have rebuffed her invitation for alone time last night? Even too tired to talk, and too shy to do other things, surely he would've wanted to at least cherish their moment of privacy to just sleep alone. But he'd honestly acted like he'd thought it would be a bad idea, the two of them going off alone together, which could only mean, as far as she could deduce, that he wasn't masking his upset at the thought of having to share her with everyone else. It made sense now, why spending the night alone with her would have been 'inappropriate' in his mind.
It...it must have hurt him so badly... she realized then. He must think that me being a miko really does mean that we can't be together. She cringed. He thinks I really did choose being a miko over him.
Sure, it was all still just a hypothesis, but something was bothering him, and if that wasn't it, then what was? What other possible reason could there possibly be for why he was just hanging around on the outskirts of town, instead of sitting in the hut right beside her, enjoying being in her company?
I suppose he could be masturbating, she thought in passing then, mentally snickering and shaking her head 'never mind' when Sango and Miroku both gave her questioning looks.
That theory was also possible, she supposed, but probably not too likely. She'd love to think that he was just trying to restrain himself, that he had shot down her desire to be alone last night because he hadn't 'trusted' himself to be alone with her, and that now, he was trying to 'calm down' before coming back, but Kagome knew she needed to put her fanciful daydreams on the back burner. He had seemed loath to be away from her the day before, eager to be back in her company, and then bam, when he came back, she was in miko robes, telling him she'd decided to become a miko. She had to think about how that might have looked from his perspective. And while they would have gotten any possible misunderstands out in the open and dealt with right away had it not been for that influx of villagers at Sango and Miroku's place, since she'd had every intention of discussing her feelings with him and whether or not he wanted to get married, that opportunity, that conversation, had been stolen from them, and so after coming back after being gone all morning to face a shocking sight he surely hadn't been expecting he'd then had to immediately deal with villagers fawning all over her, calling her 'Miko-sama', and it hadn't stopped until it'd been time to go to bed.
No wonder he'd been gone when she'd woken up that morning. He'd probably needed to get his thoughts in order to avoid saying something hurtful, if he'd been forced to stew over his thoughts all evening in silent misery. She knew he must know that he couldn't avoid her forever, so he was just stalling, but to what end? So that he could keep up the 'just friends' act around her? She hadn't abandoned her life in the future, traveling five hundred years into the past, to just be friends.
She would make damn sure he knew it, too, and if, like Kaede's would-be husband from so many years ago, it honestly bothered him, the idea of her being a miko, then screw it. She could still learn herbs, still learn those things from Kaede, what the woman wanted to teach her, but she would not choose the shrine over Inuyasha if it really came down to it.
A part of her, a big part, actually, was really hurt that he would think her capable of such a thing. That she would actually pick being a miko over being with him. But sucking in a sharp breath, Kagome squared her shoulders in determination and silently vowed to herself to not take it personally. It wasn't her, it was him, and his insecurities. He was used to having everything he loved ripped away from him. He had probably feared that her coming back had been too good to be true, and had been waiting for 'the catch' to reveal itself. Besides all that, if there was one thing Inuyasha understood, and it'd taken Kagome a while to figure this out, it was that responsibility and duty sometimes did take precedent over personal desire and happiness. Maybe, if he thought she felt like it was her duty to become a miko, then that was all there was to it in his mind, and both of their hands were tied.
She snorted at the ridiculous notion.
Sango, Miroku and Kaede observed Kagome's various mood shifts in silent appraisal, wondering what conclusion the future-born miko would ultimately reach. With their silent stares finally causing her to focus her attention back on the people in the room with her, Kagome nodded determinedly as she met everyone's eyes and said, “I need to go talk to him. Right now.”
That said, she didn't say another word to anyone, merely slipping on the zori sandals she'd worn yesterday, sans tabi socks, before heading out the door without a single backward glance. Everyone silently wished her good luck.
Sighing for the umpteenth time, Inuyasha tried to tell himself to get a move on, knowing he had to be within sensing range if Kagome thought to mentally look for him, and that it was only a matter of time before she'd come looking for him physically if he stayed away too long. Maybe not under normal circumstances, but since she'd tried, twice, to take him away for a private talk, he knew the miko wouldn't let it go for long.
That was going to take some getting used to.
She's always been a miko, sort of, but without the responsibilities.
Not like finding the jewel shards, killing Naraku, and then ridding of the world of the Shikon no Tama weren't responsibilities, but that was different. It'd been her quest, her calling, and it was over now. What the hell did she want to go and continue being a miko for? A regular miko...a shrine maiden... Why?
Why, damn it?!
It was going to take a while to get the 'not a selfish bastard' part of himself back up front and center. That was why he'd had to get away. He just had to get away. Before she woke up. Before she wanted to 'talk'. He was only delaying the inevitable, he knew, and honesty, a part of himself also hoped that maybe he was jumping to the wrong conclusions. Maybe everything wasn't as it seemed. He just kept remembering those looks of love she'd given him, not to mention the subtle flirting they'd done two nights ago. A part of him refused to believe he'd made it all up, seeing things that weren't there. But yet, on the other hand, then why the hell would she have chosen to become a miko? It just didn't make any sense! And he both wanted to understand and feared hearing the truth. A part of him was eager to let her talk with him, knowing she'd sort it all out, knowing that all of his questions would be answered, but another part of him was absolutely, bone-shatteringly terrified to hear what she had to say. Until she confirmed it, until she told him to his face that she only loved him as a friend, he could continue clinging to his denial, continue believing that her feelings ran deeper. Even if she'd decided that being the Shikon Miko was too great a calling to ignore, even if she'd felt that with her levels of reiki it was her destiny, her duty to become a miko, that didn't mean she didn't love him. Kikyou had loved him...
So not going there.
Lassoing his wandering thoughts and dragging them back to the subject at hand, Inuyasha knew he was debating in a vacuum. He'd never know where her heart really lied, and why she'd truly chosen to become a miko, until he discussed it with her, plain and simple. It was also possible, although such a possibility was admittedly remote at best, that she was, for some obscure reason, unaware of his feelings, not that he thought the whole thing was some twisted test to see if he'd confess his love or not, but maybe she just thought that he only saw her as a friend and so she'd honestly felt like she'd needed some kind of a single woman's career to keep herself busy in his century because there was nothing else for her to do. She couldn't freeload off of Kaede forever, after all.
This was all her doing, really. Kagome had told him that the old hag was the one who'd asked her. Asked her to become her apprentice.
Fucking guilt the girl into agreeing, why don't you? he thought bitterly, feeling hurt and betrayed because Kaede knew how he felt about Kagome. It was like she'd stolen her right out from under his nose, and he hadn't even noticed until it was too late.
But that wasn't really true, either, was it? Because it hadn't been too late until he, himself, had stupidly given Kagome the go-ahead. Why hadn't he had the balls to tell her, when she'd asked, that it wasn't fucking okay if she became a miko? She'd asked him, for kami's sake! She'd fucking asked him, and like a pussy he'd told her what she'd wanted to hear, that of course it didn't bother him.
Nope, doesn't bother me in the slightest, so you go right ahead and achieve all your life goals that don't involve me.
Damn, he really was a selfish bastard. A selfish, jealous, lonely bastard.
Annnnddd here she comes, perfect, he thought bitterly, ears lowering to his head as he heard the crunch of the earth underneath her feet, the traitorous wind having prevented him from catching her delicate scent.
Even now he couldn't smell her, but he didn't need to. He knew it was her. He recognized the sound of her footfalls. Even wearing straw zori instead of her old shoes, he could still tell it was her. Three years apart and he still knew Kagome inside and out, able to identify her with any one of his senses alone.
A subtle shift in the wind brought her wondrous fragrance to his nostrils, and he breathed deeply, mentally cringing at the agitation and upset he could detect hidden underneath the natural beauty of her scent, clouding it, making it minutely less appealing. He wasn't surprised by her upset. He'd be mad, too, if he were the one who'd been abandoned while he slept.
Kami, he was such a pussy.
She was getting closer, but hadn't quite found him yet, no doubt using his youki like a spiritual beacon.
Here she comes...
Time to face the music.