Continuing Tales

Chasing Methuselah

A InuYasha Story
by Sandra E

Part 10 of 13

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Chasing Methuselah

The rain to the wind said,

'You push and I'll pelt.'

They so smote the garden bed

That the flowers actually knelt,

And lay lodged-though not dead.

I know how the flowers felt.

-Robert Frost

Sinking.

She was sinking.

And in her dream-

They play.

She's the protagonist-the Law, the ancient moral; bound, tamed, soft. She is the Norse Sol and Svalin, Dante's Beatrice, fire and shields and protection.

He's the antagonist-pure Chaos; wild, unfettered, free. He's Jung's Shadow, Freud's Id, ice and waterfalls and respect.

It's a secret, of course, and she hides it well.

She says she hates it, but she'll do it again.

She'll surrender. She'll let him drown and burn and be buried in her.

But sometimes, the demon will come to her first.

Come and wonder.

Wonder if it should make Inuyasha watch this time. If it should pin the dog to a tree, run a finger down his jaw, and say, "Behold, Inuyasha. My creation."

She can hear it.

She can hear it trying to pull her strings.

Because it loves seeing her cry. Makes it feel superior, her constant suffering. Mm. No real reason. Just because it can. Because it holds grudges forever. Because she makes its life less boring.

Because it wants her.

Because it's angry.

Because it's learned its lesson.

It's tried before. It's killed her. Didn't work. But it's learned.

The dog is fickle. Death is fickle. The human heart is fickle.

Betrayal is not.

She hears it whisper this in her ear.

It tells her she's addicted. Tells her it's planned it this way. Tells her the monk-the monk was a challenge; says it didn't think he would be. But he's gotten... attached.

He's hungry for revenge and he's delirious with hatred and he needs her now.

Miroku needs her.

And she likes it.

She likes that he needs her.

"It's disgusting-what the houshi did for you," the demon tells her. "Pathetic. Human."

But in her dream, she doesn't care.

So, maybe she is addicted.

Maybe she can't play by the rules. Maybe she doesn't need Inuyasha. Maybe she's not Kikyou. Maybe she's not repeating her mistake.

Maybe she's learned, too.

She was drowning.

But it was a soft sort of death; slow and deliberate and hers.

The ground was slipping beneath her-had been for months, hadn't it?-and she let it. Because she'd been here-this river, this crossing-before. And now she was back again. And she saw what she'd never seen before.

She saw him.

And he smiled at her and died and she wanted them to stay in this land, together, and never wake up.

Only, she wouldn't.

She wouldn't do this again.

She-

-wouldn't.

Kagome woke with a start.

And a deep, frightened breath that filled her aching lungs with panic.

Disoriented, Kagome-who'd tangled herself into a number of disheveled sheets and blankets-sat up. In her own bed, in her own time, in her own pajamas. Her soft pillow was propped against her (why was her back itching?), and her curtains were billowing in the breeze (had Inuyasha been here?) and-

Someone was sleeping next to her.

Kagome blinked, confused.

Why would-

"Mama?" she frowned slightly, tapping her mother's shoulder in concern.

For a moment, Kagome felt ridiculously distant-that initial feeling of 'I shouldn't be here!' was missing. It was the briefest of seconds, really; a tiny sliver of time that made her feel so silly for believing in demons and time travel, a short moment where she considered herself completely, utterly insane for feeling as though her heart had been rendered numb over something that shouldn't even have existed.

"Kagome?" yawned Mrs. Higurashi, blinking away her confusion. Then, suddenly, her features shifted into an unusually concerned grimace. "Kagome."

Kagome blinked as her mother placed a warm hand on her forehead. "Mama, what-"

"Inuyasha brought you back two days ago," explained Mrs. Higurashi calmly, though the lines around her eyes seemed to be deepening with an odd, unfamiliar burden.

"Why?" frowned Kagome, baffled. A small part of her rejoiced at this-this recognition of Sengoku Jidai (I'm not crazy!), but the rest of her... "Wait. I don't remember-what-"

"He said you were bitten by something," interrupted Mrs. Higurashi quietly, not meeting Kagome's eyes. "Snake, I take it...?"

Kagome's lips parted, forming a bewildered, "Oh."

Mrs. Higurashi cleared her throat and stood up, fetching something from the cupboard. Kagome stopped paying attention.

What? What was her mother doing here, looking so exhausted? Why'd Inuyasha bring her back? Bitten? She'd been bitten? By what? When was this? How could she get bitten? Why-

"Nonsalicylate analgesic-antipyretic or acetylsalicylic acid?" asked Mrs. Higurashi innocently, cocking her head to the left.

Kagome's brain self-destructed.

"You're no fun," smiled Mrs. Higurashi kindly, and promptly stuck out her pale hands toward Kagome, each offering a small pill container. "Tylenol or Aspirin?"

Kagome swung her legs over the tangle of blankets, and sat up, reaching for her mother's left hand. "He could have at least had the decency to tell you WHAT bit me, don't you think?" she grumbled.

Mrs. Higurashi was strangely quiet, fidgeting with her skirt as she sat down next to Kagome. "I didn't-I didn't exactly give him a chance to."

Kagome gaped at her mother. "Er... what do you mean?"

Mrs. Higurashi winced guiltily. "Kagome, you slept for two days (Kagome blinked). I don't know what kind of bite would do... that to you. We couldn't wake you up-he couldn't wake you up. I was worried. I-"

"Kicked him out?" shrieked Kagome, giggling and mentally compiling an extensive list of apologies.

But Mrs. Higurashi wasn't laughing.

Kagome quickly closed her mouth.

What had happened while she'd been asleep? Why was her mother so worried? Was there something to be worried about? 'Cause, Kagome wasn't particularly concerned. She was used to this-used to so much weirdness that nothing seemed impossible anymore.

After all, she'd had her soul stolen (on numerous occasions), had survived demons and half-demons, had been kidnapped (again, on numerous occasions), had been thoroughly... hff, molested! by a lecherous monk and-

Oh, God.

A sudden rush of memories-of stolen little moments and strong emotions-chased through her.

'I've been thinking. It is far too hot and humid for either of us to remain clothed.'

'Miroku-sama, it's barely 25 C-'

'And we are alone.'

"Kagome," asked Mrs. Higurashi worriedly. "Are you okay? You look nauseous."

Momentarily distracted (had that really happened?), Kagome looked at her mother. "Mama, I-"

"What's wrong? Please. I know I haven't been-I-" With a remorseful little frown, Mrs. Higurashi straightened her back, as though she was sick of not talking, and fixed her eyes on Kagome. "Please tell me."

Shocked and... melty, Kagome glanced at her mother with wide eyes.

"Anything," nodded Mrs. Higurashi contritely, pulling out a handkerchief, and wiping at a smudge on Kagome's face. "Anything you feel like talking about. Ice cream, boys, Sengoku Jidai, anything. I just... want to listen for a while."

Kagome tried desperately to remember the last time she'd actually stuck around long enough to talk to her mother. And failed. So, as various other snippets slowly trickled back into her memory, Kagome shrank into herself.

'Theoretically, what would you do if I said I needed something from you?'

'Depends on what you'd need.'

'You.'

"I'll take number two from that list," she said, as several pink spots appeared on her cheeks.

Mrs. Higurashi's eyebrows shot up. "Eh? Boys?"

Kagome whimpered, fidgeting with a pant string. "I... guess. Um. Because... er..."

"Anything, Kagome," reminded Mrs. Higurashi gently.

'I'll wait for you.'

"What if-what if..." began Kagome, fighting off a headache. "Okay. Before I explode-would it be possible for a girl to fall in lo-er... care for someone today-1997-and then, by caring for this person, she-ah, guh!"

Mrs. Higurashi watched her daughter warily, concern evident in her eyes.

Frustrated, Kagome hugged her pillow, not meeting her mother's eyes. "In love. If I-she! If SHE fell in love with someone, and went back to the past and that same person was there, too-only, he wasn't aware that he was also here and that this girl was in love with him-but because she was in love with him, she acted differently and he somehow, maybe, possibly, kinda fell in love with her, too-although I'm positive it's just lust 'cause he's not the type to love someone-and then he died and was reincarnated but could remember everything," here, Kagome paused for oxygen. "And then, because he could remember being in lov-st, lust with this girl, he acted differently and the girl had absolutely NO choice but to fall in love with him and then it was just this big, evil circle of a paradox... whose fault would it be? Technically?"

Mrs. Higurashi was staring at her daughter, nervously twisting her abused handkerchief.

Kagome faltered. "Mama...?"

Mrs. Higurashi snapped out of it, cleared her throat, then fixed her gaze on her daughter. "Kagome."

"Yes?" asked Kagome cautiously, fidgeting with her pillow.

"Did I ever tell you I wasn't very good at science?"

Kagome's shoulders slumped as she exhaled with relief. "No. And, um... it's hereditary."

Mrs. Higurashi observed Kagome for a long moment, then, unexpectedly, reached out and pulled her daughter to her lap. Kagome melted into her, feeling tears pricking at her eyelids.

"It's really not that complicated," she babbled, sniffling. "Maybe I should draw a chart or-"

"Kagome," interrupted Mrs. Higurashi, running her fingers through Kagome's hair. "You know I've always been supportive of this whole... thing, right?"

Kagome nodded, curling up against her mother.

"It must be terribly exciting," continued Mrs. Higurashi softly, "running around Feudal Japan, with all these... creatures, working on something so big, so important..."

Kagome closed her eyes.

Truthfully, this big, important thing...?

Not so important at the moment.

"But I don't think I can share you any longer."

Startled, Kagome looked up. "Mama...?"

Mrs. Higurashi seemed not to have heard her. Soothingly, she continued running her fingers through Kagome's hair, staring at an invisible spot on the wall. "You don't belong there," she said, but sounded unsure. "You don't."

Kagome burrowed deeper, flinching guiltily. "I know."

"And you wouldn't be happy in Feudal Japan."

"I know."

"No electricity, no phone, no bunny slippers, no pocky."

"I know."

"So," continued Mrs. Higurashi in a softer voice, "I'm going to miss you."

Kagome's eyes widened. Slowly, she raised her head to look up at her mother.

Mrs. Higurashi smiled, sniffling. "Life is short, Kagome," she said, weaving through Kagome's hair, and braiding its matted locks. "When you were very little," she continued gently, and Kagome suddenly felt as though she were five years old again, cradled in her mother's lap, eager and sleepy and waiting for a bedtime story, "I told you not to go past the shrine."

Kagome's lips curled.

"Guess where I found you three minutes later?" asked Mrs. Higurashi fondly, her eyes darkening with pleasant memories.

"Um, sleeping peacefully in my bed, like a good little girl?" tried Kagome sheepishly.

Mrs. Higurashi smiled affectionately. "I found you five streets down, staring at a wall."

Kagome giggled softly.

"And I was so angry," said Mrs. Higurashi, playfully tugging at one of Kagome's braids. "So furious. I thought you'd been kidnapped or run over by a car or lost and hurt and crying for me somewhere. But you were just standing there when I ran up to you and you looked at me, Kagome, and do you remember what you said?"

Oddly subdued, Kagome shook her head slightly, clutching her mother's skirt.

"You said, 'Stupid wall, mommy!' and ran off again, trying to find another way into the next street."

Kagome smiled, sniffling. "Bet they were selling pocky there or something."

Mrs. Higurashi was strangely quiet.

Timidly, Kagome glanced at her. "Mama, I'm not-I'm not going to...I'll come back. I promise."

"You wouldn't be happy here, either," said Mrs. Higurashi with a small, genial sigh. "Quite the conundrum, hmm?"

Kagome smiled against the bristly material of her mother's skirt. "Big word."

"Big decision," countered Mrs. Higurashi.

Kagome stiffened.

Why? Why now? Why did she have to decide now?

"That boy-" began Mrs. Higurashi daintily, raising her eyebrows in amusement. "-that boy better appreciate all you'll give up for him."

I'm not going to-

"Uhm, mama, it's not Inu-" began Kagome hastily.

"I know," replied her mother with a wink. "I know it doesn't seem that way sometimes, but I do pay attention. You're my daughter, Kagome. And I might not understand everything about you (or science), but I do understand that this is something-something I have absolutely no say in."

Kagome's heart ached. "I-"

"So. If that monk (Kagome's eyes widened) does anything to upset you, either here or there, I'm going to-going to-hff-have a talk with his mother, that's what!"

Kagome giggled, genuinely grateful and surprised with her mother's perception and selflessness and compassion (is this what I can offer Shippou one day?).

"Mama, I... you haven't seen the way he-" said Kagome, then paused, flustered.

She hadn't properly explained the situation to herself, so... how could she possibly explain it to anyone else?

"He drives me insane," she said finally.

Mrs. Higurashi choked on a giggle. "You don't say."

"No, you don't understand," defended Kagome vehemently. "I'm talking criminal offense here. Dark and dangerous and pretreated for a white padded room. He's crazy."

"About you?" asked Mrs. Higurashi, poking Kagome's nose.

Kagome flushed to the tips of her toes. "I... don't... I don't think-"

Mrs. Higurashi smiled brightly. "I'm sorry to say this, Kagome, but people don't exactly stop to think in situations like these."

No kidding.

"But," continued Mrs. Higurashi, seemingly happier, though Kagome could have sworn her voice was slightly strained. "Ultimately, the decision is yours," she said sotto voce, then quickly segued into a cheerful, "-go. Take a bath while I finish dinner. I sort of... came in to check on you, and... fell asleep."

Kagome's chest constricted. She'd been that worried?

"Okay," said Kagome, smiling at her mother. "I apologize in advance if I deplete Tokyo's water reserve."

Seriously, what was with the stickiness and... where was her uniform?

"We can always steal some from the Russians, dear," said Mrs. Higurashi lightheartedly. "Do you need anything?"

Kagome smiled happily. "Candy?"

Mrs. Higurashi's features softened noticeably. "And...?"

"More candy."

Mrs. Higurashi chuckled merrily, shook her head, and opened the door. "Fine. But at least wait until your grandfather wakes up from his nap so he can help me pry you off the ceiling."

Kagome giggled.

And as the door to her room softly clicked shut, Kagome flung herself on her bed, vaguely aware of a small pang somewhere on her back. Quick and jumbled, her thoughts and memories mixed; ice cream with Miroku, and stumbling upon a sleeping Inuyasha, and her fingers wrapping around fluffy ears, and Miroku's hands, bare and traveling and removing her blood-soaked skirt in one fluid, practiced movement-

Wait.

Blood-soaked...?

I'm going crazy.

Annoyed with herself and her excess of unnecessary angst, Kagome dragged herself out of bed, and walked over to Souta's room, in order to retrieve that one secret stack of Ramen and pocky she'd been hiding in his desk. Because she had to go back. Stupid snake bites and disturbing dreams were definitely not enough to keep her from-

"Nee-chan?" said a puzzled voice.

Kagome blinked. How'd she get to Souta's room already?

"Oh, hey, Souta. Um... don't mind me. I'll be out of your hair in a s-"

But Souta cut her off.

With a tight hug around her midsection.

"You're awake!" he mumbled into her pajamas.

Confused, Kagome pried him off her. "Er... when am I not?"

"When Inuyasha brings you home wrapped up in a blanket and herbs and you don't respond even when I say ODEN?" replied Souta wearily.

A brief image of an overwhelmed Kaede-and then, one of flying through the air in Inuyasha's arms-flashed through Kagome's head.

Dream, she told herself firmly.

"What's that?" asked Kagome, pointing behind Souta in hopes of distracting him.

Souta glanced over his shoulder. "Evil Dead XI, but-"

"Really!" said Kagome, rifling through his desk. "Why aren't you playing it?"

"Because I just came home. But-"

"Oh, silly me ^_^," said Kagome. "I just haven't been thinking straight today." Or, ever. "Hey... where's my stuff?"

Souta flushed. "Erm... um."

"Yes?" asked Kagome, putting her hands on her hips.

"Well, you see..."

"Uh huh..."

"I..."

"Yes..."

"Remember when you came back home a few months ago and you were all weird about trying to find Nachan's phone number and I was going to tell you, but you didn't want me to, so I... eheh, um, didn't tell you that I... er... sorta... you know. Ate your stuff."

Kagome blinked.

Nachan?

Her little brother was calling Miroku-

"And I'm sorry," wailed Souta, "but mama wasn't home and grandpa would have boiled his socks for dinner and I was hungry!"

Kagome blinked some more.

"Are you-are you mad?" asked Souta anxiously, fiddling with a notebook.

"Quite possibly," replied Kagome brightly. "But not at you."

Souta relaxed, wiping his forehead for effect. "Have I told you lately that you're the best sister in the world?" he asked sweetly.

"It's still coming out of your piggy-bank."

"DARN!"

Kagome giggled, patting his little head like she would a puppy's. "I might be persuaded to forgive you once I catch up on my homework. So, let me use your phone to call Ayumi and-"

Souta beamed. "Oh, you don't have to. I have all your notes."

Kagome observed him suspiciously. "How-"

"For me to know, and you to never find out!" said Souta, grabbing his Evil Dead XI, and bolting out of the room.

Kagome smiled to herself.

And then, as she was walking back to her room, she realized something she hadn't thought about since stepping foot in Sengoku Jidai.

She wanted to see Souta grow up.

She wanted to be Yuka's bridesmaid, wanted to be there when Ayumi became a famous scientist, wanted to talk Erri into buying those really ugly shoes, wanted to spend time with her mother and grandfather, wanted to attend university and have ice cream and watch movies and listen to music and-

And... would she have given all that up for Inuyasha, had things been different?

What kind of a life would she have had with him once the jewel was completed? Demon, human, or caught in between-Inuyasha wouldn't have... wouldn't have been enough.

Inuyasha's love wouldn't have been enough to keep her happy forever. No one's love would have been enough. No one's.

Because-no work, no school, no growth, no comfort, no use.

It wouldn't be a good life.

It was impossible to have a good life in the Warring States. It was.

It wasn't as if she could... could just... wake up every morning... and see... Miroku (Miroku, Miroku, Miroku)-the thick, dark eyelashes and the tousled hair and the earrings and the satiated smirk on his lips-and consider herself... truly happy.

Except.

She could.

Flustered, Kagome unbuttoned her pajama top. With an absentminded little frown, she gathered two towels and headed for the bathroom while a single-stubborn-thought kept replaying in her head.

Miroku.

Waking up next to Miroku. Watching Miroku lose control. Disappearing under those skilled hands of his, and...

...having him assassinated for turning her into a pervert.

Seriously, what was wrong with her?

Blushing furiously (God, those... stupid... lips of his...), Kagome shut the door behind her, glaring at her shampoo as if it were responsible for her disturbing train of thought. Carelessly, she shimmied out of her pajama bottoms, draping them over the doorknob and rushing to turn on the faucets.

And as the tub quickly filled with berry bubbles and various girly salts, Kagome could have sworn she'd heard faint voices coming from her bedroom (or possibly, the living room), but chalked it up to Souta and his brand-new Evil Dead XI (who'd bought it for him anyway?).

Soon, she was scrubbed clean and apple-y and sighing happily and soaking up the myriad of soft, pleasing scents and splashing around in the tub and-

Bam!

The door to her bathroom burst open.

Pulse racing, Kagome blinked.

"Oh," said the nonchalant silhouette from the doorway. "You're... naked."

Kagome struggled for oxygen. "Miro-kun...what... what are you doing here?"

Miroku grinned happily, as though he hadn't really expected to find her here, and shut the door behind him. "Sorry," he apologized, though he looked anything but repentant. "Heard strange noises. Didn't know you were back. Had to investigate. Sincere apologies."

Kagome wished she'd stayed in bed. "Right, um..."

Yell at him! He's-he's... lecherous and evil and rude and here to take advantage of you in your own home and-

"Hi," she said demurely.

Or... do that.

Miroku's grin widened mischievously as he observed her. Frazzled by his sudden presence, Kagome offered him an innocent smile and... and what was he looking at-agh!-stupid anatomy and cold and...

She could feel it change.

The air, the air around him was different-confident and fearless and dangerous-and he narrowed his eyes oddly and locked the door behind him and asked, in a voice belonging to someone much less menacing, "Kagome?"

"Eee... yes?"

Eyes peculiarly dark, Miroku took a step closer, tilting his head inquisitively. "You know what I hate about the 20th century?"

Self-conscious to the extreme, Kagome sank deeper into the tub, grateful for the foamy layer of body wash covering... most of her skin. "Um... what?"

"This," he said, and knelt in front of her, swiping a finger over her forearm and glaring at the tuft of lather that came off. "Though, if I wait long enough, it'll all go away and you'll be perfect," he finished, blowing a few stray bubbles off his finger.

Kagome shivered.

...Perfect?

Oh. Oh! Um.

Naked.

God.

Mortified, she lifted her eyes to his, searching for a reason to hate him (which would have made throwing him out relatively easy), but-

But... but this was Miroku.

And his blue eyes were darkening visibly as he watched her with an unmistakable, oddly familiar hunger that terrified and disturbed and delighted and brought her to life and-

"But I'm sick of waiting for it to go away, Kagome," he murmured, and suddenly, Kagome realized he wasn't talking about her ultra spiffy Coconut-Extract Body Wash With Extra Bubbles anymore.

Hadn't been talking about it from the start.

No, no, no, no. She had to distract him. Had to stop this. Had to tell him that she was sick of waiting, too, and that she wanted answers and wanted them now (wanted him now-eek, no...!)-

"So... um... how was your week?" she coughed uncomfortably, in hopes of diverting his attention.

"Two weeks," was all he said. And then-

Then he was in front of her, eye-level and burning up and gripping the rim, his knuckles turning white. "It's been two weeks, Kagome."

"So... good?" she concluded delicately, averting her eyes with an intensifying blush.

"Kagome?" he asked, and all she could see were his lips, lightly curled and that subtle grin and- "Has he kissed you yet?"

Kagome's shampoo bottle clattered to the floor. "Uhm! What? I mean... you mean-"

"So. Yes?" asked Miroku fervently, eyeing her lips.

Kagome was burning with humiliation. "Yes," she mumbled, unable to look at him. She was busy concentrating on a glassy bead of water that was sliding down the shower curtain when-

"Finally," groaned Miroku, and-

And...

He tasted like chamomile.

So soft and so warm and so comforting she thought her heart would burst.

"Can't tell you how long I've waited to do this," he panted against her lips, shrugging out of his uniform top. "To have you so close and not be able to-" he tugged on his collar impatiently, barely pausing in his assault on her lips.

Several scented soaps tumbled into the water around her, but Kagome didn't notice.

This.

This was what he'd done to her when she'd seen him last. This was what mollified that new, insistent ache within her. This was what she-

"Miro-kun," she mumbled, her resistance wearing so, so, so very thin. "I have to-"

"No," he muttered, bringing his hands up to cup her face. "Talking, bad," he whispered, running his thumb over her bottom lip, only to follow it with an excruciatingly enticing nip a moment later.

Agreed, but-

"About the kazaana."

Miroku froze.

"I saw-I saw it, and I know you lied to me," continued Kagome, gathering every ounce of courage she possessed, but soon, guilt snuck its little hands into her conscience, and held tight, until her voice faltered. "I know Mushin-sama can't fix it. I-it's none of my business, I know, but... wait, what am I saying? Of course it's my business! I-"

Miroku's expression was unreadable. "You..." he paused, his brows furrowing as though he was trying to remember something he'd rather not. "Devil's Tower already?"

Kagome frowned. "Yes...?"

His lips were forming a thin line. "So, that means-"

And then, suddenly, he was gathering her in his arms purposefully, and his fingers were warm-burning-and her skin was quickly cooling off and tingling and his hands were sliding down her slippery back, lower and lower and-

What-what was that his fingers had brushed across?

Kagome's eyes widened.

Miroku let go off her and hastily stood up, leaning against the sink and scowling. "Guess I didn't imagine it, then."

Tentatively, Kagome brought a hand behind her back, touching her own skin. A small stab of foreboding pricked at the back of her head. The feeling intensified, burning deep behind her breastbone. Because-

Because... her skin.

There was something on her skin, stretched across the small of her back.

"Miroku...?" she asked uncertainly.

Miroku averted his eyes, almost guiltily. "Just ignore it. It'll go away."

Stunned, Kagome fumbled blindly for a towel. Mirror. She needed to get to a mirror. Because a heavy feeling of dread was settling around her, like a hand around her heart, crushing and warning and just there, and-

-and it was a mark.

Spider.

Kagome tensed, her eyes widening in disbelief. When? How? Why?

"Miroku... sama?"

"I'm sorry," said Miroku suddenly, startling her into turning away from the mirror. "I wanted to warn you, but..."

"Warn me-?"

Kagome's mind was in overdrive. Panicked, she tried to remember. There was something-something-

'It's raining. You shouldn't be out in this weather.'

'I'm going to take that as a yes, Kagome.'

'The size of your ego is truly horrifying.'

'Just my ego?'

'Oh, God. Is it too late for me to go back in?'

'Yes.'

And-

And then...?

"What did you do?" she asked, horrified.

Miroku was watching her intently. "Nothing you wouldn't have done had the situation been reversed," he said, but sounded incredibly uncertain.

Kagome wrapped the towel tighter around herself, and sat on the tub's edge. "I'm not hallucinating, right? I mean, there is a spider mark on my back? Naraku's mark? How? Why? I-I don't remem-"

A soft gasp escaped her lips.

Those dreams she'd been having.

They were-

Oh, God.

"What-what did he want in return?" she asked numbly.

Miroku flinched, quite clearly surprised she'd pieced it all together. "It really doesn't matter, Kagome."

"It matters to me!"

"Fine," said Miroku, grinning with his usual crooked charisma. "He wanted a lifetime supply of pocky. And a laptop."

Kagome's mouth seemed to malfunction. Crazy. Absolutely, completely, appallingly crazy. "You-can't you be serious for just one second?"

"That would detract from your nudity, so... no."

"Miro-kun, focus!"

"Well, drop the towel, then."

"Agh! I-"

"-can hear you from the street!" grumbled a boyish voice from the other side of the door. "Keep it down or Grandpa will have a heart attack. And I have nothing black to wear for the funeral!"

Miroku grinned, picking up his discarded uniform top. "Don't worry, Souta-kun," he replied loudly, "we're just working on giving you a little nephew for Christmas."

Kagome blanched.

Souta's muffled laughter reached through the door. "Okay," he shouted, adding, "I get to name him, though!"

Kagome waited until she was sure Souta was gone to launch herself at Miroku. "You corrupted my little brother?" she shrieked.

Miroku raised an amused eyebrow. "We. We corrupted him. You're the one hanging all over me, after all."

Kagome flushed furiously, then pushed Miroku away, tugging protectively on her towel. Seriously, had she really been contemplating spending the rest of her life with this monster barely an hour ago?

"Big mistake on my part. Won't happen again!" she grumbled, picking up her fallen bath accessories.

"Mh hmm," nodded Miroku, tilting his head as she bent down. "You forget I remember it differently."

Kagome threw her conditioner bottle at him. "And you forget I can change it."

"Can't."

"Can, too."

"Can't."

"Can."

Miroku grew serious. "I couldn't change... that," he mumbled, pointing vaguely at her back. "Nothing can change, Kagome."

Kagome's heart sank.

She didn't care about the stupid mark on her back, didn't care what had happened to her, didn't care what would happen to her, but she did care about-

"You're not going to die," she said stubbornly. "I'll think of something."

Miroku smiled affectionately.

"I will," she added emphatically, balling up her fists.

Miroku took a step forward. "And then what?"

Kagome blinked. "What do you mean?"

"Say you do manage to change what happened," he said softly, playing with a wet strand of her hair. "Then what?"

"Then..." she faltered. "Then you get to live happily ever after."

A dark shadow hid Miroku's face from view. "With?"

Kagome's heart skipped a beat or four. "Well, um," she began experimentally, "with whomever you'd... um... want."

"Anyone I'd want?" he asked, pressing against her.

"Well, if you plan on having six wives, probably not," she replied, trembling. "I think Sango would be out of the question in that case."

Right. Smart. Bring Sango into this.

"Hypothetical question, Kagome," said Miroku, nuzzling her cheek. "Can you be in two places at the same time?"

Kagome resisted melting. "You mean, can I exist in two times, like with Kikyou-"

"No," he interrupted, kissing her neck. "If I wanted you. If he wanted you. Where would you be?"

Kagome froze, looking at him.

Oh, God.

I...

I can't possibly choose.

"You're the same person, for heaven's sake!" she whimpered.

"Exactly," hummed Miroku, his hand sliding to the knot in her towel, his long fingers surreptitiously brushing across her breasts. "And I deserve you more anyway."

Kagome couldn't help it.

She giggled. Loudly.

"I'm starting to hate your hypothetical questions. Especially when they're this ridiculous," she said, shaking her head and pushing him away. Because she. Didn't. Care. There was no way she'd just do nothing. There was no way she would give up. Because no matter what, she'd break. She'd break if she had to lose any of her friends. And to lose Miroku, even though she could never truly have him-

"And-deserve me more," she giggled, trying to imitate his serious expression. "What am I, dinner?"

Miroku cocked his head. "If you insist," he grinned, pulling her closer.

Flustered, Kagome swatted at his chest. "Did you not fill your grope quota this month or something?"

Miroku gave her an offended glance. "So, he gets to do this and I don't?"

Kagome's lips curled modestly. "Same person, remember? And-and, he doesn't get to do it, either! Hff!"

"Discrimination, I say."

"Ghhm-shut up."

"Make me."

She was slightly tempted (damn him and his contagious... ness!). But instead, Kagome chose to relax in his arms, leaning her head against his chest. "It's all going to work out, you'll see, and then I'll rub it in for years and won't let you live it down, ever, and you'll be sorry for doubting me-"

Miroku smirked. "At the moment, it is working out for me. Especially the rubbing."

Kagome extricated herself with fake indignation. "Hff! I'll have you know I-"

"Stay."

Kagome blinked. "What?"

"Stay here," he said warily. "Don't go back."

She wanted to say so many things, but in the end, all that came out was, "Why?"

Miroku rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, adamantly avoiding her eyes. "I don't know what will happen beyond a certain point. So, I can't let you-what if you can't-"

Kagome exhaled slowly.

He... had a good point. Everything was so uncertain. And Kagome was a little sca... worried. She was way in over her head, after all. If she went back, she'd have to confront Inuyasha again and-and... Sango. Sango would need an explanation. One that wouldn't make her hate Kagome for such selfishness. Or Miroku for taking advantage of what had been offered to him so willingly. Or-

Huh.

That was it.

Problem... solved.

Kagome winced imperceptibly, burrowing into Miroku's chest for comfort.

Because... because this would have to be the last time. She would go back and help Inuyasha complete the jewel. And once that was done, she would find a way to get rid of Miroku's curse. He would be happy-whole life in front of him. Life with Sango. Or Koharu. Or anyone who wasn't Kagome.

And this Miroku...

This Miroku didn't need her help-didn't need her. He'd been doing fine before he'd met her (Yuka, Mitsuko, half the female population...), and he'd be fine if Kagome stayed in Sengoku Jidai. For Shippou. For Shippou and Inuyasha and Kikyou.

Because... because she would have to.

Without the jewel shards... she would have no choice.

A sudden thought made her gasp.

Mama.

She knew.

"I'll come back," lied Kagome, detaching herself from Miroku. After all, he'd lied to her-numerous times, at that-and it was only fair she return the favor (so, why couldn't she look him in the eye?). "But more importantly," she continued, forcing her voice to sound cheerful. "What are you doing here on a...?"

"Monday," he supplied, clearly willing to change the topic, as well. "Souta's been blackmailing me into dropping off notes and homework."

Kagome smiled fondly, her heart aching. The thought of having to say goodbye to her little brother-

Stop.

"He wouldn't blackmail you. But in case he has," she began lightheartedly, ushering Miroku out of the bathroom, "I'd like to know what he's got over you. Because... unfair."

Miroku arranged his features into a saintly expression.

Kagome shook her head, amused and smitten and unaware and-

Miroku pecked her cheek.

"By the way, your mother invited me to stay for dinner," he said, waggling his eyebrows. "And, apparently, a sleepover. Methinks the lady doth have some serious competition."

Kagome giggled, pushing him out. "Liar. I know you proposed to Grandpa while I was gone."

Miroku gave her a horrified glance. "You-you've been spending too much time with me."

"I know," she said pleasantly, and shut the door.

The smile quickly slipped off her face as she stared at the tiled wall, all shiny and spotless and bland.

Tonight.

She would say goodbye tonight.

But first, she would rinse off and put on her favorite blue pajamas and fill up on sugar.

And so, several minutes later, Kagome-perky and wearing giant, fluffy bunny slippers-bounced into the family room, announcing her presence by showering the bickering Souta and Miroku with lots of pocky.

Souta twitched suspiciously. "What's wrong? Why are you sharing your precious pocky? Are you dying? Am I?"

Kagome patted his little head. "Depends. Did you really blackmail Mi...zuo-kun?"

Souta squirmed. "No...?"

Miroku raised an offended eyebrow.

Souta coughed, fidgeting with his game controller. "Well, maybe just a little. But-but it's his own fault!"

Kagome plopped down on the carpet next to him. "Really?"

"No," said Miroku.

"Souta..."

Souta shrank under their twin gazes. "Gah! I like you two better when you're making babies instead of ganging up on me when I haven't really done anything wrong and-!"

Kagome exploded. "WHAT?"

Souta, clearly relieved she'd been distracted from the original topic, turned back to the TV, pushing random buttons even though the screen read 'Game Over'. "Uh huh. Nachan told me all about it!"

Kagome twitched.

Coughing, Miroku made to bolt, but she threw a cushion at him. "Freeze."

"He's lying," said Miroku, putting up his hands in surrender, and ducking her repeated attacks.

Souta tittered.

"We've talked only of... documentaries and... science," said Miroku earnestly, but his eyes were so incredibly... searching dictionary for appropriate adjective...

"I guess it's my fault," said Kagome, unable to keep from smacking Miroku. Or giggling.

"Yeah!" nodded Souta enthusiastically. "That'll teach you to leave us alone all the time!"

Kagome's features softened.

Don't think.

Because it's your fault. Your fault the jewel is broken. You have to come through for Inuyasha. You have to-

"Ha! You lose again!" whooped Miroku suddenly, pointing at the screen.

Souta's eyes widened pitifully. "Ah! Cheater!" he shrieked, attacking Miroku's leg. "Grow up already!"

Miroku laughed, trying to shake Souta off. "You grow up. It's not my fault I'm better at this!"

"You promised you'd let me win!" pouted Souta.

"You're delusional," sulked Miroku. "I said I'd give you twenty points advantage. Apparently, that wasn't enough."

Souta narrowed his eyes playfully. "Rematch. Forty points advantage."

Miroku observed his little opponent. "Thirty."

"Fifty," grumbled Souta.

"Kagome, I think your brother's failing math," grinned Miroku.

Kagome couldn't quite reply. She was too engrossed in their banter to form an actual opinion.

Was she really ready? Was she really ready to leave all this? Them?

Souta scratched his chin. "Forty, and I won't tell Kagome about-"

"Deal," said Miroku hastily.

Kagome's eyebrows shot up. "Tell me what?"

"Nothing," he said, shooing her away.

Kagome beamed down at Miroku, poking Souta's leg with her fluffy slipper. "What?"

For the briefest of moments, Souta's expression resembled Naraku's. "He's got a-"

"Souta-chan," Miroku cut in, saccharine-sweet. "Remember last week, when your mother asked about-"

"Nachan!" screeched Souta, his eyes widening comically.

"-and I told her you'd been in school all day and-"

"Aghhh!" screamed Souta, covering his little ears. "Fine! But-but you're horrible!"

"Not at Evil Dead XI, I'm not."

"AGH!"

Kagome giggled, curling up on the sofa and yawning. Miroku grinned, abandoning the game console, and sneaking up on her. Souta kept grumbling under his breath, throwing an occasional glare in their direction.

"You're not going to tell me, are you?" asked Kagome, watching him and marveling at how he just... fitted in. And how, after months of dismissing her home and her friends and her family, she actually wanted to fit in, too. Desperately.

Miroku grinned. "I might."

Kagome narrowed her eyes huffily. "Pervert."

"I didn't even say anything yet," brooded Miroku, though his eyes betrayed his amusement. "But since you suggested it..."

"DINNER!" came an elderly voice from somewhere behind them.

Kagome stretched, hesitating. She really didn't want to move. Didn't want to end this conversation. Didn't want to have dinner and have that end, too. Because... time was just-going so very, very fast today. Ever since she'd made her decision, every minute seemed to have sped by without her consent. More time. She needed more time.

Stop stalling.

"Nee-chan, aren't you coming?" asked Souta, rolling up the excess wires, and tripping over Miroku's backpack. "Oden night, mama said."

Kagome perked up happily.

"Uh..." muttered Miroku, watching her stare off into distance. "Does she go into a coma even if it's not in front of her?"

Souta heaved a great, big sigh. "Once, Grandpa was telling us about this Odin guy from some mythology book or something and she heard him wrong and we couldn't get through to her for an hour-"

"Lies," whined Kagome, though her eyes were still slightly glazed over. "It's not my fault mama makes it with... heroin."

Miroku, apparently, couldn't seem to help it. He offered her a heated look, then bent down to casually whisper in her ear, under the guise of readjusting the cushions, "There are more addictive things in life, you know."

Turning scarlet (because she believed him), Kagome tried to hit Miroku with a small but weighty decorative pillow, except he ducked in time, and it smacked into Souta's back. Souta stumbled, confused and caught off guard, then spun on his heel.

"What'd you do that for?" he cried, shaking his little fist dramatically.

"Sorry! It wasn't meant to h-"

"She was aiming for your head," said Miroku wickedly.

Souta wrinkled his nose, then, to Kagome's horror, exchanged a particularly scheming glance with Miroku.

Kagome was barely allowed a second to contemplate thwarting their plan before they pounced. Soon, she was being tickled and smothered and was shrieking with pure, unadulterated glee, pulling on Souta's hair and commanding Miroku to save her, until he turned on her, too, the traitor, and toppled her over onto the floor and-

"Neee, I cooked for hours and no one seems interested in eating!" wailed Kagome's grandfather miserably, hovering over the tangle of limbs on the carpet. "Such ungrateful children!"

Giggling, Kagome helped both boys up, straightening their shirts automatically. "Um. You don't cook, Grandpa."

"Well, I watched your mother cook for hours, and the legend goes-"

"Humble apologies, Higurashi-jii-chan," said Miroku amusedly, bowing. "Your granddaughter was having another seizure, and Souta-chan and I felt compelled to provide proper care."

Kagome tried not to smack him with the nearest blunt, untraceable object. "By trying to asphyxiate me-?"

"And see? She's all better now, foaming at the mouth and everything," added Souta proudly, disappearing into the kitchen and blowing a victorious raspberry over his shoulder.

She wouldn't realize it until much later, but Miroku and Souta seemed intent on distracting her from everything (Naraku, Naraku, Naraku), so she let them.

Because she felt she didn't have long. Because she felt as though she'd been living on borrowed time ever since she woke up. Because she felt as though she didn't belong anywhere, with anyone.

The mark (scar, injury, proof of ownership?) on her back was itching ominously.

Stop. Thinking.

"So, are you two sure you're ready?" asked Mrs. Higurashi later, once Kagome was finished ogling her empty bowl.

"Ready for-?" began Kagome, then immediately paled in horror. Her mother wasn't-couldn't possibly-be talking about... about... having se-

"-nals," Miroku was saying, demonstrating with his chopsticks. "Most of them are a month away, so, yes."

Oh. Oh! They were talking about finals.

Guiltily, Kagome began clearing the table with Souta, wondering if this, too, was Naraku's fault. This stupid feeling of wanting Miroku to-to... what?

With a mixture of disgust and embarrassment, she continued gathering the soup plates, listening to the conversation.

"-and as long as she goes through my notes, she'll be fine," finished Miroku, winking charmingly. Then, to Kagome's surprise, he turned his head slightly in her direction. "The main thing, of course, is to show up."

Kagome flinched and, quite inadvertently, looked to her mother for help.

Mrs. Higurashi's eyes widened imperceptibly and her lips parted and Kagome knew. Kagome knew she'd figured it out.

Sorry, mama. Didn't want to say goodbye so soon, but-

"Well, now," said Mrs. Higurashi, trying to gather her bearings. "I suppose there are more important things than final exams. And that-that's not-not... It's understandable. To me."

Kagome averted her eyes.

Miroku frowned, turning around suspiciously.

"Well!" said Kagome loudly, clapping her hands. "Time to tuck Souta in! Let's go, mister!"

Souta gave her three, very rapid, blinks. "What the-"

"No one minds if I do it, right?" said Kagome enthusiastically, grabbing her little brother's hand, and dragging him down the hallway before anyone could protest the sudden change of topic.

Finally, once they'd reached Souta's room, Kagome apologized. "I'm sorry. I know you're too old to be tucked in, but-"

"It's okay," said Souta with a shrug, then quickly brushed his teeth and bounced off to bed.

Kagome blinked.

"Er... okay."

Wow. It'd... been a while since she'd done this.

"So..." she began slowly, as Souta found a comfortable position. "Um. What's... new?"

Oh, God, how lame was that?

"Well," chirped Souta excitedly, "I found out I was ranked first in pretty much all of my classes and then one of my friends got a new bike yesterday and we got lost a kilometer from school and then we saw this stupid girl with her stupid pigtails and my friend said something to her and then she slapped him and she looked like she was going to slap me, too, and... um, this must be really boring to you. I'm sorry."

Kagome's chest tightened. "It's not boring. Why-why would you think that?"

Souta squirmed sheepishly. "Well, because your life is so cool and, well..."

"Souta," whispered Kagome, realizing she'd never get a chance to say this again. "Please tell me. Anything. Anything you feel like talking about."

"Uh... nee-chan...?"

"Anything," said Kagome, fluffing up his doggy-themed comforter. "You can talk about anything. I just... want to listen for a while, that's all."

Souta's grin threatened to split his face in half. "Really?"

"Really," said Kagome enthusiastically, riffling through his toy chest. Finally, she located what she'd been looking for-a ratty old Samurai plushie he'd won at a street fair years ago-and placed it next to Souta's head.

"Nee-chan, I'm too old for-" he began, embarrassed, then trailed off, curling up with the plushie and reddening sheepishly. "So, anyway," he began hastily, fighting a blush. "You said anything, right?"

Kagome nodded happily. "Anything! Except-"

"Supersonic Lobsterman From Out of Space!"

Kagome groaned.

Souta ignored her, sitting up in his bed with a crazed look in his eyes. "Last week," he began, hyper and giddy and squeezing his plushie to death, "Riceman tried to kill Lobsterman again-grr, I hate that guy-but Lobsterman and his friends stopped him and then Lobsterman tried to save Sailor One but Snakewoman showed up!"

Kagome bit her lip to keep from giggling. "Uh huh. And then what happened?"

Souta seemed ready to burst. "And then Riceman turned into some kind of a tree thing-I don't know, Sailor One was being shiny-and I thought, 'No way is Lobsterman EVER going to kick Riceman's butt now!' but he did! He did!"

Kagome nodded, trying to stuff Souta back into his comforter. "And how'd he do that?"

Souta kicked off his covers again. "Well, see, because they couldn't get anywhere near Riceman without getting hurt, they figured they had to do long-range stuff, like... well, they had Geekboy come up with this DNA chemical thing-I think it was some kind of poison?-and then they shot it into Riceman and he exploded and now he's finally GONE!"

Kagome giggled. "Cheap cop-out."

Souta shrugged happily. "It doesn't always have to be some great big drama thing. That's so un-20th century!"

"That's not a word," said Kagome, pushing Souta back onto his pillow.

"Is, too," grumbled Souta with a pout.

"Is n-" began Kagome, then froze.

Oh, God.

"I... have to be the biggest idiot, ever," she gasped, covering her mouth. "Souta, you're a genius!"

Souta blinked. "Wh-"

Kagome stood up quickly, kissed her little brother's forehead, then bolted for the door. "Thank you! I love you and-and please, help mama when she needs it and try to listen to Grandpa even if he gives you a mummy's hand for your fifteenth birthday and don't have too much candy!"

"Nee-chan, what-" began Souta frantically, but Kagome was already running down the hallway.

Un-20th century.

She almost broke down in hysterics.

Could it really be that simple?

"Jii-chan!" she shouted, skidding to a stop.

Grandpa jumped up in his ratty old chair, startled. His cards (what had they been doing?) scattered across the table as he turned his head to blink at Kagome.

Kagome hugged him quickly. "Don't let Buyo get too fat."

"Kagome, what-"

Abruptly, Kagome reached for Miroku's hand (Miroku blinked at her dazedly, still holding up his cards for inspection), and pulled him up, trying to ignore the urge to run into the kitchen and cry on her mother's shoulder. "Come on!"

And then, Miroku was-thankfully-out of his seat and running after her. "Kagome! What-"

But Kagome didn't stop, didn't pause for oxygen, didn't reply. She kept running and running, until she was outside, in the moonlight, twelve and a half steps away from the well. She caught her breath then, and smiled brightly at Miroku and even though her heart felt so heavy and so broken, she said, "I know what to do."

Miroku was still catching his breath. "About?"

"Naraku."

Miroku's features darkened. "Right."

"No, really," said Kagome, dragging him inside. The well was skulking in the shadows before them. "I think I know what to try. I was talking to Souta and I realized-if I can talk Kikyou into helping us with this, we can use a-"

"Kagome," interrupted Miroku, a ghost of a smile crossing his lips. "I know. I've heard this speech twice now."

Kagome's throat went dry. Then, inexplicably enraged, she shouted, "And you didn't TELL me before? Do you know how much TIME you could have saved m-"

Miroku scowled. "Kagome, how many times do I have to tell you? You. Can't. Change. It. Neither can I."

Kagome's features softened, her anger evaporating immediately.

How hard?

How hard was it for him? How hard was it for him to keep quiet about this when-

"Miroku," she began, steeling her resolve. "Please, if you could, tell Yuka and Erri that I'm thankful for everything they've ever done for me. And tell Ayumi I'll always remember that field she showed me when we were five. And please, if possible, tell Hojou-kun-"

Later, Kagome would wonder if she'd ever seen Miroku-in any time period-this angry.

"It won't work, Kagome," he gritted out. "He's going to know. He always knows everything. He's probably still alive somewhere. He-"

Don't think, don't think, don't think.

Frantic, Kagome pleaded with him. "Miroku-"

"I'm not letting you say goodbye," he said.

Kagome froze.

"Inuyasha can't find the jewel shards without me," she began reasonably, though every cell in her body was trembling. "And when he makes the wish, the Shikon will disappear and I-I won't be able to come back."

Miroku growled angrily. "So leave before he makes it!"

Kagome balled up her fists. "You should know better than anyone that I won't be able to! Unless I take the jewel with me, I won't be able to pass through the well. You know that."

Miroku flinched. "Actually... I don't."

Kagome covered her mouth, biting back a gasp.

No.

He'd... died before that.

When? Next week? Tomorrow?

Yesterday?

Deciding she couldn't be deterred now, Kagome carried on, pondering on devising a variation of the truth, a shabby cut and paste of the original, but she was finally being honest with herself, so why not include Miroku in this little epiphany?

"Even if I can't-" she began shakily. "This is wrong," she said, indicating at herself, then him. "I wasn't supposed to... Miroku, there has to be a reason you remember. And I've deluded myself into thinking it's got something to do with me, but the more I think about it, the more I realize I'm just being really, really stupid and self-centered."

Miroku was watching her with an undecipherable look.

"And now that I have some semblance of a plan, I have to-I... I can actually help for once. I can make a difference. Here, I'm one out of ten million, practically identical, girls, but there-"

And suddenly, there was the ceiling, straight above her, heavily textured and dirty brown and she was on the ground, on her back that hurt because a large pebble was digging onto her flesh, sharp and dangerous and Miroku's hips were too close for discomfort and-

"I've waited longer, Kagome," he ground out, pinning her hands above her head. "And I know you love me. Because you have to."

Kagome froze.

She'd been consistently skirting around that dismaying little word, but-

"Miroku," she began softly. "I-"

"-know," he said angrily. "And you don't get a choice. I never did."

Broken and afraid and strangely elated, Kagome pushed him off and moved away.

He... loved her?

No.

"You're only saying that because you've probably felt alone and out of place here," she said slowly, fumbling for justification. She had to-she had to make him understand. It would be easier for her to leave and better for him because there was no way someone like Miroku would ever-

"What are you talking about?" he asked, frowning.

"If it were anyone else-if Sango were reincarnated, if Koharu... hell, even if Kagura were here and could remember the same things you could remember, you'd feel an affinity for her, too. It's normal, Miroku-sama."

The honorific felt oddly foreign on her tongue now.

"What?" mumbled Miroku darkly.

Kagome rose. She had to tell him. She had to tell him before she allowed this little moment of concentration to be broken, shattered into millions of what ifs. "I want you to be happy, Miroku-sama. I want all my friends to be happy."

"Friends?" he asked furiously.

Kagome took a step back toward the well. She had to stop stalling.

And he-he had to understand. He had to-

Kiss her.

"You don't know anything yet, do you?" he groaned against her lips and his breath was hot and burning her cheeks, angry and helpless and not really there.

She winced then, and she tried to get away, honest she did, but she was suddenly very tired-it'd been a long lifetime-so she pried him off her because her mother was right.

People didn't think in situations like these.

But Kagome had to.

So, she would.

"I know enough," she began, but his eyes-so blue and human-stopped her dead.

There was no thought in her head, no sound for a minute, and for that long moment, she held her breath until he arranged his features into a stubborn expression.

"I'm coming with you," he mumbled.

Kagome's eyes widened. "What?"

"I told you. I can't let-"

But Kagome shook her head bewilderedly. "I don't even know if that's possible and-and you said it yourself. You can't change it."

And there they were, standing in the dark, looking at each other, having been left neither here nor there-not up, not down-lodged between two layers of middle ground.

"You're Kagome," he said finally.

Kagome glanced up at him, startled.

"Don't-don't repeat Kikyou's mistake. Don't fall for Naraku's tricks. You're not 'one out of ten million identical girls', Kagome," he said and kept his distance, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "And I bet if anyone could break a paradox, it'd be you."

Kagome could feel tears welling up in her eyes, and felt as though all her foundations were stripped away and her walls were standing bare and unsupported and-

She couldn't say goodbye to him.

So, she buttoned up her pajama top completely and-

Was gone.

And as she hung suspended between two very different worlds, in a well that was quickly becoming an enemy-Kagome smiled.

Such a wonderful moment of clarity, it was.

She wasn't.

She wasn't going to repeat anyone's mistakes.

She wouldn't indulge an identity crisis.

Because-because she had her own feelings, her own memories, her own plans.

She loved whom she wanted to love, not whom she was supposed to.

She wasn't identical to anyone.

She was Kagome, and she was going to prove it.

Chasing Methuselah

A InuYasha Story
by Sandra E

Part 10 of 13

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