InuYasha held back the mat door. It was nearly sunset, but there was still enough light for Kagome to find her way to the raised wooden floor and take off her shoes.
“I’ll start a fire,” InuYasha said. “You’ll be able to see it better.”
“All right,” Kagome replied.
With the skill that comes from long practice, InuYasha soon had a fire burning in the fire pit, which cast a warm light in the small house. It wasn’t very big, a little smaller than Kaede’s hut, and much smaller than Miroku’s. There was a folded pile of bedding in one corner and a couple of storage boxes, and by the fire pit, there were a couple of cooking pots and a low table that held a few dishes.
“How long have you had this place?” Kagome asked, shrugging off her sweater.
“I started building it before the twins were born,” InuYasha said. “Some of the men in the village helped me with the framing. I never knew there was so much work involved.” He bent over the fire, feeding it some more small pieces of wood. “Old Tomeo, the headman - he decided I ought to have a place of my own. He says it’s so I can keep an eye out for bandits. I think he just felt sorry for me being around Sango when she was carrying the twins.”
She came and sat down beside him, drawing her legs up and resting her head on her knees. “Things have changed.”
“Some,” he said, tossing in the final pieces of wood. That done he came back and sat down beside her. His arm went around her waist “Some haven’t changed at all.”
She looked up at him. His gaze was warm was warm and intense. She smiled a little, then leaned her head against his shoulder. “Have you?”
“Maybe,” he replied.
“Yeah,” Kagome said, “Me too.” She leaned into his shoulder. “You must have been terribly lonely.”
He took a deep breath and stared into the fire. “It was hard. I knew you were safe, and there was so much to do at first - putting the village back to order after what Naraku had done to it, especially Kaede’s house, and a bunch of stupid youkai seemed to come out of the woodwork. Me and Miroku got busy in the youkai exterminating business. It wasn’t like when my mother died. I wasn’t left alone. But still, at night and . . . ” his voice, growing thicker, drifted off. “Feh,” he finally managed to say. “That doesn’t matter. You’re here now.”
He picked up her hand, and laced his fingers into it.
“I thought about you every day, especially on new moon nights,” she said, her voice small and distant. “I don’t know if you could say I was lonely as much as empty. I didn’t know how tired and exhausted I was until after you left. I missed you so much, but for a long time I was too frightened to try the well. All I could think about was how it was when I was trapped by the Shikon no Tama. And when I finally did try it, it didn’t let me through.” She sighed.
He pulled her closer to him. “Kagome,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
She leaned back into his chest. “Don’t be sorry, InuYasha. If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t have made it out of there, or made the wish that destroyed the jewel.
“When I was trapped in the darkness, before you showed up and I thought I was all alone, the jewel showed me a vision, the world it was offering me. Friends and school and family. In the vision I had, which felt so real, I always knew something was missing, but I didn’t know what. I was going to school and doing things with my friends, but something wasn’t quite right. There was an emptiness in my life that spoiled everything. It wasn’t until I was walking by the sacred tree that I knew what was missing - it was you.”
Kagome looked up at InuYasha, her eyes growing damp and shimmering in the firelight. “The jewel was trying to trick me into choosing that life, for wishing for it. All the things I thought I wanted once upon a time. It’s ironic, really, that after I returned, that was the life I lived - school and friends and family. But it wasn’t enough. I had grown too far apart from my friends. My family, they loved me, but really didn’t understand what I had been through. There was always this feeling of emptiness, but this time I knew what was missing. I had changed and done too much to really belong. And I was living in a world without InuYasha.”
He heard the pain in her voice, and wrapped an arm around her. His other hand gently cupped the side of her face. “Kagome,” he murmured.
For a moment, she leaned into his touch, then rested her cheek against his jacket. “This morning, I went to the well house. I realized, I think, that the reason the well wasn’t working was because I had been afraid for it to work - afraid of the monsters, afraid maybe, of growing up, of leaving my family. But I knew as I stood there and looked into it, all I could see was a life of gray sadness ahead of me in that world because the one thing I needed to be happy was not there.
“I still I don’t know why, but the well must have known I was finally ready. I finished my schooling last week. That world now considers me an adult. Everything I had to do as a child of my family was done. Maybe the magic read my heart and knew now was the time. I looked into the well, and I could see the sky here, and I felt the magic touch me. I talked with Mama, and she gave me her blessing, and then I jumped.”
She lifted her head and smiled softly at him. “When I landed, I looked up, and the first thing I saw was you. I knew I was home. This world, not that one, is where I belong.”
His eyes gazed down on her with love and awe. InuYasha took a deep breath. Suddenly, his arms were around her pulling her to him and his lips found hers. A hand went up to cup the back of her head. The kiss began, gently and tentatively, and a bit unsure, but built up heat as their mouths opened to the taste of each other.
“I wanted to do that when I pulled you out of the well, but the others came by too soon,” he admitted when they broke the kiss.
“Better now,” she said. “Nobody will interrupt us.”
“No little brother,” he said, resting his forehead on hers. “No teasing monk.”
Her hand went to his cheek, then slid softly into his silver hair and wrapped around his neck. “Just me and you.” Their mouths found each other again. Her lips parted as his kiss deepened, and their tongues slid over and around each other in a gentle, delicious dance, exploring and tasting.
Breaking the kiss, InuYasha tucked Kagome’s head under his chin. “When I finally broke out of the jewel and saw you there, floating in that blackness, I knew what really mattered to me. Just you. I just wanted you to be safe and happy. When I saw you fall into your mother’s arms, surrounded by the people who loved you, I knew you needed them, and they needed you, and I didn’t even fight it when the well took me back. All that mattered to me was that you were safe and had a chance to be happy.”
“I’m happy now,” Kagome said, lacing her fingers into his. “The first time I’ve really been happy in a long time.”
He looked at her fingers snuggled in his much larger hand. “After I followed you into the Meidou, I found myself trapped in the jewel, fighting the youkai in it. They tried to tell me that you were born to be trapped in it, to fight through all time with Naraku, just like Midoriko was fighting against the youkai there. I told them that there was no way in hell that was true. We had been born to meet each other, to be with each other. While you were on the other side of the well, that was what kept me going, knowing we were meant to be together. I would have waited forever.” He smiled at her. “But I’m glad we didn’t have to wait any longer than we did.”
They sat there, wrapped up together for several minutes, watching the fire. InuYasha’s free hand made long, gentle strokes over Kagome’s arm and back, almost as if were reassuring himself she was really there.
“I’m afraid,” he said, breaking the silence. “I’m afraid that all this is going to turn out to be a dream and when I wake up in the morning, you’ll still be on the other side of the well.”
“I’m here,” she said, looking up into his eyes. They glimmered in the light, dark burnished amber. “I’ll only leave if you send me away.”
“Never. I’m going to have trouble enough taking you back to Kaede’s for the night.” His right ear twitched and he smiled a rueful smile.
“Then don’t,” Kagome said. She ran a fingertip gently over his lips. He caught her hand, and kissed the fingertips.“I didn’t come back to stay with Kaede.” She lifted her other hand and slid it around his neck. “I want to be with you.”
His arms swept around her, and his mouth reclaimed hers, this time hungry and unrestrained in his need of her. Somehow, they ended up laying down, InuYasha half on top of her. He lifted himself up on his elbows. “You do know if you stay, everyone in the village will call you InuYasha’s wife. The hanyou’s wife.”
“Good,” Kagome said. Her eyes were warm and dark and wanting. “Let them. That’s exactly what I want to be.”
“That’s one wish I can grant,” he said, kissing her tenderly. “As long as I get to be Kagome’s husband.”
“Always,” she replied. “It wouldn’t work any other way.”