Sango leafed through the flower catalogue with a sad smile touching her lips. "They're all so lovely, Kagome," she commented. "How should I choose?"
Kagome glanced over from her task of tugging weeds out of Sango's fledgling vegetable garden. Wiping perspiration off her forehead with the back of her hand, she smiled and sat back on her heels. The early spring morning was bright and beautiful, a stark contrast to the somber rain that was falling when she had climbed out of the well with InuYasha yesterday afternoon.
Hideaki was burned on a funeral pyre as per tradition. Contrary to most of the cremation ceremonies, Sango had wished for it to take place at dusk so she could spend the day readying his tiny body for the ceremony. The somber tones of the cremation were complimented by the misery of the weeping skies. The rain stopped just before the first flames touches the bier. It had been a trying night for everyone. In the end, they sat around the fire and reminisced over their travels, their adventures, their victories and losses.
"Well, annuals are flowers that have to be replanted every year while perennials are ones that you only have to plant once. Sometimes you may have to separate some of them, if they grow too thick . . . but they are probably your best bet, if you want something that will last."
"These lilies are beautiful," Sango said quietly. "So many colors . . ."
Kagome grinned. "Whatever you want, Sango. Take your time."
Sango nodded as she continued to leaf through the catalogue. Kagome turned back to her weeding when a very loud, very irritated voice called out, "Oi! I don't give a royal rat's ass if you promised or not, I ain't doing it!"
Turning her head to the side in time to see InuYasha and Miroku striding through the village toward the hut, Kagome's eyebrows arched in surprise at the deep blush on InuYasha's face. Hands folded together under the cover of his fire rat haori, the hanyou had a stubborn set to his features and a formidable glower on his face.
"But think of the children, InuYasha!" Miroku prodded.
All pretenses of work fell away as Kagome sat back to hear the rest of the exchange.
"Keh! Hell, no!"
"But they'd love it, you know they would . . . and I think you'd enjoy it, too . . ."
"I don't think I would," he argued.
"Think of how happy the village children will be."
"Keh! About as happy as I'll be when they decide to lynch me for hurting one of their pups," he growled. "No fucking thanks."
"What's going on?" Kagome asked.
InuYasha clamped his mouth closed and jerked his head toward Miroku.
"I . . . sort of . . . volunteered InuYasha to take the village children on forest romps during the spring celebration."
Kagome bit her bottom lip to keep from laughing at the murderous scowl on the hanyou's face. "That's so nice of you, InuYasha . . . I'm sure the children will love it."
"The hell they will because I ain't doing it!" he bellowed again.
Miroku shot Kagome a 'Help Me!' look. Kagome rolled her eyes but gave it her best try. "It's not really any different from you carrying me around on your back," she pointed out reasonably.
"Keh! That's totally different!" he growled.
"How?" she challenged.
Incredibly, his blush darkened. "It just is!" he snarled.
"Is, how? It's no different! In fact, most of them probably weigh less than Kagome," Miroku countered.
"Hey!" Kagome complained indignantly. "What does that mean, Miroku?"
"Nothing bad, Kagome! I didn't mean you're fat . . . Do you think she's fat, InuYasha?"
"Drop it!" Kagome cut in, narrowing her gaze as she contemplated the monk's impromptu demise.
"You carry Shippou," Sango interrupted before Kagome decided to shoot Miroku with her sacred arrows.
"Only when she makes me," InuYasha snarled.
"I thought you said no one can make you do anything," Miroku remarked, turning back toward InuYasha.
"They can't," he gritted out, "But she won't shut up when I don't give in!"
"'She' has ears, you know!" Kagome contested. "And I 'shut up' just fine, like now!"
"Why not?" Miroku cut in before Kagome could say 'the word' and ruin any chance of garnering InuYasha's cooperation.
InuYasha looked like he was ready to lunge at the monk. "Because I like carrying her around, damn it!" he bellowed.
Kagome gasped as an instant flush rushed over her cheeks to match InuYasha's rapidly escalating coloring. InuYasha, finally realizing just what he had said, fired off every curse he could think of or make up as he turned on his heel and stalked off toward the forest. A brilliant smile broke over her face despite her blush.
Kagome hurried along the forest path absently rehashing what she was supposed to say.
"Just tell him you think he should do it," Miroku coached. "Tell him how much you'd appreciate him for doing it . . . and bat your eyes at him a few times."
"I don't know," Kagome said, shaking her head slowly. "I don't think this is going to work . . ."
"Think of the village children, Kagome!" Miroku begged. "They would love this, you know they would!"
She narrowed her suspicious gaze on him. "Why do I think you're up to something?"
Miroku's eyebrows shot up, proclaiming his innocence. "Me? What would I be up to?"
"I don't know . . . why don't you tell me?"
"Did you bring that pretty pink blouse? I think you should wear that," Miroku went on, completely ignoring her questions.
"Yeah," she answered, her frown growing more wary. "Why? InuYasha doesn't care what I wear."
Miroku grinned. "You'd be amazed what he notices . . ."
Kagome wasn't sure what he meant by that, but she did go ahead and change her blouse. The pink silk was more form-fitting than many of her other shirts, and this one also had a wide scooped neckline. She wrinkled her nose as she gazed down at herself. Tugging on the back of the blouse to raise the neckline just a little, she had a feeling now she knew why Miroku had insisted that she wear this instead of the high-collared button-down blouse she was wearing before. Coupled with the flirty khaki crinkle-cotton skirt that barely reached mid-thigh, she was pretty sure that InuYasha was going to know right off that something was up.
Stopping short, Kagome slowly scanned the area. 'There's something here . . . a youkai . . .' Reaching over her shoulder for an arrow as she shrugged the bow off her shoulder, Kagome nocked back an arrow and waited. "I know you're there . . . come out," she said.
A distinct rustle in the bushes off to the right drew her attention. A little monkey darted out of the foliage and into the path. Sitting on its haunches, it stared at her in a curious way. 'It's so cute!' Kagome thought as she lowered the bow just a little. 'Youkai, sure . . . but . . . it looks harmless . . .'
"Aww," she crooned, putting the arrow away and set the bow aside as the tiny monkey rubbed its belly, the saddest frown curving down the edges of its mouth. "You poor thing! You're hungry, aren't you?"
The youkai let her scoop it up and let her cuddle it to her chest. "I'll take you back to the village and find you something to eat . . ." she mused, stroking its back. "Would you like that?"
The monkey nodded and seemed to smile. Kagome picked up her bow and pushed herself to her feet. "What's your name?" she asked as the monkey reached up to hold onto her neck. Suddenly, Kagome felt a jerk as the chain holding the Shikon no Tama tugged against the back of her neck. It snapped free, and the monkey leaped out of her arms and disappeared into the forest.
"Hey!" Kagome shouted as she plunged into the forest on the trail of the sneaky monkey. "Get back here! That wasn't very nice!"
The monkey kept running as Kagome chased after it, leaping over rocks and roots, ducking under low branches. Kagome stumbled a few times but caught herself. Two thoughts kept rushing through her panicked mind. 'See what you get for trusting cute animals?' she berated herself, followed closely by, 'InuYasha is going to freak . . .'
She grimaced in determination as she sped up. 'I'm going to catch that little jerk before InuYasha finds out . . . or he'll never forgive me . . .'
Wincing, his condemnations were already as clear as if he were beside her, yelling them: "Damn it, Kagome! How could you be so fucking careless! Youkai are youkai, and you can't just trust something because you fucking think it's cute!"
Stifling a groan as she realized exactly where they were headed, she pushed herself even faster as she whizzed past the base of Goshinboku.
"Oi, Kagome! What are you doing?"
She flinched at the sound of InuYasha's voice calling out to her. "No time," she yelled over her shoulder as she kept her eye on the monkey streaking toward the open meadow. "Monkey . . . stole jewel . . ."
She cringed as his bellow seemed to bend the trees. "You can yell at me later," she assured him without breaking her stride. "Just get the jewel!"
"Damn fucking straight I'm going to yell at you later! Stupid bitch! What the hell? Did you just fucking hand it to him?" he growled as he sped past her.
"Uh . . . not . . . exactly . . ." she mumbled.
Unfortunately, he heard her. "What the hell do you mean, 'not exactly'? What 'exactly' did you do?"
"He was hungry," she defended herself, "so I was going to take him back to the village, and he grabbed the jewel and ran."
InuYasha's expression might have been more humorous if the anger implied behind the telling bright crimson of his skin wasn't exclusively directed at her. "He's a double-damned youkai, Kagome! You-kai! Get it? How could you be so fucking stupid?" When she didn't answer, he spared her a quick glance only to see the tears spilling down her cheeks before speeding up and hollering back to her, "And no fucking crying!"
With a mighty leap, InuYasha landed in front of the monkey and wasted no time swiping up the creature and squeezing him tight. "Cough it up, ape-shit, or I'll beat it out of you."
The monkey youkai hung his head and reluctantly handed over the jewel. To Kagome's surprise, InuYasha batted the monkey on the head and let him go.
"Why'd you let him go?" Kagome asked between sniffles.
He frowned, staring at the ground with his trademark glare in place. "What? You wanted I should have killed him?"
" . . . No . . ."
"Then shut up, already."
Sinking down on a boulder, Kagome scrunched up her shoulders and drew a deep breath. "Thanks for getting back the jewel," she mumbled.
"Keh!" InuYasha snorted and stomped over to her, dropping the jewel into her lap before he strode away. "Don't be picking up any more strange youkai," he warned.
She sighed, staring at the glittering Shikon no Tama.
Glancing back over her shoulder, Kagome broke into a small smile when she saw him waiting for her. She hopped up and smoothed her skirt before dashing over to him and letting him drag her onto his back.
"I forgot to tell you, InuYasha . . . thanks for speaking up for Sango the other night . . . she really needed that."
"Keh," InuYasha snorted, cheeks reddening as he pushed off at a slow run. "What you said made sense."
Stealing a peek back at her, he shrugged. "Sure . . . it's gotta be hard, to lose so many pups."
"I wish I could help them," she ventured, happy that InuYasha seemed to be in a decent mood especially considering she had nearly lost the Shikon no Tama.
"Don't see how you could," he answered as he pushed off the ground to sail over the forest, "short of having a pup for them, and you can't do that."
Kagome giggled. "Yeah . . . that's ridiculous . . ."
"Anyway, we're leaving in the morning, wench. We've got to figure out how to get rid of that damn thing if even weak little monkeys are coming after it now."
Kagome sighed and snuggled just a little closer. "All right."
Kagome set the book aside and stirred the pot of stewing meat before settling back on the floor and pulling the text back into her lap. "It says here," she remarked out loud, "sometimes spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage, of the fetus-"
"What's a 'fetus'?" InuYasha interrupted as he sat nearby with his arms wrapped around Tetsusaiga.
"The unborn baby," Kagome explained before she continued reading, "-can be attributed to a variety of reasons ranging from anomalies in the fetus that would prevent further development to other defects in the mother that might prevent her from carrying a fetus to term . . ." Looking up from the book, she sighed. "So . . . there really isn't any telling exactly what might be causing your miscarriages, Sango, not without testing."
Sango looked sad and thoughtful. She nodded, forcing a dim smile that made Kagome wince.
"Keh!" InuYasha snorted. "Now translate that into stuff we understand, wench."
Kagome sighed. Miroku rubbed his forehead. "Thank you for trying to find some sort of reason, Kagome. Maybe it simply wasn't meant to be."
Shippou looked up from his drawing. "Can't you try again?"
"Shippou," Kagome said gently, "sometimes it isn't as easy as that."
Sango got up and moved toward the door.
"Sango? Where are you going?" Miroku asked.
Sango smiled again. "I just wanted to take a short walk . . . I'm fine."
Kagome got up, too. "Can I come with you?"
Thinking it over, the exterminator nodded. "I'd like that," she agreed.
The setting glowed in shades of oranges and reds, golden yellow that melded with shocking pink. Drifting into a somber violet, a deeper blue, Kagome stared at the horizon as a sense of unrequited longing filled her heart and soul. "Beautiful, isn't it?" Sango asked quietly.
Kagome sighed. "Yeah . . . it is."
Wandering through the village toward the forest, Kagome smiled wanly. It was such an automatic path for her that she hadn't even realized where they were going. Sango sighed and shook her head slowly. "Miroku and I were talking about it earlier . . . we were thinking about returning to my village."
Sango shrugged. "We thought perhaps . . . perhaps we're meant to be there instead of here, and maybe that's why I can't . . ."
"I hate the idea of you two being alone. There's no one else there . . ."
Sango nodded. "I know."
They walked in silence as the evening shadows fell over the forest, each of them lost in their own thoughts. "InuYasha wants to leave in the morning to see if that old sage really does know anything about the Shikon no Tama."
"Kagome . . . why don't you tell him how you feel? You know how he is. If you're waiting for him to say something first, you may not ever get anything resolved."
Kagome made a face. "I know," she agreed slowly. "I just . . . He's so different from other guys . . . sometimes I think he really does care about me, and others . . . It's complicated."
"It doesn't have to be, does it? There are times when he doesn't know anyone's looking, and he stares at you . . . no one can tell me that he doesn't care about you just as much as you care about him. I won't believe them."
Kagome flushed and nodded, hoping that Sango didn't realize just how badly she had needed to hear that. She sighed and winced as she remembered Sango's losses, and here she was, talking about herself and InuYasha . . . "Sango . . . I wish there were something I could do to help you. I feel so bad for you and Miroku . . ."
Sango smiled as the two women stopped at the base of Goshinboku. "You understand, Kagome. I don't ask more than that."
For some reason, Sango's reassurances only made Kagome feel worse.
"See there?" Sango broke into Kagome's bleak thoughts. Pointing at a small patch nearby, Sango's smile widened. "I want to put my flowers there. It's quiet, calm, peaceful, beautiful. I think . . . I think my children would have loved playing here."
"Oh, Sango . . . I think it's a perfect place."
InuYasha words echoed in her mind as the two women started back toward the village. 'Don't see how you could short of having a pup for them . . .'
Kagome frowned. That was ridiculous, right? She couldn't do that . . . Stealing a glance at the despair in her eyes that Sango couldn't hide, Kagome swallowed hard.
Final Thought from Miroku:
Kagome, that plan was fool-proof . . . next time, don't stop for monkeys. . .
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Metamorphosis): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.