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Vows

Chapter 31

Chapter 31: Vows

 

     “Please wake up, Inuyasha!”

 

     Kagome stared into Inuyasha’s face, looking for some sign that he heard her. She touched his hand where it lay limply on top of the blanket. His skin felt soft and warm under her fingertips. Picking up his hand, she brought it to her mouth and placed a light kiss on the back.

 

     “I brought ramen.” Not even a twitch. The mere mention of his favorite food was always guaranteed to bring him out of a sound sleep. He did, though, keep the cupboards stocked with a variety of foodstuffs once she convinced him that he and Shiro could not live on Lucky Charms and ramen.

 

     “But I like ramen,” he had whined. A small smile graced her lips as she thought about the long discussion they had had concerning proper nutrition. She harbored the sneaking suspicion that he loved ramen so much because it was the only thing he knew how to cook. Every time she offered to fix a meal or a snack he eagerly accepted.

 

     With exaggerated care, she placed his hand back on the bed and smoothed the blanket over his chest. Her eyes filled with tears. Angrily she blinked them away. What good would crying do? Remembering the last moments in the warehouse stiffened her determination not to break down. She had cried plenty when Inuyasha collapsed, bleeding from the hole in his stomach. It was Shiro who forced her to pull herself together, no matter how much she wanted to curl into a little ball and cry until the hurt went away. Frightened by the screaming and the blood, Shiro had started to howl. Kagome had pushed her own pain into the back of her mind to deal with later and concentrated on soothing the little boy.

 

     “Shiro’s going to be fine.” Kagome started talking abruptly--anything to stop the thoughts from running around in circles inside her head. “He had a slight relapse. But the doctors gave him something for the fever and said that he would be right as rain with a little rest.” She propped her elbows on the edge of the bed, resting her chin in her hands. For a moment she studied the sleeping Inuyasha’s face, admiring the sweep of his eyebrows and the strong line of his jaw. Following the straight line of his nose, her eyes rested on full lips that were slack with sleep. An irrational thought prompted her to lean forward. Catching herself with her lips centimeters away from his, she blushed and sat back in her chair. Taking advantage of a man in his sleep, that was so unlike her.

 

     “Anyway, what was I saying?” Kagome patted Inuyasha’s hand and went back to trying to distract herself. “They caught Naraku. The bastard tried to run away after he shot you.” She frowned. “Sesshoumaru gave him a black eye and later claimed to have bumped him accidentally with his elbow while apprehending him. I don’t think he is ever going to bother anybody ever again. Last I heard, he was being charged with murder, kidnapping, assault, resisting arrest, carrying a concealed weapon, attempted murder, jay walking, and unpaid parking tickets. Sesshoumaru was still listing crimes as Naraku was pushed into the back of the squad car.”

 

     Pushing herself away from the bed, she stood up and walked over to the window. Inuyasha had been lucky enough to get a room all to himself with a view to the outside. Granted, it was a view of the parking lot and the office building next door, but it was better than nothing. Kagome stared unseeing at the cars full of busy people going about their busy lives. It hurt to see Inuyasha like this. The doctors insisted that he was out of danger. But then why wouldn’t he wake up? Her heart clenched painfully at the thought of losing him.

 

     Shaking her head as if that could rid her of such gloomy thoughts, she returned to her previous post by the bed. The steady beeping and whirring of the various machines filled the room. Kagome picked up Inuyasha’s hand again and carefully threaded her fingers through his limp ones.

 

     “Please, Inuyasha,” she begged. “Open your goddamned eyes and look at me!” Nothing. Not even mild surprise at her unaccustomed swearing. “If you don’t wake up in five seconds, I’m never going to speak to you again!”

 

     She slid off the chair to kneel by the bed. Fresh tears slipped down her cheeks despite her earlier decision not to cry. Gripping his hand tighter, she buried her face in the blankets.

 

     “Please,” she sobbed.

 

     There was a small twitch, so slight that it went unnoticed. The beeping of the heart monitor increased slightly as the patient began to wake. Kagome continued to dampen the blankets and so, missed the first opening of Inuyasha’s violet eyes.

 

     Inuyasha blinked fuzzily at the unfamiliar ceiling. What happened? He tried to piece together recent events-- only coming up with something about a warehouse. Slowly he became aware that someone was crying, mumbling first pleas and then threats between sobs. Rolling his head to one side, he focused on the raven-haired girl kneeling beside him. He wanted to reach out and comfort her, but she had a death grip on his hand. Managing to lift his other hand, he touched her lightly on top of her bent head.

 

     “A’ome.” His voice was a mere whisper of sound, his tongue refusing to shape the letters properly. He swallowed to moisten his throat and tried again.

 

     “Kagome.” That was better, and loud enough to be heard as more than a breath of air.

 

     Kagome stilled at the gentle touch and the croaking of her name. Lifting, her tear-stained face she met the concerned and slightly unfocused gaze of Inuyasha.

 

     “Inuyasha?” she whispered, and then in a louder voice, “You’re awake!” Trying to hug as much of him as possible without disturbing the various tubes connected to him, she buried her face in his chest and burst into fresh tears.

 

     “What happened?” Inuyasha managed to ask when Kagome’s crying degenerated into occasional sniffles. “What am I doing here?”

 

     “Don’t you remember anything?” Kagome frowned in concern. The doctors had warned her that, because of the shock he had endured, his memory might be a little hazy concerning recent events.

 

     Inuyasha closed his eyes, brow furrowed in thought. “I remember a warehouse. It was raining and you were there and--“ His eyes snapped open as memory returned. “Where’s Shiro? Naraku didn’t hurt him, did he? I’ll rip every last hair out of his head by the roots if Shiro has so much as a mark on him! I’ll--“ Kagome placed one finger on his lips to stop his ranting.

 

     “Shiro is fine. He and Rin are staying with my mom.” She smiled. “They’ve become such good friends. Little Rin is quite a chatterbox.”

 

     “With your mom?” Inuyasha echoed. “How long have I been asleep?”

 

     Kagome lightly touched the back of Inuyasha’s hand. “It’s been three days, five hours, and four--“ She glanced at the clock on the wall. “No, make that eighteen minutes and twenty-five seconds.”

 

     Inuyasha blinked owlishly at her. “That long?” He tried to lever himself into a sitting position and winced. “Now I know why I’ve been out for that long. You don’t hurt when you’re asleep.” Kagome pushed him back into the pillows and fiddled with the controls to the bed, raising him into a more or less upright position. Not two seconds later, a nurse bustled into the room.  They most likely already knew that he was awake-- thanks to the machines monitoring his condition-- but since Kagome didn’t start yelling for “help,” they decided to give the two of them a few private moments.  The entire hospital staff, and most of the patients, were aware of the deep feelings between Kagome and Inuyasha, and were eager to do anything to further the course of true love.

 

     “It’s good to see that you’re finally awake,” she commented cheerfully. She shooed Kagome out of the way and started checking the readouts on the various machines. “We thought you were going to sleep forever. You’re young lady here hasn’t left your side more than two or three times. Ah, to be young and in love.” She sighed and smiled benevolently, ignoring Inuyasha’s bemused look and Kagome’s growing blush. “You should be able to go home soon. We’ll have a whole list of things you can’t do until you’re fully healed. A person with a hole in his stomach needs to take it easy for a while. You be good and I’ll bring you some nice broth.” With a last pat to Inuyasha’s head like he was a boy of eight instead of a grown man, the nurse whisked out of the room as quickly as she had arrived.

 

     “You stayed with me this whole time?” Inuyasha asked as Kagome reclaimed her seat by the bed.

 

     “Of course. You got shot because of me.” She ducked her head, watching her fingers pluck at a loose thread on the blanket. “If I hadn’t been so foolish as to get kidnapped, then none of this would have happened. Shiro was my responsibility and I couldn’t even keep him safe. I never would have forgiven myself if anything had happened to him.”

 

     “Look at me.”

 

     Kagome kept her head down, ignoring the command. “Shiro’s okay. He was a little freaked by all the blood and the shouting, but Rin calmed him down. She is an amazing little girl, so sweet and kind even after everything that has happened to her. I think Sesshoumaru is planning to adopt her.”

 

     “Look at me.” A hand cupped her chin, instantly stopping the babble. She raised her eyes slowly. “You little idiot. I love Shiro more than life itself, but there is someone else who also holds my heart. Someone who makes getting shot worth it as long as she is safe. Do you know who I am talking about, Kagome?” Kagome stared at him, a wild hope growing inside her. He took her hand, the one with the promise ring. His thumb lightly rubbed the gold band with its intertwined leaves. “I made a promise to you once, angel. I think it’s time that I stop lying to myself and fulfill that promise. What do you think?”

 

     Kagome smiled, fresh tears spilling down her cheeks. You would think, after the last few days, that she wouldn’t have any left. “You’d better be talking about what I think you’re talking about.”

 

     “Does this mean that you will marry me?”

 

     Instead of a verbal answer, Kagome leaned forward to press her lips against his in a long kiss.  The young nurse who came by to check on Inuyasha a few minutes later blushed and averted her gaze, backing quickly out of the room.  They never even noticed her, just continued kissing.

 

^**^

 

     “You are just the cutest little thing!”

 

     Kagome’s mother cooed and fussed at Shiro as she straightened the collar of his white dress shirt. Shiro made a face and tried to loosen the tie around his neck.

 

     “I can’t breathe, Nana,” he complained. “The noose is too tight.”

 

     “It’s not a noose, Shiro.” Mama batted his hands away, smoothing the collar for the eighth time that day. A light-hearted laugh sounded from the doorway. Shiro pulled away from her and looked over his shoulder.

 

     “Mommy!” He threw himself at Kagome, squealing in delight when she caught him and spun him around.

 

     Mama straightened with a sigh. “I can’t stop you from smudging your pretty new dress, dear, but at least let me hold your bouquet before it gets damaged.”

 

     Kagome tossed the slightly squashed bouquet in her mother’s direction. “How’s my little munchkin? Are you giving Nana a hard time?”

 

     “I’m not a munchkin,” Shiro corrected. “I’m the ring bear. I gets to carry a pillow with the rings on it. They’re tied on with ribbon. But I untied them. See?” Shiro reached his hand into the pocket of his pants. He pulled his hand out and proudly showed Kagome the two plain gold bands.”

 

     “Kagome!” Miroku crashed into the room, the cuffs of his shirt unbuttoned and hair going every which way but down. He clutched a small embroidered pillow in one hand. “I can’t find the rings! What am I going to do? Sango is going to kill me!”

 

     “You’ll be just fine, Miroku. Shiro’s been keeping an eye on the rings.” Shiro nodded and held out his hand, the rings nestled on his small palm. Miroku slumped in relief, running a hand through his hair and making it stick up more than it already was.

 

     Mama walked over and laid a motherly arm around his shoulders, steering him out of the room. “Come on, dear. I’ll help you put yourself together.”

 

     “What’s his problem?” Inuyasha sauntered through the door, glancing over his shoulder at the retreating Miroku.

 

     “Daddy!” Shiro squealed. “I gots the rings! See?” The rings flew from his outstretched hand. One rolled under a chair. The other one bounced to a stop about an inch in front of Inuyasha’s shoe. He bent down to pick it up and winced. Kagome deposited Shiro on the floor and hurried to his side.

 

     “Be careful,” she scolded. “The doctor said you’re not supposed to strain yourself.” She looped his arm around her shoulders, encouraging him to stand straight.

 

     Inuyasha grinned at her. “I guess this means no sit-ups for a while.” He laughed as she slapped his chest lightly, turning to watch Shiro emerge from under the chair with the runaway ring clenched in his fist. His jacket was coated in dust, the hair that Mama had carefully combed that morning flopping into his eyes, and a smudge of dirt on his right cheek.

 

     Kagome slipped away from Inuyasha and gave him a light shove in the direction of the door. “Make yourself useful. Go keep Miroku from finding the nearest bridge and jumping off of it. I’ll try to make Shiro presentable before Mama sees him.”

 

     “Your wish is my command.”

 

     It wasn’t long before the music was playing. The family and friends filling the church pews quieted as Shiro proudly carried the pillow and the rings that had been reattached to their ribbons. Little Rin walked solemnly down the aisle, scattering rose petals as Papa Fluffy had instructed her.

 

     Miroku, standing near the minister, had long since made the transition from nervous to petrified. Kagome smiled reassuringly at him as she followed behind Rin. Automatically he smiled back, but he didn’t really see her. All of his attention was fixed on the lovely goddess just entering the room. The traditional wedding march vibrated through the sanctuary, cueing everyone to stand.

 

     “Relax,” Inuyasha whispered beside him. “You’ll do fine.” Miroku managed a stiff little nod as the butterflies in his stomach became jet- propelled. “Just don’t forget to breathe.”

 

     Sango stopped beside him, smiling shyly through her veil. His stomach settled and he finally remembered to breathe. He took her hand and together they turned to face the minister.

 

     Life was grand.

 

^**^

 

     “Kagome Higurashi!”

 

     Kagome stepped forward for the customary handshake, accepting her high school diploma with her other hand. She turned slightly to acknowledge the cheers and applause from those who came to attend the graduation ceremony. The loudest cheers erupted from the small group of people sitting in the front row.

 

     “That’s my Mommy!” Shiro crowed. Before anyone could stop him, he jumped down and ran across the floor. Climbing onto the stage, he wrapped his small arms around Kagome in a fierce hug. Kagome laughed and scooped him into her arms. There was a lot of good-natured laughter among the audience and puzzled looks exchanged by the school employees. Nobody suspected that she might have a child, especially one who looked old enough to be in kindergarten. The principal shrugged. The girl had graduated. He had done his duty by getting her and the other seniors through high school, what they did with their lives were their business now.

 

     Kagome returned to her seat, carrying Shiro who refused to return to his place in the audience. He perched on Kagome’s lap, wearing her mortar board and clutching her diploma in both hands. Shiro proceeded to charm everyone within five feet of him. At the end of the ceremony, he helped Kagome toss her mortar board into the air along with rest of her graduating class.

 

     Inuyasha wasn’t too happy when Kagome opted to attend a post graduation party without him.

 

     “We’ll have the rest of our lives together,” she told him. “Some of these people I may never see again.”

 

     He nodded, but his mood soured even further when Hojo hesitantly approached. Hojo was dense, but he wasn’t dumb. He remembered all too well what happened the last time. Keeping a wary eye on a glowering Inuyasha, he cleared his throat.

 

     “Congratulations, Higurashi.”

 

     “Hojo!” Kagome turned with a smile. “We made it!” She threw her arms around him before he could react. As dull as he was when it came to dating him, she still counted him as a friend. Hojo blushed and stammered, hesitantly returning the hug. After a few more words exchanged, Hojo excused himself and went to join a girl waiting for him by the refreshment table.

 

     “Why did you have to hug him?” Inuyasha complained once Hojo was out of earshot.

 

     Kagome raised an eyebrow. “What are you jealous for?”

 

     “I am not jealous! It’s just... well... I don’t want you hugging other guys. The only guy you can hug is me!”

 

     “What about Shiro?”

 

     “Of course you can hug Shiro.”

 

     “What about Souta? Or Grandpa?”

 

     “I guess.” He shot her an annoyed look. “You know what I mean.”

 

     Kagome laughed and linked her arm with his. She glanced at the refreshment table to see Shiro carefully selecting a large piece of chocolate cake covered in vanilla frosting. Mama poured him a glass of red punch. “I’m yours, Inuyasha. Never forget it.”

 

     Inuyasha’s expression softened. “You’re mine. And I’m yours. I’ll never forget that as long as I live.”

 

^**^

 

     Kagome twisted in front of the mirror in the dressing room, checking out the back of her gown. She fingered the fringe of lace on the bodice and smoothed her hands over the skirt.

 

     “Quit twisting, dear. You’ll wrinkle the fabric.” Mama knelt at Kagome’s feet, making a few infinitesimal adjustments to the hem.

 

     Grunting from the direction of the hallway preceded the large package that was maneuvered through the narrow door. She couldn’t see who it was because his face was hidden from view.  The package had so many strategically placed holes that it looked like Swiss cheese.

 

     “Hey, Kagome! We got a present!” Inuyasha’s cheerful voice filled the room.

 

     “Inuyasha!” Kagome shrieked. “What are you doing here? Don’t you know it’s bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony.”

 

     Depositing the box in the middle of the floor, Inuyasha shot a quizzical look at Kagome. “Why? I’ve seen you before. It’s not like you’re going to suddenly sprout fangs and claws.”

 

     “Well, why did you bring that box in here? Go put it with the rest of the wedding presents.”

 

     Inuyasha handed her a note. “This note says that we’re supposed to open it before the ceremony.”

 

     Kagome took the piece of paper from him, scanning it quickly. “It’s from Kikyo. It says ‘I’m sorry for the trouble I caused. Please accept this as a token of my apology. Tell Shiro that I’m sorry I frightened him.’” Faint scratching sounds came from the box, followed by a whine.

 

     Inuyasha ripped open the top of the box and reached inside. He straightened, holding a small black and white puppy in his arms. The puppy squirmed in Inuyasha’s arms, his little pink tongue darting out to lick the young man’s face.

 

     “He’s adorable!” Kagome scratched the puppy’s ears, laughing as he tried to lick her fingers. His tail wagged so hard that his whole back end wiggled.

 

     “Why didn’t Kikyo give him to you herself?” Mama stroked the silky-fine fur.

 

     “Kikyo earned some jail time with her part in the kidnapping,” Inuyasha explained. “Part of the decision of the courts is that she isn’t allowed to be within 100 yards of Shiro.  Her lawyer delivered the box a few minutes ago.”

 

     Mama turned to check the clock on the wall. “Oh, my goodness! Look at the time! Shoo, Inuyasha! I need to help Kagome finish getting ready!” Inuyasha allowed himself to be pushed out of the room, still cradling the puppy in his arms.

 

     Kagome was escorted down the aisle by Grandpa, following the trail of flower petals strewn by Rin. Kouga grinned at her as she walked by. Inuyasha had grumbled, but finally agreed that his long-time rival could attend the wedding. Kagome knew that Kouga chose to sit on the bride’s side merely to irritate Inuyasha. But she counted him as a friend, and her husband-to-be was already proving himself powerless against the puppy face. It only took five minutes of the “look” before Inuyasha caved in.

 

     She smiled to see Sango standing at the front of the room as the matron of honor. At three months, her pregnancy was just beginning to show. On the other side of the minister stood Inuyasha and Miroku. Inuyasha couldn’t keep his eyes off of her; he looked like someone had hit him in the back of the head with a board. Miroku had promised her that he would keep Inuyasha from fainting or running away. She smiled. Married life agreed with her lecherous friend. Instead of trying to grope other women, he stopped everyone to show off the first ultrasounds of his unborn child.

 

     Kagome barely heard the words of the ceremony; she was too busy staring into Inuyasha’s eyes. One minute she was taking her place beside him, the next he was lifting the veil to deliver a chaste kiss to her lips.

 

     “I’ll give you a better one later,” he promised in a husky whisper. Kagome blushed. Shiro ran forward to attach himself to his daddy’s leg.

 

     “Is it later, Daddy? When do I get my baby sister?”

 

     Inuyasha picked his son up, supporting him with one arm and slipping the other one around Kagome’s waist. “Mommy and I will start working on that tonight, Shiro.”

 

     Kagome smiled happily, not minding the laughter from those who were listening to the last few remarks. She was married to the most wonderful man in the world and mother to an adorable little boy. After everything they had gone through, they were finally a family. She touched the angel charm on her wrist.

 

     Sometimes wishes do come true.

 

^**^

 

Food for thought (courtesy of Maburoshi Aoi Bara):

 

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened

copyright: The Literary Dragon 2004