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The Vagaries of Fate

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Kagome never could tell if she had the worst luck ever, or the greatest. Even after everything, late at night when she was curled up with her mate and children, she still didn’t know if her choices were good or bad. But as a soothing growl came from behind her, and a small head nuzzled into her chest, she couldn’t bring herself to regret them. Selfish as they surely were, she had never been happier. And not even the ones left only in her memories could begrudge her this hard-earned happiness.

~o0o~

This journey started as hers always had; with a cat, a well, and her own propensity for clumsiness.

Chimes sounded in the spring breeze, setting Kagome’s heart at ease with their familiar song. Lately it had been harder for her to keep up her normal cheerful attitude, and not many things could soothe her anymore.

Thunder boomed in the distance, and she glanced up at the sky. It had already rained in the quiet hours of the morning, leaving puddles scattered across the courtyard. But the clouds were gathering again, fiercer than before. A storm is coming, she thought distantly.

Kagome sighed, sweeping the cobblestones close to the Goshinboku’s enclosure. It had been three years since her adventures in the Sengoku Jidai had come to a close.

She smiled wryly as she caught a glimpse of herself in a nearby puddle, seeing a young woman who looked so close to Kikyou, but with subtle differences. She felt comfortable in the traditional priestess robes, feeling that it somehow brought her closer to the past. It didn’t matter that she had only ever worn the robes a few times back then; it was still a connection to that time in her life when there were so few left to her.

 

Grandpa had insisted she wear the haori and hakama traditionally worn by priestesses for the Shinto wedding taking place on the Higurashi shrine. He wanted her help with the ceremony, and Kagome was honored to help a couple achieve their happiness. She steadfastly ignored the little voice inside wondering about her happy ending.

 

She continued sweeping, giving the well house a wide berth. Some days she did that area first, just to get it over with; others she out it off until last. Either way, it hurt to go near. Today just happened to be one of the days she was too chicken to face her demons.

 

Kagome mustered a wry smile at that thought. It disappeared all too quickly.

 

That was the problem, she mused. She missed her demons.

 

Three years had passed since she had last crossed the well, since she had felt youki tingle across her senses. Three years since she had seen Sango, Miroku, little Shippo and…

 

 Kagome’s heart gave a dull thud.

 

Inuyasha.

 

Graduation was only a few days away. After the final battle with Naraku, Kagome had thrown herself into her studies, trying to bury her grief and confusion. The well wouldn’t open for her, no matter what she tried. Sometime after the shock had worn off and the depression was starting to set in, Kagome had managed to convince herself that all the well needed to work again was for her to finish up her business in the modern era. And school had always been the biggest hindrance to her feudal adventures. With that goal in mind, Kagome had managed to stave off the worst effects of her depression, and worked almost single-mindedly for three years.

 

Her grip on the broom handle tightened convulsively, knuckles painfully white. But there hadn’t even been a flicker of magic in the air. It was becoming harder and harder for her to be optimistic. Kagome’s lips quirked at the thought. She, the one that never lost faith, was slowly losing it now. How bitterly ironic. She just wished that there would be some sign-anything- to keep her from giving up on that last spark of hope in her chest.

 

Sound startled her, making Kagome blink. Scratching, followed by a plaintive meow from behind had Kagome turning towards the well house.

 

“Buyo?”

 

Another yowl and scratch that rattled the sliding wood door answered her.

 

Kagome shook her head, an amused smile tugging at her lips. That silly cat, she thought in fond exasperation.

 

She walked over and slid open the door, letting the fat feline into the yard. She almost had the door closed again when out of the corner of her eye a blue spark of light caught her attention.

 

Kagome shoved the door open so hard it shook in its frame.

 

Heart in her throat, she approached the well as cautiously as if it was an easily spooked animal, and peered inside. The disappointment was crushing. Tears pricked her eyes as Kagome straightened up, blinking rapidly. No, she wouldn’t cry, not again…

 

Taking a deep breath, she turned around – and promptly slipped on a leaf that she could swear hadn’t been there before, and fell down the well.

 

Blue light surged up to engulf her, and before it took her Kagome was sure she heard tinkling laughter. She never hit the bottom.

 

~o0o~

                                                     

A procession marched through the forest, using the trees as cover while trying to traverse as much ground as they could with a storm threatening to start above their heads. Their lord, riding a decorated horse, who had been meeting with an ally at a neutral area, had ordered his scouts to find a shortcut back to his holdings, after a messenger had arrived and spoken privately with him. Whispers among the servants and guards were that his young daughter had taken ill, and that he should hurry home to see her before she passed. Tragic, some said, to lose a child so soon after his lady wife had passed. Others wondered if the gods were upset with him. But the lord was well loved among his vassals, and all the soldiers were tired from the last skirmish, so the marching pace had picked up without a compliant.

 

When the scouts returned with a new route, they also brought news of a clearing big enough to shelter small procession a half day’s journey away. It even has a well, they reported to their commanding officer, who then informed the lord. So it was decided that they would set up camp there.

 

They made it just a little before nightfall.

 

Upon arrival, the clearing was buzzing with activity. One group of soldiers set up a small shelter for the lord, while the servants saw to the lord’s comfort. The rest staked out their spots for the night. A small group of servants made their way through the clearing to the well, water skins at the ready. When they reached the well, however, and glanced down they were greeted with the sight of not water, but a young woman in the red and white robes of a priestess.

 

~o0o~

 

Touga - Inu no Taisho, Lord of the Western Lands- was feeling restless.

 

For the past se’enight he had been patrolling his borders with his heir, showing Sesshoumaru the lay of the land and becoming attuned to it, as his own sire had done with him. He had sent his pup back to the shiro at dawn to start his lessons with his mother, as per the agreement. Touga trained their pup to the duties of the Western Lord for six consecutive days, and the seventh was set aside for the Western Lady’s duties.

 

His consort, the lady Satori, acting Western Lady, took care of most of the household and day to day running of the shiro, as well as most formal functions. Both the Lord and Lady had thought it best that Sesshoumaru be trained in all responsibilities as the Western heir now that he had started the process of becoming a sexually mature, adult youkai. Ostensibly to teach Sesshoumaru everything he needed to know when the time came for the pup to pick up the mantel of Lord of the West; in truth, it was a subtle way to encourage their taciturn pup to hold respect for those in positions to aid him. Much of the Western Lady’s time was spent hearing petitions and dealing with the horde of servants that kept the western fortress running. His pup was powerful, but his lack of compassion for those he didn’t acknowledge was worrisome.

 

Though, Touga mused, some of his haughtiness could be attributed to the lack of interaction with pups his own age growing up. It didn’t help that he had apparently inherited his mother’s standoffish nature.

 

The big inuyoukai sighed, putting his musings on his son aside and turning toward the last stretch of his territory he had left to cover. He had a nagging suspicion that something important had or was going to happen, and each step he took closer to this outermost corner of his lands deepened that feeling.

 

As he walked, Touga imbued traces of his youki into his surroundings, serving the dual purpose of marking his territory and strengthening his connection with the land, as each of his predecessors had.

 

A small smile tugged its way onto his lips as he came upon the clearing holding the god tree. This was one of his favorite parts of the patrol, and he usually saved it for last for just that reason. Usually the semi-sentient tree would bring a wave of peace to him whenever he made his way to this area. But today was to be different, for instead of the blanket of calm he was expecting Touga felt excitement and faint uneasiness emanating from the deified tree.

 

Concerned, Touga leapt up on one of the tree’s larger roots and laid a clawed hand on the massive trunk. “What is the matter, old one?” he questioned softly, nudging the tree’s aura with his youki.

 

Goshinboku didn’t answer verbally, like Touga’s old friend the tree youkai Bokuseno, but an image of the old well nearby and a more potent sense of excitement mixed with uneasiness, flashed through the inuyoukai’s mind.

 

“The Bone Eater’s well?” Touga clarified. The resulting surge of affirmation and urgency prodded the inuyoukai to investigate. Touga jumped down from his perch and made his way from the short distance from the god tree to the well quickly, picking up the sounds and scents of many humans on the way. One was familiar to him, and it took him a moment to place it. When he did, it settled the agitation that had started to work its way into his chest as to why a regiment of armed humans were making their way into his lands.

 

Akihito, a human daimyo from his lands, and his retinue was camped in the clearing housing the Bone Eater’s Well. There would be no bloodshed if the humans caught sight of him. All the human lords on his land had to swear fealty to the Inu no Taisho upon gaining their status. Akihito was one of the few not openly hostile or cowed by Touga; in fact, he seemed almost curious of the inuyoukai lord, making him the human Touga preferred to deal with. But the fuss his appearance would cause would be taxing on his temper, which, by the time he was free to see to this little mystery the god tree had set him on, would have frayed considerably.

 

Luckily, dark had fallen for some time and the humans had gone to sleep but for the sentries, so he wouldn’t need to deal with any misguided heroics or hysterics. The daiyoukai slipped past the guards in the forest without a flicker of attention drawn to his presence.

 

Stepping silently from the cover of the trees and into the clearing holding the well, Touga took a deep breath to sort through the scents embedded in the surrounding area. And paused.

 

One of the most intriguing scents he had ever come across was layered lightly in the air; Touga sniffed again and turned his head to look at the well, pinpointing the strongest location of the delectable scent. The daiyoukai leapt lightly to the rim of the well, scenting the air carefully. And it originated from inside the Bone Eater’s well.

 

He realized that the owner of this puzzling scent had to be the cause of Goshinboku’s agitation. What he couldn’t tell was what this being was. There was none of the distinct wildness that characterized youkai in it, though there was also none of the stink of slow decay that underlay humans and mortal animals. Hm. Curious.

 

With that thought one of the most frightening but seldom seen aspects of the Inu no Taisho’s personality was let loose, focusing on the unsuspecting, temporally displaced priestess. His insatiable curiosity.

 

~o0o~

 

Kagome was relieved to find that even though she was over two hundred years in the past of the past (and wasn’t that weird) the terrain was still similar enough that she could recognize where she was. And, she thought with relief, the hot spring she and Sango used to frequent was close to the party’s camp.

 

The lord of the men who had found her, Akihito as he had introduced himself, was kind enough to offer her a set of haori and hakama from one of the female servants to use while she washed her own robes during her bath. Mud and other things Kagome would rather not identify clung to them from her little trip down the Bone Eater’s Well. He had asked if she, after inquiring if she was well-versed in the healing arts, would see his daughter, who had taken sick while he was away. Kagome had jumped at the excuse to stay here as long as she could. Even though it wasn’t her feudal era, it was close enough to pretend she was going to see Inuyasha and the others soon.

 

She sighed, and then mentally berated herself for having such depressing thoughts now that she had finally gotten the well to work. Kagome ducked beneath the warm water and scrubbed her hair vigorously. Content just to splash around for now, Kagome was glad she could convince the daimyo that she would be fine on her own, taking a page out of Miroku’s book and playing the “purifying myself of evil” card. They had been willing to let her go it alone after that.

 

Coming up for air, Kagome stilled. The faintest trace of youki brushed against her senses. Closing her eyes in concentration she focused on the youki, pinpointing it close to her. Too close.

 

Instincts ingrained from too many life-or-death situations to count, Kagome gathered her power close to her in case she needed to attack, habit having her mentally searching for her bow. Of course, she didn’t have one and Kagome mentally cursed her carelessness. Next time she went out alone she would ask to borrow one. Still, she didn’t necessarily need one anymore. After being back in her time, one of the ways she had kept her hope to return to the Sengoku Jidai alive had been to train her miko powers. But there was something that “tasted” familiar to her miko sense that had her holding back. And there was only one way to find out why that was.

 

Bracing herself, Kagome turned to face the youkai. The sight that greeted her was so unexpected that later she fully blamed what happened next on Inuyasha.

 

There was a big daiyoukai standing on the edge of the hot spring in attire that Sesshoumaru would have approved of, a white furry pelt over each shoulder, and features similar enough to both inu brothers that they had to be blood relatives.

 

But all Kagome’s flustered mind could comprehend at that moment was that there was a silver haired, golden-eyed youkai male watching her bathe, and it triggered a by now ingrained response.

 

Shrieking, Kagome covered her chest and sank down into the water. “Pervert! Sit!”

 

~o0o~

 

Tracking down the female- for that was the only sure fact he could determine of the owner of this beguiling scent- to the nearby camp of humans wasn’t surprising; Touga had been able to infer from the scent traces left in the well’s clearing that a handful of men had brought the female out of the well and taken her with them. He had to guess that she had been unconscious at the time, as there was no sign of either a struggle or further movement from the female. No blood either, so she couldn’t have been wounded.

 

What was surprising, was that she had left the camp without any signs of a fight. Surely whatever this creature was, she was not threatening or suspicious looking to a human if they had just let her go.

 

Reigning in his youki so it didn’t even leave a scent, Touga stalked closer to his prey. He wanted to observe first, to see what manner of creature could ruffle a god tree’s figurative feathers.

 

Booted feet stepped quietly up to a hot spring. He could taste the water saturating the air, but didn’t break through the tree cover. Angling himself out of sight Touga took to the trees, and then settled himself in a good, high perch that gave him a clear view of the water without giving away his position to watch and wait.

 

Touga’s first sight of her was not what he had expected. Small and black-haired, a human woman was washing herself in the water. Sun darkened skin belied hours out in the sun, and muscles were faintly defined in her arms and upper body. Her back was to him, so he could not see her face. Red and white fabric was draped over a dry rock that had obviously been washed caught his eye and sharpened his interest even more. A human miko.

 

His narrowed his eyes in speculation. The Goshinboku must have some connection to this priestess for it to react so strongly to her presence. So far Touga had seen nothing (besides her scent) out of the ordinary about her. A little test was in order.

 

Relaxing his hold on his youki just enough for someone with very good spiritual powers to sense, Touga dropped to the ground and strode over to the edge of the pool just as the woman came up for air. Her whole body tensed for a second before relaxing into battle-ready looseness. So, she was familiar enough with fighting that her body reacted accordingly and powerful enough to sense his youki, faint as it was, he concluded. What was even more interesting was that she didn’t immediately lash out the moment she sensed him. In his considerable experience, priestesses and monks tended to purify first, and ask questions never. In his long life he had known only one human priestess that had not adhered to those precepts, and even she was not nice to most youkai in any stretch of the word. Now she began to turn to face him. Part of Touga, the part that was both a soldier and a general, approved. Assess your opponent first; then decide how to deal with them.

 

He had just one moment to register pretty, even beautiful, features for a human, before she shrieked at him, calling him a pervert, and for some unfathomable reason, ordering him to sit.

 

Well, that was a reaction he had never gotten before. Touga wasn’t sure if he should be amused or offended.

 

He decided a little bit of both.

 

“Woman, if you were looking to insult one who means you no harm, then you have succeeded. Unless there is another explanation?” Touga tried to keep a stern face, but couldn’t quite help the slight quirk at the corner of his mouth.

 

The little woman peeked up at him sheepishly, “S-sorry, it’s a habit.” Then she blinked- a curious blue he had never before seen in a human- and narrowed her eyes at him. “Wait a minute! Why are you still here?”

 

He raised an imperious brow, mulling over her strange explanation. He would think on her answer later. Now was the time to collect the answers he had tracked her down for. “This one has questions for you.”

 

“Well, you can do it without looking at me! Turn around or come back later,” she huffed indignantly. She sank lower into the water, the steam doing a good job of concealing her body until only her head and shoulders were readily visible; her hair radiated around her in an inky cape. She began inching to her left where her clothing lay as she seemed to debate with herself, before coming to a conclusion. “Wait, nevermind. Just turn around so I can get dressed.”

 

“So you can attack me from behind? Forgive me, miko, but I am no fool.” Touga scoffed, forgetting in his anger to speak in the formal, aristocratic tense. His sire would be appalled, but Touga could never bring himself to care for such things. He had to put up the façade in his own shiro and when speaking with allies who were not close friends, but he’d be damned if he had to be anything but himself in the wilds of his territory. Fucking politics. He scowled menacingly down the miko.

 

Who was looking, dare he say it, offended by his remark.

 

“I would never do that!” she exclaimed, rising a little out of the water in her agitation, blue eyes blazing. His look of mild disbelief spurred her on. “I’ve only ever attacked someone to defend myself or my friends. I swear!” Little arcs of pink energy crackled over her skin (another thing unusual about this girl; all other monks or priestesses Touga had encountered had power colored shades of blue or purple. And none had ever manifested power just by becoming agitated. She was very powerful indeed.), but he could smell the sincerity of her words.

 

And that was why he was willing to humor this little human woman when other youkai would have just killed her for her insolence long before. That, and he couldn’t resist the puzzle she represented. Because really, what kind of a miko would be so seemingly tolerant of youkai?

 

“Very well,” he finally said. Giving her one last measuring look, Touga turned and walked a few paces away and settled himself against a tree facing away from the woman. He would trust this little miko for now. Besides, even if she did end up attacking it wouldn’t be him who would be left dead on the forest floor.

 

Thankfully, Kagome couldn’t read minds, and was too busy going about the business of drying her body and hastily redonning her miko robes, which were still slightly damp, to care much about what the youkai was thinking. Kagome made a face down at them before sighing. There really wasn’t much else to do as she had used her borrowed clothes to dry. So, she sucked up her discomfort and shimmied into her outfit. Once her modesty had been restored, Kagome calmed down enough to realize just who she had been mouthing off to. She had to brace herself against the rocks as her knees gave out at her epiphany. Oh gods, she had just offended the Inu no Taisho; she had just called Inuyasha’s father a pervert. He couldn’t be anyone else. The silver hair and golden eyes were a dead giveaway, even though Kagome had never met another inu youkai besides Sesshoumaru to compare the coloring. And thinking back now, his facial features and armor were too similar to both the inu brothers, with the more masculine features of Inuyasha, but more refined like Sesshoumaru’s delicate features.

 

Gulping, Kagome realized she would have to do some fancy conversational maneuvering to keep him from learning her secret. Too much could be changed by this meeting if she wasn’t careful. Kagome wasn’t sure if she was prepared for this.

 

“Miko, I know you are finished. Come out now so we may talk.”

 

His voice floated back to her, neutral tone telling her nothing of his mood, but still making her jump, swearing a little beneath her breath. His answering chuckle let her know he had heard her stumble.

 

Well, there’s no putting it off any longer, she thought, and with a mental prayer to any deity listening, walked out from behind the rocks and over to where the daiyoukai was waiting.

 

Her heart gave a little twinge at the sight of him. He was sitting against a tree like she had seen Sesshoumaru do, but sat cross-legged like Inuyasha. Kagome wondered how she would make it through this encounter if she kept being reminded of this youkai’s sons.

 

Kagome went to stand in front of the daiyoukai and bowed formally. “Good evening, Inu no Taisho-sama. I’m sorry for my rudeness, but I wasn’t expecting anyone to be out this late.” She straightened up and smiled at him in time to see him incline his head in acknowledgement. “My name is Kagome.” Kagome thought it would be best if she just gave him one name. Hopefully after this he would forget about her and wouldn’t bother mentioning her name to Sesshoumaru. She paused. Would Sesshoumaru even be alive at this time? She did some quick calculations in her head. Sesshoumaru was probably alive, but she was pretty sure Inuyasha wasn’t. From what she had put together over their time together he was around two hundred years old (including the fifty years he had been sealed). So at least there was that, though she was slightly disappointed over not being able to see Inuyasha as a child.

 

Kagome felt the weight of the Taisho’s gazed on her and mentally smacked herself. Focus. She turned her attention back to the youkai in front of her and tried to surreptitiously study him.

 

Distracted by the similarities before, Kagome now took the time to notice the differences.  His silver hair was tied up above his head, and one jagged blue stripe adorned each cheek. He also had more armor covering him than Sesshoumaru. Kagome couldn’t help but admit to herself that he was beautiful.

 

When Kagome met his eyes he arched a brow that wasn’t as thick as his youngest son’s, but still on the unruly side. Even his silver bangs were a little messy, with a little wave to them. “Like what you see, miko?”

 

Kagome flushed at the insinuation, but focused on different part of his remark. “My name is Kagome; Ka-Go-Me,” she enunciated, hands flying to her hips. A small part of her brain warned her to be more careful, but the bigger part of her, the part that had always been irritated by being referred to as ‘woman’ or ‘wench’, shoved it away. “I just gave it to you, so you could do me the courtesy of using it. Honestly,” she muttered, “it must be a canine thing.”

 

Because she was still looking at his face during her rant Kagome swore she saw a glint of amusement in his golden eyes before his face settled into an impassive mask once more. “Very well, Kagome-” he stressed her name in such a way that made her twitch in what she firmly told herself was annoyance “-A canine thing? Do you associate with youkai so much?”

 

Kagome winced inwardly. She walked right into that one. Damn youkai senses. She would have to proceed carefully. (She also noticed he hadn’t given his name, which made her curious because no one who had ever spoken about him in her hearing had ever told her it.) “I have come across some wolves in my travels,” she began cautiously, knowing from experience that sometimes youkai with sharper senses could smell a lie. “And one of my best friends is an inu hanyou.”

 

That definitely got a reaction. The Inu no Taisho leaned forward, looking so much like one of those hunting dogs Kagome had seen on television that it should’ve been funny, except that intense predatory focus was trained on her. She managed not to fidget.

 

“An inu hanyou?” Those golden eyes were fixed on her face as if he could see right through her.

 

Kagome nodded.

 

Touga flashed through different possibilities in less than a second and came up with nothing. None of his pack had had a human lover in centuries, and most were too honorable to touch an unwilling woman. The rest would most likely swear to celibacy than touch a human woman. And a bitch wouldn’t have been able to hide a pregnancy from everyone. The gods knew the servants knew everything and word would have trickled down to the aristocracy. He turned back to the miko- no Kagome, he thought with a brief flash of amusement- and asked, “What is this hanyou’s name, or do you know their parentage?”

 

Her face closed into an impressive mask, but her eyes gave her away. Even though there was a trace of fear, he had the distinct impression it wasn’t for herself, if the stubbornness almost overshadowing it was any indication. She wasn’t going to tell him. He respected loyalty that strong, but it didn’t suit his purposes now.

 

“I could make you tell me.” Touga cracked his knuckles menacingly, bringing attention to his claws. He found himself reluctant to hurt her, this strange miko who admitted to being friends with youkai, but if there was a pup out there he was obligated to bring the child in and teach their heritage to whoever it was. And all hanyou needed to learn to use and control their instincts so they wouldn’t be a danger to themselves and those around them. As Alpha it was his job to step in if a parent couldn’t or wouldn’t.

 

Kagome snorted. “I would be dead before I told you anything I didn’t want to, and if I died you wouldn’t get any answers at all.”

 

His reaction surprised him as much as it did her.

 

Touga threw back his head and laughed, full-throated from the belly, and grinned crookedly at her, showcasing one of his fangs. “I commend you for your loyalty, miko,” he got a frown for that, but he ignored it. “But if there is a pup that I don’t know about, they may not have been taught how to work through their instincts. Human blood muddles what is usually second nature. I am Alpha; it is my job to look out for my packs’ pups.” He could see understanding and regret cross her expressive face. It was refreshing to see someone wear their emotions so openly after centuries of dealing with political alliances, both youkai and the occasional human.

 

“I’m sorry,” she told him with apparent sincerity. She shook her head, eyes sad. “He’s in a place beyond my reach.”

 

Though the wording was unusual, Touga assumed she meant the hanyou was dead. He briefly wondered if she had had a hand in this hanyou’s death, but discarded the idea. Even if she could lie with her face (which he doubted even after just a short time with her), she couldn’t lie with her scent. The sadness and grief tinged her unusual scent in a way that reached out to his protective instincts. “My condolences,” he rumbled.

 

A startled look flashed through her eyes, there and gone before he truly had a chance to register it. She gave him a sad smile. “Thank you.”

 

He nodded in acknowledgement and gestured to the ground in front of him. “Sit.”

 

Touga knew she saw the irony in that order from the wry smile she flashed him, but complied, settling down with her legs tucked to her side and her hands in her lap. She looked at him expectantly, directly in the eyes. It made him wonder why his instincts weren’t clamoring for her submission, like how for any other who showed such obvious dominance. She didn’t seem to realize she was doing something that in inu youkai culture would be perceived as a challenge.

 

Touga found that he didn’t want to discourage it. He had a feeling his dealings with this human would become unpleasant if he pushed too forcefully. Besides, he found he liked that defiance in Kagome.

 

But now was the time for answers. He had been sidetracked long enough.

 

“Today I came across a most peculiar situation,” Touga began. “While walking my territory I came to visit with the god tree Goshinboku.” He watched her very carefully and caught the widening of Kagome’s eyes and smelt her surprise. He continued, “The old one gave me an image of the well made from its branches, and urged me to go to it. I have learned to heed the wisdom of trees.” He flashed another fanged smile at her and filed away her reaction for later perusal. She didn’t seem surprised or confused at his small jest. “And at the well I came across a scent that was neither human nor youkai that began in the well, which I followed here, to you.” He leaned forward for the kill. “So tell me, Kagome, what are you?”

 

Kagome was in shock. First this daiyoukai, her best friend’s father, had come so close to the heart of her time traveling secret that even those who had seen her parading around in her middle school uniform (which she had to admit was not her brightest moment) hadn’t come close to. Her only consolation was that it looked like he was still in the dark as to the exact nature of her circumstances. She would do her best to keep it that way, for all their sakes. The best thing to do in these situations, she had learned, was to deflect. At least she could pick an honest reason to base her deception on.

 

“I’m human,” Kagome could only think to say. This shock was in no way faked. “I’ve always been human.”

 

The Inu no Taisho studied her, and Kagome felt her heart flip. “You are not lying,” he said slowly to himself. “But you do not smell mortal, and you are no youkai. Not even a kitsune could duplicate holy power.”

 

This was news to Kagome.

 

He cocked his head at her, and his silver hair slid over his shoulder. Kagome felt a brief moment of hair envy. She wished she had hair that smooth; hers was wild and had a little curl to it. “If you do not know, it is useless to question you about this.” Before the relief could become too entrenched the Taisho spoke again. “But you seem to know about the well and how you came to be there. Tell me.”

 

Kagome clamped her mouth shut and shook her head. Youki started to settle heavily around them. She scowled at him, her power rising to the surface of her skin to counter his. He raised an eyebrow at her display of power. “Don’t try to intimidate me. I can’t tell you.”

 

“Why?” he asked. He sounded genuinely curious.

 

“It’s not safe.” That was all she would say.

 

“I can take care of myself,” he retorted, face pulled into haughty lines.

 

Kagome sighed. Now she went and stepped on his stupid youkai pride. At least she had Sesshoumaru as a model to work from. She’d had a lot of practice playing peacemaker between him and Inuyasha. Their father couldn’t be as bad as the two of them. Hopefully.

 

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” she began carefully. “It’s not necessarily you I’m worried about; it’s my friends. Their lives could be ruined if I tell anyone, even you.” Most especially him.

 

He looked at her for a long, strained moment. Then he inclined his head regally and Kagome gave an inward sigh of relief. “Very well. It is late, and we should both be headed for our rest.”

 

He stood up in a smooth, sinuous movement that shouldn’t have been possible with all that armor. He reached down a hand for her, and after a quick mental struggle she took it. His hand completely enveloped hers. Tugging her up, she had to brace a hand on his chest plate to keep from smacking into it. His chuckle made her glare at him. The humor in his golden gaze stole the anger out of her, but she was still curiously warm. Her cheeks flushed.

 

“Good night, Kagome. I expect our paths will cross again.” He bent down and…sniffed her hair?

 

Kagome blinked up at him, speechless, and he turned on his heel and strode into the forest. Before he completely vanished from view she gathered herself for a question of her own that she needed answered, if only to salve her curiosity. “Wait!” He turned his head to look at her. “You didn’t tell me your name.”

 

He smirked at her, and her breath caught at seeing that familiar expression on an unfamiliar face. “I am Touga.”

 

Touga, Kagome thought. Well, at least it wasn’t a mouthful like his sons’ names.

 

The daiyoukai’s last parting shot filled Kagome with apprehension.

 

“You will tell me your secret, eventually.” Touga promised.

 

~o0o~

 

Touga took to the skies, relishing the feel of the wind in his fur. His tongue lolled out, catching tastes on the air as his powerful paws clawed the empty sky.

 

This day had given him much to think about. A strange miko that seemed to just appear from the Bone Eater’s Well, who caused equal parts joy and uneasiness in the Goshinboku. The miko herself seemed to be full of contradictions. She admitted she had youkai friends, but the holy men and women of the human world hated youkai with a fanatical devotion. She was so open with her emotions, but she guarded her secrets closer than a dragon. But perhaps the strangest thing was how fast his own instincts reacted to her.

 

Maybe it was her intoxicating scent. Touga closed his eyes, remembering. It had an almost delicate scent, like flowers, laced with what he now realized was the sharp bite of purity. He growled a little in appreciation.

 

For now, he would return to his shiro and see to his duties, but he would learn the secrets of the miko Kagome.

 

His teeth stretched into a truly intimidating smile. He hadn’t had this much fun in centuries.

 

He would enjoy this hunt.

 

~o0o~

 

Other than a lack of sleep, Kagome felt no after effects of her midnight encounter. At first light the camp was up and packing, and soon after was on its way. They made a good clip through the terrain, and Kagome asked to borrow a bow and quiver full of arrows from one of the soldiers. The servants and soldiers seemed wary of her at first, because how did a priestess end up in a well practically in the middle of nowhere? But soon they were drawn in by her cheerful smile and good nature. Some started to come to her for different aches and pains or the occasional cut. Kagome had to turn a lot of them down with the explanation that she had lost her things when she fell down the well. But, she promised them, she would look for herbs and whatever she needed when the company bedded down for the night. Mollified, the serfs of Akihito went about their business for the day.

 

So that was how Kagome, bow in hand, went out to a meadow an hour before sunset to search for useful herbs. She thanked all the gods that Kaede had taken the time to teach her every time the shard hunters stopped in Edo for any length of time. It didn’t hurt that she had read up on field medicine in the modern era in the hopes of one day returning to the feudal era.

 

That was also how Touga found her not fifteen minutes into her search with her hands coated in dirt and her face scrunched up in concentration.

 

He crept up to her silently with his youki tightly cloaked, in a playful mood, and stopped just before his shadow came within her eyesight before speaking.

 

“Kagome. What are you doing?”

 

Her response was extremely gratifying for Touga.

 

Kagome yelped, grabbed her bow, notched an arrow, and swung around to aim it at the daiyoukai’s chest in record time. The display pleased the inu nature inside him. She would be a good protector for her young. Her eyes widened when she recognized him, and then narrowed dangerously.

 

“What were you thinking, Touga-sama?! I could have shot you!”

 

He waved a dismissive hand. “I would not have died.”

 

“But you would have been hurt! You idiot! Don’t do it again!”

 

Touga raised a brow at the insult, but one look at her face told him she was truly upset that she could have hurt him, and if this was her way of coping he wouldn’t take offense. That she was comfortable enough in his presence to react this way was intriguing and slightly gratifying. It had been too long for him to remember the last time anyone had truly worried about his health. The last had probably been his mother, who was over five centuries in the ground. Even Satori and Sesshoumaru were convinced of his invincibility.

 

It touched a part of him that was buried beneath centuries of steeled control. Oddly, Touga relished that feeling. He considered keeping this miko even after he had gotten his answers. She couldn’t be pack, but it would be…nice to have someone to relax his control around. To have someone worry about him. For now, though, he would try to learn more about this confusing miko.

 

“I promise,” he told her. It cost him nothing. It was a happy change of circumstances. His promises cost his time, strength, or assets, even to his closest packmates. An undemanding promise was welcome for a change. “Now, what are you doing to the dirt?”

 

Kagome blinked, distracted from her anger, and looked down at the ground where she had been digging up an especially useful herb. “I’m stocking up on medicinal plants for the people I’m traveling with, and also for Akihito-sama’s daughter. Apparently, she's sick.”

 

She squinted back up at the youkai in the slowly fading sunlight. “What are you doing here, Touga-sama?”

 

“To see you, Kagome.” While she tried to process that, Touga crouched beside her, hands on his knees. “Akihito’s daughter? I did not know that.” He looked at her questioningly. “May I help?”

 

If his first comment had boggled her mind, this next one blew Kagome away. “Help? I’m sorry, but…why?” she asked incredulously. Touga had the audacity to grin at her confusion.

 

“Two reasons. First, Akihito is a good ally, for a human. Second, you have no digging device you humans are so fond of. I can do it faster than you with your bare hands.” They both studied their respective hands, and Kagome had to admit, his claws looked to stand a better chance in the harder soil than her blunt fingertips. She remembered Jinenji had used his hands as well.

 

But she had to stop a snicker as she thought of Touga, in his true form (which she was imagining looked like Sesshoumaru’s, since she had only seen this youkai’s bones) happily digging up flowers in some garden. She didn’t think Touga would be happy with her if he saw that little thought in her head, though so far he seemed much more sociable than either of his sons.

 

“Alright,” she said cautiously. She pointed to the herb she had been uprooting. “Try to get it out without damaging the roots and keep a little soil on them. I want to plant some of the rarer ones in the lord’s estate so I can get more if I need to. Some of the ones that grow everywhere I’ll only need the leaves from, so your claws will come in handy.”

 

After a few more ground rules the pair got started. Touga would ask questions about the various herbs she was collecting or which ones would be good for different ills. He would slip in a personal question when she was particularly distracted, and though she answered, she would phrase the answers in such a way that Touga knew he was missing the right context. Kagome, for her part realized pretty early on what he was doing, and tried to answer truthfully, but vaguely.

 

By the end, when the sun was almost gone and Kagome was satisfied with her collection, the daiyoukai escorted the miko back to the human camp.

 

Touga, to Kagome’s surprised mortification, sniffed her again before he bade her goodnight. When she scolded his retreating back for it his only answer was a rumbling laugh.

 

This little tableau continued in varying forms on the five more days it took to reach Akihito’s estate.

 

~o0o~

 

By the third evening of Touga’s visitations Kagome declared she had enough “herbs to fill a flower shop.” Not having heard of such a thing before, Touga began questioning Kagome extensively. Kagome had to do some quick thinking, explaining that her home had one for people who could afford them.

 

Touga was fascinated.

 

Kagome eventually steered the conversation away, breathing a sigh of relief when he let her. They sat in companionable silence for a long while, and Kagome turned a little to study this powerful youkai male basking in the sun. She giggled a little.

 

When Touga opened one gold eye to regard her in puzzled amusement, she explained. He scoffed at her, saying he doesn’t bask like some overgrown feline. That just made Kagome laugh harder.

 

The light-hearted mood and drowsiness made Kagome bold, and she decided now was the perfect opportunity to test a theory of hers.

 

Ever since she had laid eyes on Sesshoumaru there had been an impulse that had made Kagome’s fingers twitch with thwarted anticipation, growing with each meeting. But even at fifteen and her most impulsive, Kagome had known the consequences of giving in to the urge. She would have been dead before she even got within five feet of the cold demon lord.

 

But now with his father- as she was (relatively) sure she wouldn’t be dying a swift but painful death for the liberty- the restless energy in her fingers was renewed with such a frightening force that the priestess was almost alarmed. But not enough to stop her. Because after three damn years she just had to know.

 

Reaching out her hand, Kagome stroked the inu daiyoukai’s mokomoko-sama.

 

It was so soft that Kagome continued petting it, enraptured, and didn’t see the mischievous twinkle in Touga’s eyes.

 

The mokomoko-sama wriggled, catching Kagome completely by surprise, and wrapped her up like a furry boa constrictor. It deposited her in Touga’s lap, making Kagome blush to her roots.

 

Kagome could feel the vibrations of his laughter even through Touga’s armor.

 

It was a strangely intimate feeling.

 

~o0o~

 

Kagome didn’t care to count the times she had to remind herself that she shouldn’t be noticing Touga as a male; that this was Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha’s father. But as many times as she had to mentally berate herself she couldn’t help the attraction she felt- or the growing feeling that suspiciously felt like love.

 

Which was silly. She had only known Touga for week.

 

That didn’t stop her chest from warming at the thought of him, or her traitorous heart speeding up whenever she first felt the pulse of his by now familiar youki.

 

And she had thought that she wouldn’t be able to stop thinking of him as their father. Apparently, the opposite was true.

 

By the time the human group made it to Akihito-sama’s shiro on her seventh day in the far past, Kagome wasn’t sure if Touga would continue visiting now that she was going to be safely ensconced in a human dwelling. She was equal parts relieved and sad at the thought. Kagome knew she should’ve cut off contact with him after that second night he came to her.

 

That didn’t stop her from being hurt that he probably wouldn’t come.

 

Akihito-sama was both kind and wise enough to know that it would be a good idea for Kagome to rest before she began working on treating his daughter. It helped that a messenger had met them an hour from their destination to say that the princess was still sick, but not at death’s door yet.

 

A servant showed Kagome to a small, but well cared for room on the princess's wing. She was delighted to find it opened into the princess's private garden. After dismissing the servant, Kagome gathered up her collection of herbs and started transplanting.

 

She was becoming engrossed in her work when a by now well-known pulse of youki heralded Touga’s arrival.

 

“Starting without me, Kagome?” Touga tsked.

 

Not quite sure how to react, Kagome spoke carefully, “I wasn’t sure you would be coming now that I’m in Akihito-sama’s shiro.” The meaning ‘now that I’m staying in a human place’ was unspoken but silently acknowledged.

 

“I still don’t know your secrets, Kagome. I will keep coming until you choose to tell them to me.”

 

She felt disappointed that he would so bluntly say that his only reasoning of their time together was his curiosity, but at the same time she grasped at any reasonable excuse to continue his visits. She admitted to herself that it would be unbearably lonely now to be here without Touga. But it still stung. She turned her head back to the half-dug hole in front of her. “I’m not going to tell you, Touga-sama. You can stop wasting your time.”

 

Frowning, Touga crouched down and gently grasped her chin in his claws, turning her head to face him. Her eyes were squeezed shut. “Kagome,” he called gently. “Kagome, look at me.”

 

She slowly opened them, tears swimming in her expressive blue eyes. It made him want to growl and hurt who had put that look in her eyes. He managed not to, but his voice was still noticeably deeper than normal. “What is wrong?”

 

Kagome considered him for a moment before she opened her mouth and shocked him. “I thought we were-I don’t know- becoming friends. It hurts to know it was all in my head.”

 

At a loss, Touga pulled her into his arms and crooned softly to her. He let her cry for a few minutes while he gathered his thoughts, stroking her back absently. She gave a token struggle, but then relaxed into him. A part of him preened that he had so much of her trust. The rest focused on putting his feelings into words, which had taken him a long time to learn. It was something he still struggled with.

 

“I am sorry, Kagome. I did not mean to hurt you with my words.” He paused for a moment, trying to make sure he didn’t bungle this up. Females, he knew, were very complex and contrary creatures; and Kagome was even more so. Of course, he reflected, Satori was at the top of the list. “I have enjoyed your company these past nights, and I would be honored if you would call me friend. I would be even more pleased if you would still wish my company after my curiosity is sated.”

 

He leaned back a little to see if this was sinking in. Watery blue eyes blinked up at him in suspicion. “Really?”

 

“Yes,” Touga answered gravely. He rubbed the back of one claw under her eye, catching a tear. He smiled at the small bit of red that crept onto her cheeks.

 

She narrowed her eyes at him, ignoring his hand still resting on her cheek. “But I’m still not telling you.”

 

Touga laughed, delighted by her stubborn fire.

 

And in her heart of hearts, Kagome began to hope.

 

~o0o~

 

On the day Akihito-sama introduced Kagome to his daughter, Kagome felt her situation truly hit home. Because the beautiful young woman standing before her was someone she recognized, one who brought her fragilely constructed illusion to come crashing to pieces around her.

 

Because the lord’s daughter was Izayoi-hime, the human woman loved by the great Inu no Taisho. The woman Touga had loved and died for. Inuyasha’s mother.

 

Kagome mechanically went about her job for a while before Izayoi asked her what was wrong. Kagome brushed it off as tiredness, but she resolved herself to the inevitable. Touga was meant for Izayoi. And no matter what, Kagome couldn’t bring herself to resent the young woman like she had Kikyou. For one thing, the princess was just so sweet, and under the demureness Kagome could see the intelligent mind she held. For another, this was Inuyasha’s mother. She was the only one who loved and cared for the hanyou boy during his whole childhood. And even at fifteen she already had the markings of a great beauty.

 

Kagome knew she couldn’t compete with that.

 

So she put on her cheerful persona, buried her bruised and battered heart, and prayed her façade would become reality.

 

That was the night Touga realized Kagome’s place in his life was growing to be as important as pack- and in some respects, even more so.

 

When he came to see her he didn’t bother to try to figure out the secret of the well. He only wished to know what -or who- had put that fragile look in her eyes. Touga demanded to know what was wrong, but Kagome adamantly refused, telling him it wasn’t his problem. That she could take care of it herself.

 

The brittle smile she gave him just enraged him further.

 

He had to leave early that night to find something to kill, or else he would go hunting through the shiro. And that would be a disaster to both his relationship to the little miko and the daimyo.

 

For a being who listened to his instincts as much as his mind, it didn’t surprise Touga that he had gotten attached to the miko so quickly. It was how he became friends with such odd characters as Totosai and Myouga. What did worry him was how his reaction was more than if a friend was threatened. He knew it would be suicide for a human to become an official packmate; even more so because Kagome was a miko. It wouldn’t matter to many that she wouldn’t attack them, no matter what they tried. The gods knew there were many instances Touga was surprised she didn’t purify him. But he was slowly but surely labeling her ‘pack’ in his mind.

 

He wasn’t sure he could stop.

 

He wasn’t sure he wanted to.

 

~o0o~

 

One evening about two weeks after Kagome had landed in this time Myouga tagged along on Touga’s nightly visit.

 

Kagome was very quiet after she sensed the tiny signature she had learned long ago was the flea demon. It was nostalgic to slap her neck at the prick on her neck that signaled Myouga’s entrance.

 

Touga made introductions, and suppressed his killing intent.

 

Myouga instantly took a liking to her blood. Alas, it was not meant to be a much (if ever) indulged pleasure.  The master immediately took him aside the moment the young priestess was distracted and warned him with slightly red eyes and a fanged smile that the only one to taste her blood would be him. Any other attempts would be met with squishing, and if he is truly irritated, a little poison cocktail the next time Myouga went for a free meal from the inuyoukai.

 

The old flea sulked for a moment before agreeing. Even the unusual priestess’s delicious blood wasn’t worth the pain.

 

Such was the life of a flea.

 

~o0o~

 

A few nights after Myouga’s visit, a visitor came that through Kagome for a loop.

 

She had been setting up a Go board that Izayoi-hime had given to her in thanks for her help. It wouldn’t be much longer, just a week or two more before the princess would be back to full health. Kagome felt a touch of pride at her accomplishment. She had grown fond of the girl, finding in her a kindred spirit. Izayoi was smart and kind and yearned to learn more of the world. Kagome told her stories of her adventures, being careful to edit out names and speaking of herself in third person. Izayoi was delighted by them.

 

The only down side to being near Izayoi all the time was the reminder that her feelings for Touga had to be repressed. No one in this sad fairytale was going to get their happily ever after.

 

Well, that and she saw Takemaru. A lot. Without the horn and the long red hair and the creepy colored skin. But Kagome had gotten good at hiding her distress. So life carried on.

 

But Kagome thought she had entered the twilight zone when she opened her shoji door to the garden that night and saw Sesshoumaru waiting for her in the garden. A preteen version of Sesshoumaru. A part of Kagome marveled at being taller than one of the tallest demons she knew. The sane part of her wondered what the hell he was doing here. “What are you doing here, Sesshoumaru-sama?”

 

Cold amber eyes narrowed at her. “How do you know this one’s name, woman?”

 

Maybe that wasn’t so smart. (And she was back to being “woman.” Seriously? At least when she saw him last she had been upgraded to “miko.” That was more complementary than woman.)

 

So Kagome answered back with the first reasonable excuse she could think of. It helped that it was the truth. Sort of. “Myouga,” she said by way of explanation.

 

It said something that her answer only earned a satisfied nod.

 

They stared at each other for a few minutes, one impassive, the other apprehensive. Just when Kagome was almost squirming from the tension Sesshoumaru spoke.

 

“So, you are the reason Father has been gone every night.” His glance took in her miko apparel, wrinkled from daily wear-and-tear and hair coming out of its leather tie. His look said he was less than impressed.

 

Kagome bristled. She could read what Sesshoumaru was insinuating, and even though a part of her wished it were true, Kagome was indignant that what was essentially a child had the gall to walk up to her and say it. So Kagome did what she hadn’t done in a long time.

 

She lost her temper.

 

“Listen here, you jerk, I don’t know who you’ve been listening to, but I’m your father’s friend. Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t go making your own assumptions about me or anyone else just because that’s what gossips say. Meet someone before you make up your mind about them. Then you can be the condescending jerk I know you love to be.”

 

Somehow through this speech Kagome had moved so that she stood in front Sesshoumaru, poking his chest with her pointer finger. The youkai gazed up their couple inches of height difference with wide amber eyes. His eyes tracked the arcing pink energy dancing along Kagome’s body, before he snapped back to his icy persona. She was also peripherally aware of Touga’s youki off to her left somewhere, but she paid him no mind.

 

She had a kid to reeducate.

 

“Well, this Sesshoumaru has met you, and a stupid human like you isn’t worth my father’s time.”

 

It was the stupid human comment that did it. “Wanna bet?” she challenged.

 

“There is nothing you can say to change this Sesshoumaru’s mind.”

 

But Kagome just had an awesome idea. “What about doing something?” Sesshoumaru glanced at her quickly, then away, but Kagome caught it. He was a lot less inscrutable than his older counterpart. “Do you play Go?” Seeing she had his attention Kagome hustled him inside her room.

 

Sesshoumaru’s look of haughty disdain faded after he realized she wasn’t just an amateur. He may have been a few centuries old, but he was still mentally a child. Whereas Kagome had grown up on Go at her grandfather’s knee, who took the game to be almost as sacred as the Higurashi shrine, though she had to admit that Sesshoumaru was a challenging partner.

 

Kagome won.

 

Sesshoumaru couldn’t believe it and challenged her to another game. The result was the same.

 

Finally, they both sat back and stared at the board. “So you are not stupid,” Sesshoumaru allowed. But his gaze still said but you are still just a human.

 

Kagome just shrugged. She had gotten used to his attitude years ago. And then it was time for him to leave.

 

“I need to go back. Mother is waiting.” Sesshoumaru stood and walked to the shoji screen, either not seeing or not caring that Kagome started choking on her own spit.

 

“Wait- did you say… Mother?”

 

Cool amber eyes slanted back to her and away. “Yes.”

 

And then he took to the skies.

 

Touga stepped in moments later.

 

Kagome was in full panic mode, flailing around and muttering to herself too fast for Touga to make out more than a few words. The most frequent phrases being “oh my gods” and “Izayoi” and, strangely enough, “Inuyasha”. He watched her in amusement for a few minutes before deciding to intervene when Kagome showed no signs of stopping.

 

Touga did the first thing that came to mind to stop her rambling. He grabbed her shoulders to hold her in place, and when the word flow didn’t cease even when he called her name (if anything his voice seemed to spur it on) he went to drastic measures. He nipped her nose.

 

Kagome stilled, blue eyes wide in astonishment. Touga thought she looked adorable. “What was that for?”

 

“It is how we disciple disobedient pack members who haven’t done something serious.” He let her mull over that for a moment, wisely deciding not to tell her it was a gesture mostly used on pups.

“Now, tell me, slower this time.”

 

Kagome took a deep breath and let it out in a whoosh. Then she began to gesticulate to help get her point across more clearly. “Okay. What I was saying was, if you have a… um… a mate, don’t you think she would be mad you’re spending so much time with me?”

 

Touga blinked in bemusement, “I am not mated.”

 

Kagome stopped her frantic movements, not certain she had heard that right. “What?”

 

“Satori and I are fond of one another, but it is the fondness of friends, not of mates. Our joining is a political alliance, nothing more.”

 

Kagome had to sit down. Touga obligingly settled her in his lap. Kagome suspected this was becoming a habit.

 

Her world view had been tilted off its axis by Sesshoumaru’s parting comment that his mother was still alive and well. Then it had to readjust itself before it had finished settling by Touga’s statement. If Kagome had to deal with another life altering realization she was going to bed and not getting up until the world stopped shaking.

 

Kagome made the mistake of explaining this to an attentive Touga, who burst into laughter. And not even in some of his quiet chuckles, oh no, he belted out big laugh straight from the gut. Kagome had to hush him so that no one woke up and came to investigate the noise. He just found this even more hilarious.

 

Luckily, the wards she had put up at the start of her stay at the shiro seemed to work on noise too.

 

“You are the most delightful creature,” Touga told her when he had calmed down. He still shook with a silent laugh or two.

 

Kagome swatted him on the arm for that.

 

Kagome should’ve been surprised when Sesshoumaru showed up on her figurative doorstep a couple of nights later requesting a rematch. But really, she spent a year watching him and Inuyasha together. It made a weird kind of sense that he would latch onto her as competition for his father’s affection.

 

~o0o~

 

At some point during the third week of her stay Kagome realized she had never felt this free with Inuyasha. Even on the best of days there was always a little voice in the back of her head that constantly compared her every action with ‘Kikyou could do this better’ or ‘Is this something that will remind him of her?’ Privately, she had acknowledged that she had exaggerated some of her mannerisms to make sure Inuyasha knew she was Kagome, not Kikyou. Not many, but enough to chafe, just a little.

 

With Touga there were no expectations for her to live up - or down - to. For the first time in a long while she was just Kagome; not the priestess reincarnate, not a schoolgirl with an irregular health track record, or a daughter pretending to her family that she wasn’t breaking a little inside to be banished away from all the magic of the past. She was almost positive her mother wasn’t fooled, but Kagome was also sure that her hardworking Mama didn’t need to know just how much it hurt.

 

It made her want to laugh out loud; to jump up and sing to the world her happiness, but she knew she couldn’t.

 

Kagome was falling in love with Touga. And it was breaking her heart to realize she couldn’t have him.

 

~o0o~

 

At the beginning of the third week of Kagome’s stay in this time, youkai attacked Akihito-sama’s shiro a few hours before dusk.

 

Izayoi had progressed enough that she could take short walks around the garden with Kagome’s help. They had only made half a circuit when Kagome felt the thrum of hostile youki in the air, and looking up she could see a swarm reminiscent of Naraku’s reign of terror making a beeline for the shiro.

 

Kagome ordered the attendant with them to get her bow and arrows quickly and she scurried away as fast as she could.

 

Kagome quickly positioned a wide-eyed Izayoi under a nearby tree and erected a barrier around it. Then she moved to meet the returning attendant, who she directed to Izayoi’s tree after regaining her weapon. Now she just had to wait until the youkai were in range.

 

Touga was on his way to visit Kagome when he smelt blood on the wind, followed closely by a tangle of youki and holy power. His eyes began to bleed crimson. He sped up.

 

Soon Touga came upon a scene of carnage. Bits of lesser youkai decorated the wall to the garden the little miko was staying at, sprinkled with bits of ash from the youkai who had been completely obliterated by Kagome’s holy arrows.

 

He stopped to watch her protect the little human princess, feeling Sesshoumaru come up beside him. He still found it amusing, and a little awe-inspiring, at how easily Kagome managed to get his pup to express a wider range of emotions than disdain and arrogance. He knew Sesshoumaru would never admit it, but the pup was fascinated by the miko. He turned his attention back to the fight. Touga had never had the opportunity to see her in battle before and he was curious. From her aura he already knew she was a strong priestess, but power did not always apply well in stressful situations, and Kagome was an emotional woman. If she looked as if she needed assistance he would step in.

 

He found there was no need.

 

Most youkai she was able to take out from a distance with her arrows, and the few who made it past those were disintegrated with a swat of her bow. Some tried to get to the two human women inside a pink barrier, but it was still holding strong. A few streaks of blood were splattered over Kagome’s face and miko robes.

 

She was breathtaking.

 

It was at that realization that Touga realized he wanted her. He wanted the woman with the sunny smiles and the light laughter. He wanted the warrior soaked in the blood of her enemies, who would protect her charges till her last breath. He wanted his friend, the one who gave his pup something to strive for besides ultimate conquest, and who gave him peace for the first time in centuries.

 

As he reached this realization he grabbed for Tetsusaiga and entered the fray. He could see the strain starting to show on her face. A windscar took out most of the stragglers, and Sesshoumaru took out the last with a dokkasou, but hung back.

 

Mindful of the watching humans Touga dropped to the ground, eyes crimson around the edges from his high emotions, and made his way over to Kagome. He made a slow circuit around her, checking for injuries, before asking “Are you hurt?”

 

Kagome shook her head and gave him a little smile. “I’ve been in worse fights.”

 

“Good,” was all he told her before inclining his head to her and again to the princess and her servant still in the barrier. Touga took a moment to appreciate just how powerful his little miko was, before turning on his heel and launching into the air again. He collected Sesshoumaru and headed for his own shiro.

 

He had preparations to make.

 

~o0o~

 

When Touga had found the little priestess picking herbs near the forest one evening a few nights after the battle he had immediately presented his newest acquisition to her with barely restrained eagerness (he carefully did not think about how he was acting like a pup just discovering females around Kagome, and not the thousand-year-old inuyoukai he was). He wasn’t expecting this.

 

Kagome wished she could stop crying, she really did, but looking at the red cloth in her hands just made it harder to stop. Normally she wouldn’t act like this –she had stopped crying over memories her first year back home- but this wasn’t just any old piece of red fabric, it was made from the fur of a fire rat. There was no mistaking the texture of it after the countless times she had grabbed, touched, or been draped in fire rat robes. And the fact that it had come from this youkai-

 

Inuyasha…

 

Her breath caught in her throat as another wave of sadness crashed over her. It was getting hard to breathe past the tangled emotions threatening to choke her.

 

Touga felt the edges of panic creeping over him. He had sent for a cloth to be made from the fur of the fire rat, thinking it would be perfect for his miko’s hakama, giving it extra protection and self-repairing abilities. Her last ones had been ruined after the youkai attack. But now it seemed as if what he thought of as the perfect courting gift had backfired.

 

When she wouldn’t stop weeping Touga gathered her up, strode over to a nearby stump, wrapped her up in his lap, and started crooning to her softly.

 

Gradually the flow stopped and Kagome rested against the solidness of the daiyoukai holding her. Like the first time Touga had seen her cry he gently turned her face to his, but this time he didn’t just wipe the tears away.

 

Kagome jolted at the first rasp of Touga’s tongue on her, but it felt too good to turn away, so she closed her eyes and leaned into him. Touga growled softly in approval and fastidiously cleaned her face of tears.

 

Slowly opening her eyes, Kagome looked up into burning golden eyes, feeling a shudder rake through her body. Then his mouth was on hers.

 

It was wild, intoxicating, and charged with power. Kagome’s own reiki came up to duel with the daiyoukai’s youki, edging the kiss into sharper sensation. Touga used teeth, lips, and fang and Kagome tried to respond in kind. With a strategically placed nip Touga slid his tongue into her mouth, engaging all five senses, as well as the sixth.

 

When Kagome needed to be let up for air, Touga slid his mouth down to ravish her neck. Kagome moaned, and Touga growled back. His teeth closed for a sucking kiss on where her neck met her shoulder, then soothed the area with a deliberate lick.

 

“Touga,” she murmured, dazed. His growl turned deeper, more feral before he stilled himself and looked at her. His eyes were bloody red and blue, and his stripes were more jagged, but that was the extent of his physical changes. It reminded Kagome that this youkai was very, very powerful, and also had very, very good control.

 

He closed his eyes, and when they opened again they were his normal deep, golden color. He sighed from the depths of his soul, and gathered her close. “Not now,” he murmured in her ear, voice still rough with arousal. “I want you in your right mind when this happens, not shadowed by grief.”

 

Kagome hugged her arms around his neck tight, his words hitting her both in the heart and lower, pooling below her belly.

 

“Now I need to take you back.” He picked her up and flew her to her room at the shiro, gently tucking her into her pallet. He kissed her forehead, then stood, saying, “I won’t be able to come for a few days. Rest, Kagome, and we will talk about this when I come back.”

 

And then he was gone.

 

Kagome brought her fingers to her lips, and then curled it into a fist, blinking back new tears. She was still exhausted from her earlier sobbing, but they still trickled down. It was what she had wanted for so long, but she knew it was too good to be true. She didn’t know how much time she had left, but Kagome had a gut feeling it wasn’t too much longer.

 

She realized after he had left that she couldn’t remember the last time Touga had asked her about the Bone Eater’s well.

 

And that just made this situation harder to take.

 

~o0o~

 

Kagome knew she should not be here in this time, and already she had stayed for too long. But even with the urgings of her conscience she continued to linger. She had grown attached to the ones she had met here, but even though they all had become dear to her heart, there was only one she was putting off her return to her own time for.

 

Still, her stay in this time was drawing to a close, and the next morning, when the trees were beginning to turn, Kagome woke with the urge to go to the Bone Eater’s well. She tried to ignore it, but as the day dragged on the urge continued to grow. By midday Kagome had packed her meager belongings and supplies, said her farewells to Izayoi and her father, and started on her way.

 

It took her three days on foot to reach the little village near the well. Akihito-sama had tried to give her an escort, but the priestess had declined. They would have only slowed her down when she couldn’t afford the delay. The urge had become almost painful by then, but it began to fade the closer she got to her destination.

 

She reached Edo just before nightfall. The villagers greeted her with respect and offered her a place to sleep for the night. Kagome, tired from the long journey, agreed, grateful for the offer. Secretly, she was also happy for the delay. Even if it was only for a night she wanted to stay a little longer in a time where Touga was still alive.

 

With a sad smile, Kagome decided to take a bath before she bedded down for the night in a silent farewell to the inuyoukai. It was only fitting to say goodbye in the place they had met.

 

And it was only fitting that he found as he had the first time, in the middle of the spring, bathing.

 

As Kagome stared up at him, mute, Touga stalked toward her, shedding armor as he went.

 

“If you do not wish to be mine, Kagome, say so now. For if you do not, I will take you here and now.”

 

Kagome sucked in a breath, thinking of all the reasons why she shouldn’t. A little voice stopped and asked why not?

 

Could she be selfish, just this one last time? Kagome didn’t know, and never would get the chance to decide, because Touga reached her then. After that there was no time to think.

 

He was everywhere, kissing, touching, licking, sucking, and biting. But not at the place she needed him most. Then his mouth was there, and his fingers too, but it was still not enough.

 

She had left, he raged in a moment of lucidity. She responded, I know.

 

He wanted to mark her in such a way so that she would never think to leave him again.

He looked down at her writhing beneath him on the wet ground. She would make a wonderful mother. It would please him greatly to see her swell with his pup.

 

Her womb throbbed, feeling empty. She wanted it to be full. And then he filled her. And took her, and she took all he gave her.

 

As they each reached their release Kagome spoke one word that could change the very fabric of time: Live.

 

~o0o~

 

Later, when both had been sated and were lying wrapped around each other, they talked about what would come next. The daiyoukai demanded the miko come with him. After some hesitation, she agreed. A little longer, and then they dressed and were ready to move.

 

But it was not meant to be. As Touga was buckling a piece of armor Kagome heard chiming laughter that sounded vaguely familiar. When she realized where she had heard it before it was too late.

 

Kagome felt a familiar sensation taking over, one she would never forget; the curious floating/ falling sensation of passing through time itself. Panicking, she looked up, meeting Touga’s widening eyes as familiar blue light surrounded her.

 

As she felt herself fading from this time into another she reached out for him. “Touga!”

 

Her last sight of him before her vision completely drowned in blue light was Touga lunging forward with a snarl, eyes bleeding into crimson. He snatched at her but only caught loose red fabric. And then she was falling, falling, falling…

 

~o0o~

 

The Western Lands fell to a hush at the roar of rage that echoed throughout the land. The great white dog that stalked its entirety -searching, searching, searching- was given a wide berth. Creatures big and small, young and old, weak or powerful, fled before its rage.

 

Three days it searched. Three days the western lands cowered before its master’s fury. When the sun waned on the third day, the Western Lord reigned in his temper and searched for answers.

 

~o0o~

 

When the light finally faded, Kagome fell to her knees, only reflex saving herself from hitting the pavement face first. Without even looking she knew where she was, knew it in the heartrending absence in her soul, in the dull throb of Touga’s mark on her skin that kept fading with every passing second, and in the smooth feel of stone under her hands. She was home.

 

And Kagome despaired.

 

~o0o~

 

Souta found her first.

 

Gramps had sent him out to look for her thirty minutes after the time the ceremony was supposed to start. The guests had been shifting around nervously, wondering what the holdup was, while the family and betrothed couple were becoming more and more frantic. The bride’s parents had started issuing politely worded threats.

 

Souta grumbled under his breath about daydreaming older sisters, turned a corner, and promptly forgave any lateness.

 

Curled into a ball in front of the Goshinboku with tears in her eyes, he approached her, forgetting his irritation in being late for the wedding at the sight.

 

When he reached her she stared at him uncomprehendingly for a moment and then latched onto him, crying harder than before.

 

Her family gathered around her for the next few days, trying to get her to open up. She couldn’t bear to tell them, not yet.

 

This was worse than three years ago, her mother said to her grandfather. Her grandfather nodded solemnly.

 

One the third day Kagome broke down and told her mother the whole story before graduation. She listened patiently, and then asked this: Do you love him enough to fight for him?

 

Kagome thought she did.

 

So she walked to the well house after receiving her diploma; where it all begins and ends. And she stood there and called out, “Hello?”

 

Laughter rang out like a bell, as a chime, in a tinkling wave. Kagome shivered, but she wasn’t cold. There was power in this place. And it was choosing to answer her. She chose her questions carefully.

 

“Why did you do this?”

 

Who’s to say it hasn’t happened before? The tinkling voice replied.

 

Kagome blinked, shook her head, and carried on to the next question. “Why me?”

 

You weren’t happy here, chimed the second voice. You have done much for us already, and we owe you a boon.

 

“What boon? Why?”

 

Choose: the son or the father. Who would make you happiest? This question rang out into the stillness of the room.

 

Kagome wanted to point out how this choice wasn’t fair; how if she hadn’t gone back that last time she wouldn’t have had to choose between anyone.

 

There is always choice, the chime whispered in her ear. It is both gift and curse. Choose wisely.

 

It is not just you the choice effects, rang close to Kagome’s stomach.

 

Make your best choice, tinkled above her head. Though be aware, one will give back what was freed and broken.

 

Heart pounding in her chest, Kagome chose.

 

~o0o~

 

The flare of holy energy shot like a beacon into the oncoming night. Every being with even a trace of power paused in varying degrees of shock. Holy men and women turned from their duties to feel (and if they were close enough, watch) in awe at the release of such staggering holy power. Youkai shuddered at the phantom touch of purifying energy, the weaker fleeing from its vicinity and the strong moving to assess the new threat. Only a handful of beings realized what that flare meant. Goshinboku was one, and it radiated excitement at her return. Sesshoumaru paused in his trek, an imp and a little girl looking to him in question (the imp shuddered when his lord smiled). And the great white beast, Lord of the Western Lands, raised his giant head and howled, joyous. He raced to the flare.

 

~o0o~

 

Kagome reached up out of the Well and a clawed hand grasped hers, hauling her up. Kagome looked up into golden eyes and smiled.

 

Touga cupped her face and kissed her desperately. When he drew back he growled at her. “Two hundred years is too long to keep me waiting. We have a lot of time to make up.”

 

Kagome laughed.

 

Time passed. Kagome finally entrusted the Inu no Taishou with her secrets. Some he knew or had figured out from his tree friends. They had told him she was “out of time” and different things about her suddenly made sense. Like speech and mannerisms. Some of her stories and why she was so close-lipped about her home.

 

Some secrets he hadn’t known about, like how she was the Shikon no Miko, and that she had traveled with his youngest son; a son, he pointed out to her, that he did not have. Conflicted, Kagome told him the tale of Izayoi and Inuyasha, and what could have been –and now was not. The perverted monk, the taijiya, and the kitsune kit were ones she had mentioned on less guarded, nostalgic days.

 

He confessed to meeting Kikyou. He hadn’t been impressed. Kagome felt mildly gratified. She still met a similar end, which was sad.

 

Kagome told him what the voices had told her after she had made her choice. Inuyasha hadn’t been born, because Touga had mated Kagome before he truly met Izayoi. And a mate is always loyal. The Jewel of Four Souls had never been taken out of her, and so was never shattered; the star-shaped scar was gone from her side, too. So Naraku was still at large. Touga assured her that if the Jewel never leaves her this time, he would never get as out of hand.

 

Kagome thinks this is a smart analysis. And this time she has a protective, possessive full-blooded youkai to watch out for her instead of a sullen, unwilling hanyou.

 

The voices also explained to her, she shyly says, that because the Jewel was born in her body and is still in it this time, Kagome is in for a long, long life. Touga grins and kisses her, long and slow.

 

And, he assured her, face pressed to her womb, their pup will never come to any harm between the two of them.

 

Kagome’s eyes widen at that.

 

~o0o~

 

Nine months into her new life finds Kagome in a human friendly shiro that Touga had made for them two hundred odd years before. Labor loosens Kagome’s tongue on Touga, who holds her hand and kisses her damp forehead through the messy ordeal.

 

The little dog-eared boy wasn’t a surprise to Kagome. Touga named him Inuyasha, to Kagome’s quiet amusement.

 

What was a surprise was the second little white-haired bundle. Both parents were smitten when she blinked clear blue eyes open at them and yawned. Kagome made sure to name this one.