Continuing Tales

Chasing Methuselah

A InuYasha Story
by Sandra E

Part 13 of 13

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Chasing Methuselah

Do not trust the horse, Trojans!

Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks,

even though they bring gifts.

-The Aeneid


He'd been four years old when he'd first felt it.

Sometimes, it was just there, beckoning and lurking when no one was around, like when he'd been playing in the ruins of Tenochtitlàn (patiently waiting for his parents to realize he'd wandered off in search of adventure), and he'd felt this-this absence of... something.

So he used to grab a paintbrush-sometimes a marker or a stick or some dirt-dip it in ink and draw a circle on his right palm. And he would stare at it for a long time, wondering with his little four-year-old mind why it looked so familiar and comforting and scary.

He would do this every day. He would paint, wrap his arm with a chain of tiny bones, and give this imaginary evil a silly name. And then he would parade around the sand-covered tents, ambushing his parents' assistants, and thrusting his little hand out with an angry glower and a fiery shout.

Mostly, women would pinch his cheeks. Men would chuckle. And they'd all disappear deeper into the quarry.

And he'd be left alone, frowning in confusion at their lack of fear and respect and-

"You haven't even touched your lunch, Nachan."

Miroku started.

"In a minute, Souta," he lied, fingers tracing over faded kanji. The museum lights were dimmed, the section closed to public, and the floor scattered with ancient tomes and parchments, but none that-

"-is the most important meal of the day, you know," grumbled Souta, leafing through a thick, dusty book.

"Breakfast," hummed Miroku.


"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, Souta. Not lunch."

"I hate you!" wailed Souta, poking at the tray next to Miroku.

Miroku grinned, reaching across the cold floor for another useless journal.

Nothing. He'd found nothing. Nothing about Naraku, nothing substantial about the Shikon, nothing about Kagome.

A part of him knew.

A part of him knew she couldn't have changed it. Changing the past was impossible. Timelines were fixed; unalterable and preordained. Everything else-demons, resurrections, ancient curses-was alterable and inconstant, but the past was not. He knew this. He did.

But the smallest, most paranoid part of him worried.

What if?

What if he wasn't remembering it... correctly? What if he was remembering it the way he wanted to remember it? What if he hadn't pushed her away, what if he'd been too selfish to let go, what if Inuyasha hadn't been able to outrun the kazaana, what if-

"Well, so, did you?" asked Souta suspiciously, palms flat against the floor, eyes narrowed.

"Did I what?" asked Miroku, frowning at a random crate and zeroing in on its contents.

"Have breakfast?"

"No," said Miroku absentmindedly, rifling through a stack of crumbling papyrus.

"Nachan-" began Souta grumpily, so Miroku poked him with a pair of chopsticks.

"Stop acting like a girl, or I'll send you back to school," he scolded with a grin.

Souta flushed indignantly. "I'm just trying to help!"

Miroku nodded. "I know. But I can do this alone."

Souta shrugged, sniffling. "So?"

Miroku muttered under his breath. "You're worse than your sister."

But Souta didn't seem very offended. Instead, he opened a roll of parchment and began skimming over it with unmatched enthusiasm.

Miroku bit back a pensive grin, eyeing his neglected lunch.


He'd wanted to be perfect. He'd wanted to be perfect for his parents. For himself. For a fragment of a shadow towering over him, asking him if he'd pushed himself hard enough. If he'd atoned and changed and earned his Eurydice.

But he hadn't changed.

He kept making the same mistakes over and over and over again.

"She is coming back, right?" asked Souta suddenly, chewing on a pencil with a distracted frown.

Miroku shrugged. "The sun will rise regardless," he said absently.

Souta scowled. "Sdntdsrveer."

Tired, Miroku thumped his head against the cool wall, leaning back. "I don't speak that particular language, Souta."

"I said, you don't deserve her with that attitude," replied Souta, thrusting a book at Miroku. "I hope she marries Inuyasha and-and-forgets all about you!"

Miroku's low growl startled the boy into an uncomfortable silence.

Miroku rubbed his eyebrow exasperatedly.

If he'd ever thought it was hard to compete against Inuyasha...

...try competing against yourself.

"I didn't-" Souta was mumbling.

Miroku knew she loved him. She had to. She'd been ready to die for him, with him.

"I didn't mean it-"

And he'd have these moments-these little spurts of recollection, of tangled limbs and heated whispers, of floating without anchors, of storms and gratitude and hope-pulling at him, making him feel like an amnesiac when he knew he couldn't possibly have been one.


Because he remembered.


But it wasn't about her, he told himself. He wasn't dying this time. Didn't need her with that pathetic desperation he remembered drowning in. He didn't need her loyalty or commitment or reassurance. He was his own person, with his own plans and goals. He had a life to live. He didn't need to wait for her. He didn't-

He didn't need her.


He was only trying to help her come back because... because... she loved electricity, yeah.

"Gah, I give up!" shouted Souta, frustrated.

Miroku ignored him.

And then, with a small, selfish smile, he wondered.

He wondered if she'd cried for him.

She hadn't shed a tear.

She wasn't going to cry. She was going to be strong. She was going to mourn without crying, live without grief, and suffer in silence and be peacefully unhappy and-

"Please don't cry, Kagome," said Shippou gently, wiping her tears away with his little paw.

Kagome choked on a sob, crushing the little kitsune to her chest, unaware she'd been crying.

Shippou shut his eyes tightly, wrapping his arms around her neck and inhaling deeply.

"We can't even give him a proper burial," said a shaky voice.


"We can't even-can't-" she was whispering, hands clenched heavily in her lap.

"I'm not waiting," interrupted Inuyasha, back hunched and claws digging into the dirt floor. "Naraku dies tonight. I'm not waiting for Kikyou. I'm-"

"-half-witted, Inuyasha," said Kaede in a firm, listless voice. "Follow the plan." She cast a stern look around the room. "Nothing's changed."

Sango choked on a sob; Inuyasha blinked, startled; Shippou's paws tightened around Kagome's torn robes; and Kagome... Kagome drew her knees closer, murmuring, "Kaede-baachan's right."

The group looked at her apprehensively.

"Nothing has changed," continued Kagome softly, running her fingers through Shippou's matted bangs.

Absolutely nothing.

She'd changed absolutely nothing.

"What the fuck are you talking about?" growled Inuyasha, though his voice wavered.

"Miroku... sama wasn't part of the plan," said Kagome, staring at the ground.

Inuyasha twitched, ears flattening.

Sango frowned, wiping furiously at her eyes. "What plan?"

"Kikyou's going to get our shards back," answered Kagome with determination, trying to remember the exact pattern of Miroku's earrings.

Five. Two on his left ear, three on his right.

"And Inuyasha's going to make his wish, fast."

Six rings on his shakujo.

"Naraku's not an issue without the Shikon."

Seven little freckles on his back.

"If we time it right, it's going to work, Sango-chan."

Sango was staring at her, disbelief chasing across her features. "Kagome-chan... Kagome-chan, we can't... we can't do this without him." Her eyes darted around, settling on Inuyasha's hunched back. "Can... we?"

A muscle in Inuyasha's jaw clenched visibly. "Yeah."

Sango's mouth opened, but no sound came out. She watched Kagome for a while, then let out a little breath. "And then?"

"And then we're going to complete the jewel."

"And do... what with it?"

Kagome averted her eyes, picking lint off Shippou's little overcoat. "Anything we want."

A tiny hopeful frown twisted Sango's pale face. "Anything."

Inuyasha squirmed uncomfortably, fidgeting with a straw mat. "H-hey, don't get any stupid ideas." He glanced at Kaede, seeking support. "Tell them that wish is mine!"

Shippou untangled himself from Kagome and pounced, yanking on Inuyasha's hair. "You're so selfish, you stupid dog! I'm not going to let you get your greedy paws on-"

Inuyasha peeled the little kitsune off, tossing him back to Kagome and saying nothing to defend himself.

Kaede sighed and turned her back on them, reaching for her leathery bag. "Call me when ye decide."

And when she left, Sango's gaze abruptly fixed on Kagome.

"Did he say anything?" she asked.

Kagome froze.

"Did houshi-sama..." began Sango timidly, "...did he say anything... b-before..."

Kagome's heart sank. For a moment, she was tempted to lie, to tell her his last thought was of Sango, but... but his last thought must have been... of dying alone.

Suffocating in guilt, Kagome lifted her eyes to Sango's. "Sango-chan. I'm-I'm sorry."

Serious, Sango scooted closer, ignoring Inuyasha's sudden interest in their whispering. "Do you-did you... love him, Kagome-chan?"


"Did he... did he love you?"


Shippou frowned, glancing between the two.

Kagome shrunk into herself, tightening her grip on the little kitsune.

Sango sat back, putting distance between them. "I think... I think I could have."

Kagome's eyes widened guiltily.

Sango gave her a soft smile. "When we meet again," she said, still smiling, though her eyes spoke of exhaustion and defeat, "I'm going to hurt him for making you lie."

She rose with grace, wiping stubbornly at her cheeks. "I'm going to go take a bath," she nodded to no one in particular, shedding her weapons and indulging a weak little smile. "At least now I don't have to worry about that pervert spying on me."

Both girls choked on a sob.

But Sango quickly withdrew from the hut, Kirara trailing behind her silently.

A long, heavy silence followed.

"Sshmru," muttered Inuyasha eventually.

Shippou and Kagome looked up.

Inuyasha sighed deeply, fangs bared. "Sesshoumaru. Let's go find the bastard."

Kagome's eyebrows shot up. "Inuyasha..."

"WHAT?" he snapped. "You said he can help Sango, so let's fucking GO!"

Hesitant, Kagome shook her head. "I have to talk to Kikyou first... we were supposed to meet tomorrow night with the shards."

"Yeah, well, change of plans," mumbled Inuyasha, digging himself deeper into his corner. "If she gets the shards before we get to Kohaku, Naraku might off him. Just in case."

Kagome winced. "You're right."

"Keh. I'm always right," he replied, crossing his arms.

"Nhh," countered Shippou, "not always." He sniffled, leaning into Kagome. "You were wrong about Miroku and Kagome."

Kagome's heart sped up at the mere mention of Miroku's name. "W-what?"

Shippou fidgeted, throwing an accusatory glare in Inuyasha's direction. "He said it was all in my head. When-when we were in the mountains? And we found you two playing in the snow? And Miroku didn't mind if you ate the last pocky instead of him?"

Kagome's heart swelled painfully.

Inuyasha scoffed, plucking at the mat. "Stupid monk, not fighting for his food-"

Shippou seemed to agree, but disguised it with a cuddle.

"His scent is on you," he whispered confidentially, sniffling. "I like it."

Kagome nodded numbly, staring at the barren wall before her.

Not going to cry. Not going to-

"My dad," began Shippou sleepily. "My dad could have stayed with me after my mom... went away."

Kagome's bottom lip trembled.

"But he didn't want to," murmured Shippou with an odd sort of acceptance. "They left me together, you know."

Kagome flinched. She'd forgotten. Forgotten that Shippou's parents had died together, too.

Shippou was silent for a long moment, then twisted his little body so she couldn't see his face and asked, in a small, uncertain voice, "You won't do that... will you, Kagome...?"

Kagome's heart dropped to her stomach.

"Because," continued Shippou, "I could wish-I could wish on the jewel, if you want."

Inuyasha's eyes widened. "Wish for what, brat?"

Shippou turned to face the hanyou with a serious expression. "I could be human for Kagome."

Startled, Inuyasha jumped back, fangs bared. "W-what?"

Kagome cried out, crushing the little kitsune into her arms. "Shippou-chan."

"Crazy," muttered Inuyasha bewilderedly. "Everyone's fucking crazy."

"Or," continued Shippou bravely through the smothering, "I could wish Miroku back."

Inuyasha froze, pointing a claw at Shippou. "OH, NO YOU WON'T, RUNT!"

Surprisingly, Shippou wriggled away from Kagome and hissed at the hanyou. "I will! Your wish is selfish, mine's not!"

"You're not stealing my wish!"

"Yes, I am!"

"No, you're not!"

"Why NOT?" whined Shippou.


Kagome and Shippou blinked.

Embarrassed, Inuyasha calmed down, not looking at either of them. "I was going to... fuckwhateverkeh."

Kagome rose shakily. "You were going to what?"



"Bring the bastard back!" grumbled Inuyasha, blushing uncontrollably.

Ruefully, Kagome pasted a cheerful expression.

'Say you died, and there was a way to bring you back, would you want to-would you want to be brought back?'


"I'll do it!" yelled Shippou, balling up his little fists. "You'll do it wrong!"

Inuyasha was seething with rage. "I'm OLDER than you, idiot, I don't DO anything wrong!"


Kagome watched them in silence, relieved and upset at the same time.

Because she couldn't let them use the jewel to bring Miroku back. He'd... hate her. And what about Kikyou? What about Sesshoumaru? What if he refused to help them? What would happen to Sango's little brother then?

So, no.

The jewel would be meant for one of two things. Either Kikyou, or-



"Eh?" asked Miroku, pushing the little wooden bowls away.

"The story of Gohaku and Rin," nodded Souta. "That's where it started."

Miroku's hand froze over a particularly soaked onigiri. "Gohaku?"

"Un," nodded Souta, mouth full. "Sthglketht."

"Still not fluent, Souta," grinned Miroku, oddly intrigued.

"I said, 'Something like that,'" mumbled Souta, eyeing the remaining riceball with hopeful eyes. Miroku nodded, and Souta began picking it apart to get to the meaty center. "Basically, it was twenty-two generations ago, according to Gramps." Poking the sauce, he continued, "Rin and Gohaku beget Atasuke who beget Chojiro who beget Giichi and Yujiro and so on, until we added the Higurashi after the shogunate fell."

"And you're sure it was Gohaku?"

Souta gave a small shrug. "That's what Grandpa thinks, at least. But that's only 'cause he spilled coffee all over the scrolls and can't read them properly."


"Why?" asked Souta curiously.

Miroku frowned thoughtfully. "No particular reason. The name just sounded familiar, that's all."

Nah, that would be too much of a coincid-

"Noooo!" shouted Mr. Higurashi, his craggy whiskers twitching as he ran toward the dinner table. "Don't touch that pickle!"

Miroku and Souta blinked, chopsticks frozen centimeters from their mouths.

"Cursed pickles!" panted Mr. Higurashi, resting his palms on his knobby knees. "I bought them during the unluckiest day of the calendar! And the legend says-"

Miroku popped the pickle in his mouth. Souta followed his example.

"Maa," whined Mr. Higurashi, plopping down into one of the chairs. "Why does no one ever listen to me? I am old and wise and have many useful-"

"Grandpa, look!" said Souta happily, dangling the pickle in front of Buyo, Kagome's overgrown cat. "Buyo likes it, too!"

The old man hit his head on his plate.

"Ah," said a woman's voice, "my cooking is not that bad!"

Miroku grinned in greeting, clearing the table of books. Mrs. Higurashi lowered a platter of fruit, then sat next to her father-in-law.

"Progress?" she asked, and Miroku noted the exhaustion coloring her voice.

"Depends on your definition of progress," said Miroku, raising a disdainful eyebrow. "So far, we've managed to go through the first hundred years of your husband's family, three meals, and most of your china."

Buyo batted at a broken ceramic plate for emphasis.

Mrs. Higurashi put a hand to her cheek. "Amazing."

Miroku blinked, then realized she was staring at the thick scroll behind him.

The family tree.

Mrs. Higurashi rose quietly and padded over to the scroll, which had been haphazardly hung near the coat hanger. Her eyes softened as she pointed toward the end of the scroll. "She's right here!" she explained even though it was obvious to everyone else. "Right," her finger poked the fabric, "here."

Flustered, Miroku pushed his plate away, grabbing one of the journals and flipping through its pages. "She's mentioned in this one."

Mrs. Higurashi snatched the journal away, drinking in the words. "-courageous and regularly ill-suited for a bow and arrow... yep, that sounds like her!"

Souta giggled. "She lied to me. She said she totally kicked this demon's," here, he pointed at a crude illustration in the journal, "butt."

Miroku felt his heart lighten as his brain wandered off.

If he remembered correctly-and a strong sense of... something told him he did-she'd tried to take down that demon, only to be thwarted by a persistent branch which insisted on tearing through her shirt and leaving her breasts... slightly exposed...


"Right," he said, hating his pants. "If we-"

"Huh," interrupted Souta. "You're mentioned here a lot, Nachan."

Miroku blanched. "What?"

The page was suddenly in front of his face, familiar kanji staring back at him.

Miroku looked up apprehensively and-


All four Higurashis (Buyo included) were staring at him with such tangible curiosity Miroku wanted to bolt.

"Dear, we know who you are," said Mrs. Higurashi nonchalantly. "Who's up for dessert?"

Miroku gaped.

"We're not stupid," sniffed Souta. "Or, you know... deaf."

Miroku glanced at the boy.


He'd called him... Miroku back at the museum...


"You know, this happened once before," nodded Mr. Higurashi solemnly. "Three hundred years ago, during the-"

"Grandpa~" sighed Souta, stuffing Buyo under the table. "He doesn't care."

Mr. Higurashi bristled. "Yes, he does!"

"No, he doesn't!"



Buyo poked his head under the tablecloth and meowed.

Miroku frowned, a twinge of suspicion nagging at him.

"Perhaps," he murmured, "we should start at the beginning."

"That is the beginning."

Kagome shook her head. "I don't believe you."

Slowly, Kikyou's legs swung over the branch. "There is nothing that I can remember, then."

Picking at the grass, Kagome looked up at the tree. "Are you... trying?"

Kikyou glanced down at her indifferently. "No."

Kagome slid to the ground, hands behind her head, staring at the moon. "Why not?"

A soulstealer slithered past the tree, tapping Kikyou then disappearing into the dark sky. "What's the use of remembering?"

Kagome's fingers tangled with a dirt-wrapped root beneath her head. "I don't know. But... everything that's happening now is happening because of memories." A pebble dislodged itself from the clump. "The jewel exists because of Midoriko's memories. Naraku exists because of Onigumo's memories."

Kikyou hummed softly, lowering herself to the ground. Casually, she sat down next to Kagome, watching her. "Do you exist because of my memories?" she asked peculiarly.

Kagome shivered, her soul dangerously scattered and eager. "Maybe."

A soulstealer tickled her knee, then hid behind a leafless rosebush.

Kikyou was staring off into the night with a contemplative expression. "My old body," she began unemotionally, "my real body... I had a scar from here," her hand touched her calf, "to," her fingers slid up, "here." She glanced at Kagome curiously. "Do you know how I got it?"

"No," answered Kagome automatically.

"Then I suppose you're right," said Kikyou softly. "We're not the same person." With a slight frown, she turned to watch Kagome. "Whether we share a soul or not-we do not share our memories." Dark eyes overly bright, she continued. "If we shared a body, a scent... we would still be two different people-"

Involuntarily, Kagome smiled at her, feeling oddly validated.

"-because I would never have done half the things you've done with that vile houshi," finished Kikyou, a possibly-imagined smirk playing about her lips.

Kagome's smile faded. "I liked you better when you hated me."

"Oh, I still hate you," said Kikyou proudly. "I'm just not threatened by you anymore."

Kagome blinked. "You were threatened by me?"

A soulstealer whispered softly in her ear, gliding away.

Kikyou remained impassive. "I'd thought you'd be what I never could. What you are," she said. "Perhaps I..." she smiled, almost playfully, "...gave you too much credit."

Kagome sat up, facing her directly. "We can wish you back."

Slightly startled, Kikyou averted her eyes. "I don't think it's possible. I cannot live on a fragment of a soul. Neither can you."

"I'd be willing to try."

Kikyou dug her toes into the grass, wrapping her arms around her knees. "You won't be able to love your houshi without it. Just like I can't love Inuyasha."

Kagome shook her head, frowning angrily. "It's okay."

Kikyou tilted her head. "You did love him... didn't you?"

"No," she said and meant it. "I didn't love him. Not really. I didn't love him until I-" She shook her head to clear it of thought. "There's this story," she murmured softly. "About this guy-Achilles. Everything in his life was already preordained, you know?"

Kikyou said nothing, staring at the blade of grass between her fingers.

"No matter what he did, nothing-none of it-was by choice. Everything just had to happen," continued Kagome, a ghost of resentment lingering in her throat. "But he didn't really care, you know?"

Kikyou glanced at Kagome briefly.

"One day... one day he heard about this woman, this warrior, Penthesilea," said Kagome with a thoughtful frown. "And he wanted to kill her."

Kikyou tilted her head slightly.

"And he fought and fought and fought until he finally reached her, right?"

Kikyou released the thin blade of grass, and they both watched it drift away, brushing across the ground, dipping into a muddy puddle.

"And then he killed her," said Kagome. Kikyou's shoulders stiffened imperceptibly. "He killed her, but you know, as his sword drove through her neck, he looked into her eyes and he fell in love. He fell in love with her as she was dying. For that tiny little moment, he loved her."

Kikyou was regarding her unemotionally. "You didn't kill him."

"Yes, I did. You and me and Hotaru-" began Kagome pleadingly.

But Kikyou rose and extended her hand toward Kagome. "You didn't kill him."

Kagome latched on and pushed herself up. "Who did?"

Kikyou bared her teeth. "Naraku."

Kagome shook her head. "There would've been no Naraku if you hadn't... if Hotaru..." Her head was hurting. "If it hadn't been for Midoriko and the jewel, you'd have never met Inuyasha, and..."

Kikyou was paler than usual. "You blame me?"

"No," said Kagome. "I just... I don't know who to blame. That's why I have to trace it back to where it began."

Kikyou observed her for a moment. "It won't relieve the guilt. For either of us."

Kagome winced. "What will? Naraku's death?"


"You don't feel... responsible for him?"

Kikyou frowned. "Why should I? We all make our own decisions. He made his. I had nothing to do with-"

"No, we don't!" shouted Kagome. "None of us made our own decisions! Would you have DIED if you'd had the choice? Would Inuyasha have been born a hanyou if he'd had a choice? Would I love that jerk if I wanted to instead of-"

Clearly annoyed, Kikyou snapped. "So... what do you want from me?"

"I... I want you to give me a choice."

Kikyou gaped.

Kagome schooled her features. "You weren't going to bring us the shards." It wasn't a question.

Kikyou looked away, almost guiltily.

"And that's okay," continued Kagome. "But I want to end it. And to end it, I need to know. I need to remember."

Kikyou wavered. "Remember what?"

"Remember. From before."

"There is no before."

"You know that's not right. You know about Midoriko-sama. You know who Inuyasha is. You burned and faded with the jewel. You know."

"You know."

"Ah!" complained the old man with a lazy whine. "You startled me." The house of cards before him crumbled. "Now I have to start all over again!"

Still groggy from his nightmare, Miroku grabbed a chair, scraped it across the stone floor, and straddled it with a stubborn scowl. "So do I."

The old man paused contemplatively, the sunrise reflecting in his beady eyes. "Not necessarily." He flicked a card at Miroku. "You're too impatient, sonny!" he scolded lightheartedly.

Miroku growled low in his throat. "I deserve to be impatient. I've waited two lifetimes."

The old man frowned. "So you have."

Frustrated, Miroku leaned his elbows on the rickety table, burying his head in his hands. "You should have told me, Higurashi-jii-san. Told her."

The old man cackled sheepishly. "You're a smart boy, joukyaku-you know I couldn't." Pause. "Can't say I didn't try, though!" he shook his wrinkled fist indignantly. "Told her about every legend but her own! Taught her enough to come back, I did."

Miroku looked up with a bleary grimace, tapping the card to his sweaty forehead. "Mummified appendages aside, she's not ready."

Mr. Higurashi grew serious. "Do you really think I'd let my own granddaughter go back and forth like this if I wasn't sure she'd come back in the end, eh?"

Miroku straightened, hope rising in his chest before he could quash it. He looked at the old man and demanded, in a low, frustrated voice, "Prove it."

"Prove it, DOG TURD!"

Inuyasha swung the Tetsusaiga, sending another blast at Kouga. "Just fucking ASK her!"

Kouga jumped, avoiding the attack. "I don't HAVE to ASK her!" he shouted, dust surging around him. "I KNOW she doesn't want them!"

Kagome fidgeted with a small leaf. "Um-"

Inuyasha puffed away a particularly dirty bang, then kicked a tree in Kouga's general direction. "ASK HER!"

Kouga blocked the tree, halving it and sending the pieces ricocheting. "SHUT! UP!"

Kagome frowned. "Guys-"

Panting, Inuyasha dug his feet into the dry ground, steeling his resolve. "Okay, I guess we'll take them the HARD way!" he cackled maniacally, cracking his knuckles.

Gasping for air, Kouga charged, fists clenched.

"If-" he began, practically foaming at the mouth, "-if Kagome wants the shards, I'll give her the damn shards, but-"

"I want them."

Kouga froze. Then blinked. Then blinked some more. "W-what?"

Kagome lowered her head, twisting her hands. "I need the shards, Kouga-kun."

Kouga scratched the back of his neck. "Er..."

Kagome looked up at him. "Please."

Inuyasha gave an annoyed humph!, sticking his nose in the air. "Forget it. He's all talk. He was never REALLY going to give you the shar-"

"Shut up!" snapped Kouga and advanced on Kagome, his long ponytail fluttering in the wind, dark strands tickling Kagome's cheek. Slowly, his features softened. "Kagome..."

"Kouga-kun," she began uncertainly. "Gokuraku-chou are all but gone. And-and I know it'll take time to rebuild your tribe, but... but you can do it," she cheered, "without the shards!"

Kouga scowled, nose twitching. "What about the spider and his bitches?"

"Keh," snorted Inuyasha, cleaning his tattered haori, "don't worry your empty little head about Naraku." He growled at a particularly torn seam, then spat, "We're on it."

"Yeah," Kouga spat back, "you've BEEN on it for HOW long?"

Inuyasha twitched. "Like-you-ghhh-fucking-"

"Oh, please, I could kill that bastard with both hands tied behind my back!" boasted Kouga, inspecting his nails with a nonchalant expression.

"Let's see if you're right! I'll just rip them out and see for myself!" screamed Inuyasha, trying to clear himself a decent path by kicking one of the wolves surrounding Kouga. Except, the wolf jumped to the side at the last moment, and Inuyasha's foot flew straight into-

"Son of a bitch!" growled Kouga, rubbing his behind, his pointy fangs bared. "I WAS going to NOT kick your worthless ass today, but I guess if you INSIST-"

Kagome rubbed her eyes. "Sit."

Even though she'd barely whispered it, Inuyasha heard and slammed into the hard ground, feet sticking out.

Kouga gave him a cocky grin, turning to Kagome.

"Fine," he said, still grinning, "you can have the shards." His eyes hardened. "If. You let me handle Naraku."

Kagome frowned, shaking her head. "I can't do that, Kouga-kun."

Kouga frowned, too. "You'll never get past that wind-bitch."

"I'm not even going to try," said Kagome with a small smile. "Kouga-kun... trust me, please?"

Kouga wrinkled his nose childishly, watching her for a long moment. Then, with a grumpy sigh, he went down to one knee, and dug around his furry boots. "I swear, if that piece of dog shit gets you killed, I'm going to-" here, he handed Kagome one shard, "-well, I'll kill him no matter what, but you're not getting yourself hurt, okay." He trailed off, and Kagome could almost see a giant question mark lingering at the end of that sentence.

"Of course not!" she said a little too enthusiastically, clapping her hands.

The empty little vial bounced against her collarbone. Kouga glanced at it with what resembled worry.

Slowly, he handed her the second shard. "And where exactly is this final battle taking place?" he asked casually, watching Kagome out of the corner of his eye. "I'm just asking because I want to... you know... stay as far away from that place as possible."

Kagome giggled softly. "Goodbye, Kouga-kun."

Inuyasha sat up, rubbing the dirt off his forehead. He sent a somber glance to someone behind Kagome, then quietly stood up, straightening his haori.

Kagome turned around, intent on leaving, and spotted-

"We found him," said Sango.

Kagome's heart leapt to her throat.

"Found w-who?" she asked shakily as Shippou scampered over to greet her properly.

Sango blinked. "Um... Sesshoumaru?" she said carefully, trying to avoid Inuyasha's eyes. "We found out where he's staying, so we thought we'd... uh... come and tell you," her eyes darted to Kouga and his wolves, "now."

Something inside Kagome felt very broken.

For a moment, I thought...

She cleared her throat, and tried to smile. "Great!" She turned to Inuyasha, and tilted her head happily. "Ready to go see your brother, Inu-ya-sha~?"

Inuyasha's claws dug into a nearby tree, practically sawing it in half. "Never wanted to be so blind in my life."

"What was that?"

"YES, damn it! Let's fucking go already!" snarled Inuyasha. "The sooner I give up the Tetsusaiga, the sooner we can all DIE A HORRIBLE PAINFUL DEATH."

One of Kouga's wolves snorted.

Shippou snickered, wrapping his little paws around Kagome's neck.

Kagome giggled, glancing at Sango. "Is it very far from here, Sango-chan?"

Sango's brows drew together in thought. "About a day. If Inuyasha can grow up in the next five minutes because I'm certainly not going to stop every five minutes to change his diaper."

Inuyasha stalked past her, mumbling obscenities.

A small grin was playing about Sango's lips. "We should hurry, Kagome-chan."

"And have dinner!" added Shippou with a wink, jumping off Kagome's shoulder and scurrying away.

Kirara batted her tails in agreement, bouncing off, and then... and then Kagome was left alone.

Well, not quite.

"Hey, where's the monk?"

Kagome winced. "He's..." Dead. Gone. Not waiting for me. All in my head. "...not here, Kouga-kun."

"Well, I can see that," said Kouga, scratching his head. "But I mean, isn't he-" He trailed off abruptly, leaning closer to Kagome, and sniffing her face. "H-have you been... crying?" he asked, panicking slightly.

Kagome smiled brilliantly. "I had a splinter and it really hurt, but Sango-chan took it out and it's much better now, Kouga-kun!"

Kouga watched her suspiciously. "Splinter?"

Kagome nodded innocently, clasping her hands behind her back and stretching. "Well, it does hurt more than a paper cut, you know!"

Warily, Kouga took a step back, possibly thinking she was deranged and contagious. His bangs fell forward, brushing over his dark eyebrows. And for a moment-a tiny sliver of time-Kagome could pretend that dark hair and those blue eyes belonged to someone else.

But Kouga's eyes were too blue, and his hair was too black, and there was no reflective spark of recognition in her heart, so she said, in a soft, shaky voice, "Be happy."


"Be happy, Kouga-kun!" she smiled cheerfully, cheeks hurting from the strain.

Kouga blinked, his eyes narrowing to thin slits. "Wha-why? Where ya going?"

Kagome paused, not turning around. Her fingers wrapped around her little red necktie.

"Home, Kouga-kun," she lied. "I'm going home."

He was home.

He was drowning and burning and buried in her.

And he was watching her eyes widen as he pulsed inside her, and suddenly, she was shouting and pressing her chest to his and locking her knees against his hips and tightening her arms around his neck and making him promise.

They weren't vague anymore, the dreams. They weren't fictitious or unusual or comforting. They were real. They were memories. They existed once-no, they still existed. He still existed. Still had enemies, still had needs, was still alive, was still-

-nursing a serious headache.

Miroku cracked open an eye with a groan.

Last time I trust that old bastard to pick the sake.


Slowly, Miroku sat up in bed, groping blindly for a shirt.

"No one here by that name," he grinned playfully.

His father burst into the room. "You could at least pretend to like the name," he huffed. "Your mother spent... well... okay, so she flipped a coin, but honestly!"

Miroku yawned groggily, rising. "You found it?"

Mr. Yasuo grew serious. "Mh hmm."

Miroku stretched. "And?"

His father hesitated for a moment. "She... dies."

Miroku froze, his muscles suddenly taut with tension, stretched to breaking. "What?"

"In this legend, she dies," said Mr. Yasuo uncomfortably. "The miko and the devil," he flipped open his little notebook and quoted, "-'perished together into the depths of hell.'"

Miroku heaved a sigh of relief. "More than one miko in those days."

But Mr. Yasuo remained concerned. "You know, I never really interfere with your decisions-"

"Hn," nodded Miroku, looking for his shoes.

"Like, when you ran into that crypt I specifically told you not to go into-"


"-and you passed out from the toxins-I never said anything."

Miroku spotted his shoes.

"And when you caught a guerilla truck to Romania during a raid, your mother and I said nothing-"

"Actually..." began Miroku.

"-and when you started reciting obscure mantras and sealing shrines, we-"

"-freaked out."

Mr. Yasuo huffed. "A little, yes, but my point is... don't be the cicada."

Miroku blinked. "I thought we'd agreed you'd cut down on opium."

Mr. Yasuo held up a hand, an insightful spark brightening his eyes. "Oh, you know the story-about the cicada that's drinking the dew, not knowing about the praying mantis behind it? And the praying mantis that's trying to eat the cicada, not knowing there's a sparrow behind it? And the sparrow that's trying to eat the mantis, not knowing there's a guy with a catapult waiting below?" He paused for oxygen. "You know, the one about us all being small creatures so eager to profit by something directly in front of us that we fail to realize the-the danger behind us?"

Miroku chuckled. "So... what you're saying is, I should cancel my plans to invade China."

Mr. Yasuo exhaled harshly. "Kazuo-"

Miroku shot him a stern glance.

"Miroku-son." Troubled, Mr. Yasuo mumbled, "Perhaps you need distance. Nothing is worth risking your life over. Kagome-kun is certainly a nice girl, but she has to walk this path on her own."

Miroku frowned. Something very possessive coiled deep in his stomach. "No, she doesn't." Pause. "I didn't."

He turned to leave, his hand lingering on the doorknob, then-

"Did I... change?" he asked his father.

Mr. Yasuo jumped slightly. "No," he said despondently. "You've always been stubborn." He shook his head. "And easily distracted by a pretty face."

Miroku opened the door cheerfully. "I'm getting her back, you know."

Mr. Yasuo sighed as though he'd expected nothing less.

Miroku grinned wickedly. "She owes me a story."

Mr. Yasuo nodded absentmindedly as Miroku left the room. "Oy! D'you want your scrolls back?" he shouted after him.

"Nah, you can have them."

"You can have it."

Sesshoumaru cocked a perfectly groomed eyebrow.

Inuyasha growled, digging his claws into his palms to keep from tearing into the demon. "You can fucking HAVE it, okay?"

"You would part with Father's Fang for a human."

Inuyasha's nose twitched as he threw a quick glance at Kagome. He took a deep, trembling breath and grumbled, "Look, you bastard, will you fucking do it, or not? I don't feel like wasting my damn time on you!"

Sesshoumaru turned to leave.

"Inuyasha," whispered Kagome sternly, slipping her hands around his left arm.

Snarling, Inuyasha snapped, shaking her off and lunging for his brother. "SESSHOUMARU!"

Sesshoumaru ducked effortlessly, both eyebrows slightly raised. "What's in it for me?" he asked coldly, dodging Inuyasha's furious attacks.

"The GODDAMN Tetsusaiga, that's what!" roared Inuyasha, flushed and determined. "Even though it's fucking MINE and you don't fucking DESERVE it and I fucking DO and-"

Sesshoumaru slid aside with speed that made Kagome's eyes hurt, then blocked Inuyasha. By, um, smacking the hanyou's forehead. "I can take the Tetsusaiga, Inuyasha. I don't need your consent."

Inuyasha stopped squirming and blinked, eyes crossing as he tried to look at the palm pressing against his bangs.

"Keh, I get it now," he said with a snort, changing gears so quickly Kagome was sure Sesshoumaru had damaged something vital in the hanyou's brain.

Sesshoumaru spared him a relatively lenient glance.

Inuyasha straightened, dusting off his haori. "Get it, Kagome?" he asked, turning to her with a snobby huff. "He CAN'T do it," he sneered proudly. "He's not demon enough!"

Kagome cringed, the urge to drop down and cover her head for fear of a nuclear holocaust rising exponentially.

But Sesshoumaru merely smirked. "Farewell, Inuyasha."

"Sesshoumaru-sama..." said a small voice, peeking behind Sesshoumaru's robes.

Kagome's eyes widened.

Where'd she come from?

"This doesn't concern you, Rin," replied Sesshoumaru blandly.

The little girl-Rin-said nothing more, tugging at his pantleg and biting her pouty bottom lip.

Kagome poked Inuyasha.

Inuyasha turned to glare at her with deep hostility. He opened his mouth to snap off an insult or two, then shut his eyes tightly.

"I've never asked you for anything, Sesshoumaru," he growled through gritted teeth, claws twitching uncontrollably.

"Except food."

Rin giggled.

Inuyasha flushed furiously. "I was four!"

Kagome stifled a laugh, her heart burdened with a sense of duty. Inuyasha glanced at her for a brief moment, then brought his attention back to his brother. He opened his mouth to say something, but-

"You're lucky," said the little girl cheerfully, "Jaken never wants to give me food!"

Inuyasha blinked. Then blinked some more. "Okay, who the hell IS this kid, and why is she here? She's HUMAN."

Sesshoumaru ignored him. "My patience is running thin. Why-"

"Stop asking stupid questions and just DO it, okay?" snapped Inuyasha irritably, swatting at the flowers Rin insisted on thrusting at him.

Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed ominously. "If you interrupt me one more ti-"

"Sesshoumaru-sama!" said Rin, twirling. "We should go home before Ah-Uhn eats Jaken!"

Sesshoumaru gave a slight nod as she continued rambling and picking trampled flowers.

Inuyasha gaped. "Hold on. SHE gets to interrupt you and I d-"

"What Inuyasha means," said Kagome quickly, covering Inuyasha's mouth, "is that we would really appreciate it if you would trade with us." A small frown crossed her features. "Even though you've tried to kill me a few times and you're really mean to Inuyasha and you don't actually need the Tetsusaiga-"

Inuyasha pried her fingers off his mouth. "Oh, yeah, you're so much better at this than I am."

Kagome huffed. "Well, technically, Mir..." her heart skipped a beat, her brain shutting down. "I mean... Sango-chan. Sango-chan is the negotiator of the group, not me."

Inuyasha bit his lip, clearly stressed. "Stupid fucking monk," he grumbled under his breath. "Never around when we actually need him."

Kagome averted her eyes.

Inuyasha straightened with determination. "I'm so going to kick his ass when we bring him back."

Kagome bit back the nausea.

"Bye bye!" said Rin happily, waving at them from a small distance.

"Shit," grumbled Inuyasha, rushing to catch up with a clearly bored Sesshoumaru. "Wait, you son of a bitch!"

"Flattery will get you nowhere, Inuyasha," drawled Sesshoumaru, pausing.

Kagome approached them slowly. "Ask nicely, okay?" she whispered.

Inuyasha looked ready to go off. "I ASKED NICELY! THE FIRST FIFTY TIMES!"

Kagome couldn't help it. She giggled.

"WHAT?" Inuyasha screamed into her face.

"Oh, nothing," waved Kagome. "Just trying to picture your babysitter's obituary." She pushed him forward, her skirt fluttering in the wind. "Nicely!"

Inuyasha stiffened awkwardly.

Sesshoumaru waited.

Rin plopped down to the ground, trying to count the dots on Sesshoumaru's robe.

"Okay," said Inuyasha, inhaling deeply. "This kid-this kid's had a pretty crummy life, okay? And his sister's had a pretty crummy life, too, okay? So..." he shuddered, looking repulsed, "...please fix him."

Sesshoumaru appeared to be made of stone, not moving a muscle.

"Because you have nothing else to do anyway," mumbled Inuyasha under his breath. "Aside from prancing around and braiding your stupid hair."

Sesshoumaru turned to leave.

Kagome shut her eyes tightly, then-

-opened them to see Rin handing her a wilted flower.

"Is the boy very broken?" she asked, and Kagome could've sworn the little girl was... not so little inside.

"Yes," replied Kagome softly, bending down to her level. "He's very broken, Rin-chan."

Rin cocked her head, pursing her lips in thought. "I was very broken once, too!" she said innocently, then ran off after Sesshoumaru.

Kagome rose, watching the little girl jump in front of the demon lord.

Sesshoumaru stopped.

Rin pointed back at Inuyasha and Kagome, calling them over.

"Sesshoumaru-sama," she sniffled, fussing and fidgeting under his fluffy fur.

Sesshoumaru glanced down at her, expression void of emotion.

Warily, Inuyasha approached.

Rin clung tighter. "Please."

Sesshoumaru leveled his gaze with Inuyasha's for a brief moment.

"Where?" was all he asked.

Kagome's eyes widened.

Inuyasha, on the other hand, blinked and practically tittered like a vindictive toddler. "Ahahaha! Holy shit! You're actually letting some little snot boss you arou-"


"FUCK!" growled the hanyou, glaring at the shallow gash on his chest.

Quickly, Kagome reached for an arrow, but stopped cold. Because-because the little girl was smiling up at her.

Slowly, Kagome smiled back.

"It is good to see you smile again, Miroku-sama."

Miroku started, looking around.

I'm losing it.

He shook his head and returned his attention to the timeline. But there was something-something-itching-on his-


A tiny demon dropped onto the paper in front of him.

Miroku scratched his neck, where a small bite mark was spreading. "Myouga-sama!"

The little flea puffed up. "Ah, such is fate for a useless old flea!" he wailed.

Miroku scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "Still up to your old tricks, I take it?"

"Heh," nodded Myouga. "Some of us never change, eh?" He bounced. "It's been quite a number of centuries," he bowed politely. "I've been keeping track of you, as per Inuyasha-sama's wishes."

Miroku's eyebrows shot up. "Sorry?

Myouga jumped. "Oh! Nothing, nothing! Please pretend I didn't say that!" He rubbed his beak mournfully. "Ah, I should've let my wife greet you instead!"

"You married?" asked Miroku, amused.

"Ah, Miroku-sama, I assure you, it was not by choice," sighed the flea mournfully. "Thankfully, she's off tormenting her sister in... Aruba. Or Haiti. I forget." He paused, perking up. "Which one's in upheaval?"

"Haiti, Myouga-sama," grinned Miroku.

"Well, then! Let's hope she's not in Aruba."

Feeling oddly reminiscent, Miroku tilted his head curiously. "What are you doing here?"

"Ah, I am not at liberty to say..." began the flea, "...but I assure you, it is for your own benefit."

Miroku frowned deeply, his brain slowly connecting the dots. "The jewel."

Myouga bounced. "Excuse me?"

Abruptly, Miroku stood up, his chair scraping against the floor. "The jewel!"

She said-

She'd thought it had never been completed in the past.

"It wasn't, was it?" he asked excitedly, trying not to squish the terrified flea.

"Wasn't what?" asked Myouga anxiously.

"Wasn't completed," replied Miroku, pulse racing.

And if it hadn't been completed there, it-it was...

...coming here.

Come to me.

Kagome's stomach twisted. No.

You belong with me.

Kagome turned around, tangling herself deeper into the blankets.

Confused and miserable, she sat up quietly, careful not to wake Shippou, and made her way outside the hut.

Everything was mixing.

And oddly enough, making too much sense.

She remembered asking him once, way before any of this started, 'What was your grandfather like?'

And he'd replied, 'He was a good man. I think. I never met him.'

Quietly, Kagome sat on the wooden steps.

And she also remembered asking him so many questions and never knowing enough about him, never understanding anything. And now that she actually understood and knew, she... didn't want to. After what Kikyou had told her, after what Naraku had shown her...

The spider mark on her back pulsed, tearing into her spine and making her arch upwards in pain.


"Shut up."

"I didn't say anything," said a small voice.

Kagome jumped. "Shippou-chan!"

Shippou sniffled and was silent for a long moment.

"You're not coming back, are you?" he asked finally, so quietly she almost didn't hear him.

Startled, Kagome glanced away. "What do you mean?"

Shippou sat next to her, stretching his little legs. "You didn't promise," he said. "When I asked if you'd leave me."

Kagome's eyes were oddly itchy.

"My dad didn't promise either."

Kagome scooped him up, kissing his forehead. "I'm not sure promises mean anything anymore, Shippou-chan."

After all, Miroku had promised her-

"Yours do," replied Shippou.

Kagome held him tighter. "Would you like to hear a story?"

Reluctantly, the little kitsune nodded.

"Once upon a time," she began absently, trying to keep Naraku's whispers at bay, "there were two boys." She adjusted her hold on him and continued, "One of the boys grew up to be noble and kind, and married a wonderful girl. The other boy... never grew up."

Shippou's tail twitched. "Naraku?"


Shippou nodded. "And the other boy?"

"Daichi-sama," answered Kagome softly, her whole body burning and aching and tottering on the edge of a familiar precipice.

"Miroku's grandfather?"

Startled, Kagome looked at him. "How do you know?"

Shippou snuggled deeper. "He tells me... told me stories, too."

Kagome's throat constricted, but she continued. "Daichi-sama didn't want children."


"I'm not sure. I think-maybe-he didn't want them paying for his mistakes."

"The kazaana?"

Kagome nodded, wiping a smudge off his cheek. "Without a son, the line would've ended, and Onigumo wouldn't have won."


"Onigumo was angry," murmured Kagome. "When night fell, he attacked," she continued softly. Shippou shivered. "But Daichi-sama was prepared."

Stench of burning flesh, a piercing ache fusing his fingers together, blistered scalp melting into his skull-

Kagome gagged, pushing Shippou away.

"Kagome! Ka-"

"So-they-moved-away," she breathed out, palms flat against the wooden planks, bangs matted to her clammy forehead. She inhaled deeply, pushing the nausea away. "To-to a different village. But Hotaru worried. She worried Onigumo survived."

Reluctantly, Shippou crawled closer, tears trembling in the corners of his eyes. "It's okay, Kagome," he pleaded. "I don't-I don't want to know anymore."

Kagome tensed, covering his little hand with hers. "Someone should, Shippou-chan." Just in case.

Shippou's eyes widened a fraction. "Wh-Kagome-no-"

"So she went out on her own one day," said Kagome in a rush, averting her eyes. "And met a priestess."

Shippou fidgeted with his tail, staring at the ground. "Kikyou?"

"-and went right past her grave. Past the cave, past the sleeping boy, past the dark shadow watching her."

Naraku, in disguise. Humming against her skin, asking. Asking to bear his child.

"K-Kagome," frowned Shippou.


"If... if Onigumo cursed Daichi with the kazaana, why... why did Miroku's dad get it, too, if... if Naraku was his... his real dad?"

Kagome pulled the little kitsune closer. "Shippou...chan. Rules are made to be broken."

"But... but that's cheating!" cried Shippou, outraged. Slowly, his grip on Kagome's skirt loosened in defeat. "What happened... after?"

Naraku, watching the Shikon burn and fade with Kikyou.

"He waited," was all she said.

Waited for night to fall, for his son to be born, for a new fire to spread and consume them all. Waited for his grandchild and the jewel and the dog and the girl who could overcome time, setting the stage again.

"Were they friends?" asked Shippou tiredly.

"Once," nodded Kagome quietly. "They traveled together for years."

"Like us?"

"I guess. They argued, saved each other's lives." She paused thoughtfully, the pain in her back fading. "But I think Onigumo was just very... weak. Daichi-sama never was."

"So why did Onigumo win, Kagome?"

"I don't know. I think-I think Daichi-sama had more to lose. Onigumo had nothing."

"What about-what about Miroku's grandmother?"

Kagome glanced at the starry sky, wondering how Kikyou was doing. "Hotaru-chan was a firefly, Shippou-chan." She added, "Like Kikyou-sama." Gently, she poked Shippou's little nose. "Fireflies don't have very long lives, you know."

Slightly paranoid, Shippou cocked his head. "You're not a firefly, are you, Kagome?"

"No, Shippou-chan."

"No," nodded Shippou. "You're... like the Goshinboku."

Kagome paused.

...the Goshinboku!

There was a small inscription on the sacred tree in her time-it was tiny and insignificant, probably carved by an overly enthusiastic boy or girl-a small heart and an arrow and oh, GOD, she was an idiot!

"You can say that again," came a grumpy voice.


"You were talking out loud," he defended, scratching his sleep-mussed hair. "What about the Goshinboku?"

Kagome whirled around. "There's something written on it in my time."


"I don't know-it doesn't matter," she clapped her hands. "What matters is that it's there, but not here."

Inuyasha and Shippou took a wary step back.

Kagome giggled. "Somebody wrote it in my time. So, it doesn't change anything in yours," she tried again.

Inuyasha and Shippou exchanged worried glances.

Huffily, Kagome threw a branch at them. "The jewel. The jewel shouldn't be completed here," she said, a surprised laugh rolling off her lips.

Inuyasha blinked. "Okay, your brain's definitely broken."

Kagome spun around. "Possibly. But I get it now. I-OW!"

"Ah, Kagome-sama," said a tiny voice, "delicious, as always!"

Inuyasha squinted, parting the grass to find the source of the annoyance.

"What the hell are you doing here, you coward?" he grumbled, wrinkling his nose.

Myouga faltered. "Why, I'm here to offer my assistance in this time of need, of course!"

Inuyasha seemed to be considering him for a moment, then stomped off, rambling about deserters and fathers and indigestible ramen.

Shippou yawned sleepily. "Ditto. Let's go back inside, Kagome."

"In a minute, Shippou-chan," nodded Kagome, smiling cheerfully.

The moment Shippou was out of sight, Kagome's smile vanished.

"Myouga-jiji," she said softly. "I know about Midoriko."

Myouga nodded prudently. "I see."

"Will he be okay?"

Myouga paused thoughtfully. "He always is."

Satisfied, Kagome tilted her head, stretching.

"What would you wish for?" asked the little flea suddenly.

Kagome started. "What?"

"If there was a second wish to be granted," mused Myouga, "and it belonged to you, what would you wish for?"

Heart slamming against her ribcage, Kagome shook her head. "I..."

'Would you want to be brought back?'


"Wish for something, Kagome-sama. There must be something you want."

And for a moment, a small, happy smile slipped to her lips as she realized there was something she wanted.


"I want him to remember."

"Why do you remember?"

"Ah." Miroku gave a pious sigh. "I was remarkably compassionate in my past life. I suppose this is my reward."

Mr. Yasuo exchanged an amused glance with Mrs. Yasuo. "Son, it's probably slipped your mind, but we... know you."

Mrs. Yasuo swatted at him. "Oh, leave him alone!" she chided, glancing at the silent well. "Just think," she swooned, her eyes overly bright, "how romantic this is! A love that spans two lifetimes!"

Mr. Yasuo wrinkled his nose, clutching his stack of books and tripping over a particularly creaky step. "Yes, it's all very wonderful," he said, unconvinced.

Mrs. Yasuo's eyes narrowed dangerously. "You should remember, too!" she snapped, poking his chest. "Remember now!"

Mr. Yasuo sent a panicked glance at Miroku. "Remember what, dear?"

"Me! Our past life together!"

Mr. Yasuo frowned, cleaning his glasses. "W-well, how do you know we were together then? Maybe I was married to a beautiful young-"

The ground welcomed him immediately.

Miroku hid a smile, his fingers tracing over the well's brim.

'If you had the jewel, what would you wish for?'

'Nothing. I have almost everything I want.'


"We... we can't go through?" asked Mrs. Yasuo softly, startling Miroku out of his thoughts. "Only Kagome?"

Miroku nodded, arranging his features into a blasé expression. "No one else can travel through."

"You're positive?"

Cheeks darkening, Miroku coughed and averted his eyes. "I tried."

"Ah," surmised Mr. Yasuo contemplatively. "Anything for science, yes?"

Mrs. Yasuo rolled her eyes, swatting at his head. "Yes, dear, he did it all for science."

Miroku grinned. "Regardless of my-"

"Stop using big words, son," said both his parents with a sigh.

Mr. Yasuo rubbed his bruised head, pointing at the well. "What about that shard you found at the museum (and by the way, thank you for destroying a priceless artifact)?"

"Shard?" asked a curious voice.

Miroku turned around.

Mr. Higurashi was standing atop the stairs, holding a lantern. Kagome's mother stood next to him, trying to smother him with a coat.

"Ah!" said Mrs. Yasuo, rushing up the woodshed's stairs to clasp Mrs. Higurashi's hands in hers. "You're Kagome's mother!"

Mrs. Higurashi beamed excitedly. "And you must be-"

Wary and oddly embarrassed, Miroku motioned for the old man to join them at the well.

Mr. Higurashi nodded, setting the lantern atop the well covering. "Shard?"

Miroku shook his head. "Not really," he frowned, glancing from the still chattering women to the well. "It looked like one. Kagome said it was Naraku's."

"Does-does that mean he lived?" asked Mr. Yasuo, his eyes widening. "That he's still living?"

Miroku frowned. "I don't know."

"Was he the only one who could create these... shards?"

"I don't know."

"Why wouldn't Kagome-kun be able to come back if the jewel's completed? Would that close the connection? Would she not want to come back? Would she-?"

"I don't know!"

The room was suddenly very silent.

Mrs. Yasuo's features softened. "Higurashi-san," she asked, "perhaps you should tell us what you know."

The old man perked up. "Eh?"

"Our son's told us you've explained everything to him."

"Eh-eh," chuckled Mr. Higurashi, cheeks darkening. "Not everything. No one is capable of knowing everything."

Mr. and Mrs. Yasuo glanced at each other for support, then said, "We'd like to help, if we can."

The old man looked left and right, waiting for the catch. "We~ll, it's a long story..."

"We don't mind."

The old man bounced, clapping his hands. "It all began centuries ago," he said, then backtracked, shaking his head at no one in particular. "Oh, it's only a rumor, of course," he began. "There used to exist a great demon slayer by the name of Midoriko." He patted his whiskers, then continued. "Her death was the birth of the Shikon. The jewel of four souls. Mind you, it wasn't born with four souls."

Miroku rubbed his eyebrow, sitting stiffly. He'd already heard this story and wasn't very comfortable hearing it again, but-

"Years passed," nodded Mr. Higurashi seriously, "and the great warrior Midoriko was to be born again, but this time in the form of a stubborn hanyou. The remaining three souls soon followed. A thief's, a miko's, and a firefly's."

Miroku frowned, glancing from his fascinated parents to the silent well.

Where are you?

Mr. Higurashi, ecstatic with all the attention, tugged at his cap and poked the air. "The jewel itself is not as important as the story behind it, but no one quite knows..." he trailed off dramatically, "...what happened."

"What happened...?"

Inuyasha averted his eyes, his face incredibly red.

Sango dropped to her knees in front of him, tears trembling in the corners of her eyes. "What... what happened? What did you do, Inuyasha?"

Inuyasha snapped his head at Kagome accusingly. "I told you this was a bad idea!"

The boy in his arms stirred, his face pale and sweaty.

Cautiously, Kagome knelt next to Sango. "Sango-chan, the reason we were looking for Sesshoumaru..."

Kirara pawed at Sango's robes.

"Is he..." began Sango shakily, hand to her mouth.

"He's fine," mumbled Inuyasha, walking past her and pointing his chin at Kaede's hut. "Or he will be. IF you get your act together."

Sango stiffened at the sound of his voice, then took a deep breath and rose. "Inuyasha, stop."

Inuyasha did.

Kagome watched the girl take a wobbly step toward the hanyou, clearly desperate for a glance of her lost little brother.

But bravely, Sango stepped in front of Inuyasha, and shook her head. "The shard is gone?"


"He can't be controlled by Naraku anymore?"

"I-I don't know."

Sango's features softened. Tentatively, she reached out to touch the boy's clammy forehead.

"Ko... Kohaku?" she whispered incredulously.

Kirara meowed encouragingly.

"Okay, in case I forgot to mention, he's freakin' HEAVY," grumbled Inuyasha, flustered. "Let me take him inside and THEN you can have your little breakdo-oomph!"

Sango detached herself from Inuyasha, her bangs falling across her eyes. "Thank you."

"Keh," shrugged Inuyasha indifferently, though his cheeks were suspiciously dark. "Blame Kagome."

And then he was stalking off, carrying Kohaku into Kaede's hut.

Slowly, Sango's eyes lifted to Kagome's.

"You..." she began, and Kagome's heart skipped a worried beat. "You don't give up, do you?"

Kagome's shoulders relaxed.

Sango nodded, a small, incredulous smile of pure, absolute happiness tugging at her lips. "I think I like that."

Kagome smiled, too, the hand around her heart loosening its grip. "Let's go see him."

So they did.

And later, when Kohaku was bundled up and only Sango and Kagome were left to watch over him and the boy was mumbling how very very sorry he was even in deep sleep, Kagome finally exhaled.

Sango looked at her with a kind smile.

"Don't worry, Kagome-chan. Right now, I don't want anything else," she hummed absentmindedly, Kohaku's head resting in her lap. "Just to keep this-this feeling inside me for a little bit."

Kagome nodded, concern boiling under the surface. "He remembers," she began slowly, carefully.

Sango flinched, tangling her fingers deeper into her brother's hair, brushing a thumb across his dark eyebrow. "I know."

"It's going to be hard, Sango-chan-"

"I know."

"It's never going to be the same-"

"I know."

Kohaku stirred, a pained moan escaping his lips.

Sango's fingers froze, and for a moment, she reverted to watching her brother with a stiff-backed elegance. Slowly, gradually, her posture relaxed. "But I'm not going to give up this time."

If I give up now, then-then everything...

It was still dark out.

Miroku glanced at his palm. If he squinted hard enough, he could almost see a familiar shadow there, but-

It would've been so easy to just give up and forget. Forget about Inuyasha and Naraku and Kagome.


Kagome, climbing into his lap. Kagome, addicted to his touch.

But it was an unvarying constant, this feeling inside him, this heavy need to see her again. It was ridiculous and not very practical if he was going to be who he wanted to be before he'd seen her sitting in that classroom, looking at him so familiarly.

Before he began waking up flustered because he could remember (so vividly) watching her as she closed her eyes and came through and buried her head in his shoulder. Could remember his own voice-that one soft, desperate groan, half lost and muffled by her slippery skin, knowing she wanted him, liked it, liked it when he touched her, liked curling up under him and crying, crying, crying his name over and over and over.

And yes, there were moments when the line between then and now blurred so badly he couldn't quite distinguish between memories-whether or not he taught her all about the Riemann tensor, or she him; whether he ever rushed in this life; whether he was ever in a hurry; whether-

But he knew who he was and what he'd done.

Just like he knew his hair was black or his favorite book wasn't very intellectual. The knowledge was just there. And most of the time, it didn't matter to him that no one else could understand this. Most of the time, he didn't care or want or need anyone to understand.

Perhaps he'd been entertaining his own brand of denial. Because she was very romanticized and idealized in his memories and he knew she couldn't have possibly been that perfect. And it was dangerous to consider someone so perfect, to compare everyone else to that person, to want to change for her, because of her.

And now, now he could feel it-all of it-culminating on the other side.

There was a giant, towering sense of everything being over soon, and something horribly pessimistic deep in his gut was telling him it wouldn't end well.

In every story that sounded even remotely credible, she'd died. Was gone, never mentioned again, disappeared.

And there was absolutely nothing he could do to change that.

He didn't know how he knew, but he did. He knew she was going to do something incredibly stupid. Something incredibly self-sacrificing. Like dying with Naraku.

Miroku's blood boiled.

It was selfish and morbid and slightly insane, but if Kagome had to die, he wanted it to be with him, not Naraku or Inuyasha or anyone else. Of course, he didn't want her to die. He wanted her to come back so he could tell her that she wasn't perfect. Tell her she wasn't perfect at all.

Tell her she was perfect for him.

"Yo," said a cheerful voice. "I brought you the ink!"

Miroku looked up, yawning. "Did you happen to bring me a pillow, too?"

Souta deflated. "You didn't sleep, Nachan?"

Miroku grinned. "Have you met your grandfather?"

Souta giggled. "Yeah, he does talk a lot." He plopped down next to Miroku, setting the calligraphy set in front of him. "Learned anything new?"

"Yes," mumbled Miroku concisely. "There are thirty-seven stripes on that wall over there."

With a sigh, Souta nudged him. "About Nee-chan."

Instead of answering the boy, Miroku asked, "She's stubborn, right? She wouldn't give up just because some idiot went and died on her, would she?"

Souta's brows drew together in thought. "I don't know. She didn't give up when dad died."

Miroku relaxed.

"But..." continued Souta, "...she was five, so..."

'Promise me you won't use it. No matter what happens, you won't.'

Flinching, Miroku stood up, cracking his knuckles. "Let's go."


"You up for a lesson in quantum mechanics?" asked Miroku determinedly.

Souta blinked. "What?"

"What?" shouted Inuyasha angrily, ears twitching. "You don't WANT the Tetsusaiga now?"

Sesshoumaru waved a nonchalant hand, and walked away without turning back. "Toukijin's better."

Inuyasha let out an outraged scream.

"Screaming in my ear won't make me go any faster."

"Sorry," said Souta sheepishly. "But HURRY UP!"

Miroku swiped the brush over the paper and stuck it onto Souta's forehead with a pious expression.

Souta yelped, tearing the ofuda off with a murderous growl. "Nachan!"

Miroku blinked innocently. "Yes?"

"I thought this stuff only worked on demons!"

Chuckling, Miroku slid the ink stone across the granite slab. "Clearly a misconception."

"Hnn," grumped Souta, crossing his arms. "Are you sure you can unseal this thing?"

Miroku paused. "Well, I can try." He brought his attention back to the paper. "I have to," he corrected.

"Nachan... I have a bad feeling about this."

"Me, too."

Souta scratched behind his ear. "She wouldn't try to take down this demon guy all by herself, would she?"

Miroku raised a dismayed eyebrow. "She'd be stupid enough to try, yes."

Exasperated, Souta shook his head. "Are we almost ready?"


"And excessively perky," complained Inuyasha, poking Sango's head.

Sango slung her weapon over her shoulder, sticking her nose in the air. "Uhn!" she nodded happily, glancing briefly at the hut behind them, then focusing on the path ahead. "Everyone stick to the plan, okay?"

Kagome nodded, a heavy weight settling in her stomach.

"Ye have everything?" asked Kaede, clasping her hands behind her back and observing Kagome a little too carefully.

"Well, except for the shards, yes," chirped Kagome.

Kaede frowned, eyeing her oddly.

"Farewell, Kagome," she said, reaching into her pocket.

Kagome froze, her grin fading.

She quickly glanced at the rest of the group, then leaned closer to Kaede. "I have no choice," she whispered while Sango and Inuyasha bickered.

Kaede's eyes darkened. Silently, she handed Kagome a loosely wrapped fragment of the Shikon. "I know."

Kagome inspected the fabric around the shard with care. She recognized the color and the texture and the lingering sensation of Miroku's white robes.

"For good luck," said Kaede gruffly, then spun on her heel and left.

Kagome shut her eyes tightly, then ran after the old woman and pounced. "Thank you."

"H-hey, what are you doing?" shouted Inuyasha from a distance. "You'll break her back!"

"Ah, I have fight in me yet, Inu-yasha," grumbled Kaede, waving him off and withdrawing into her hut.

Kagome smiled, turning to leave.


The group paused.

Shippou came flying in their direction, a tiny little knapsack strapped to his back.

"Ready!" he panted, looking up at the other four.

Kirara swatted him backwards.

"What? I want to go, too!" wailed Shippou.

"Shippou-chan," said Kagome softly. Don't make me say goodbye, please. "It's too dangerous."

Shippou bared his little fangs. "You said I could go wherever you go, Kagome."

Kagome opened her mouth, but Inuyasha interrupted her. "Keh. Fine. Maybe we can feed him to Naraku as an appetizer."

Sango whacked him over the head, nodding at Kirara. "Make sure you stay out of the way, Shippou, okay?"

Shippou squealed, latching onto Kagome's leg.

Kagome winced. "Shippou-chan..." I don't want you to see...

"And I brought pocky!" said the little kitsune amiably.

Kagome gave up.

And as they made their way through the unusually soundless forest, she tried to pretend Miroku was right there, with them, possibly staring at her legs or...

"You know," Shippou told her eventually, "I've been thinking."

Kagome smiled at him. "About?"

"If Naraku was Miroku's grandfather," he babbled, "did that make Miroku part demon?"

Kagome couldn't help it. She giggled.

Shippou giggled, too. "I wonder what kind of demon-"

Sudden rustling of leaves quickly silenced them.

Softly, a ghostly silhouette stumbled into the clearing, her shoulders slumped as if she'd been through a difficult battle, her hair trailing behind her like blackened wings.

"Kikyou!" shouted Inuyasha, rushing to her side.

But Kikyou ignored him completely, making a slow, unsteady beeline for Kagome.

Kagome took an intuitive step back, but Kikyou leaned into her embrace anyway.

"Do you love him now?" she asked, her voice lined with the barest of excitement.

Startled, Kagome answered her automatically, "Yes."

Tiredly, Kikyou looked up. "Does it matter why?"


Kikyou nodded as though some bigger, more profound, question had been answered.

"Good," she said, then grabbed Kagome's hands.

Kagome's eyes widened.

A shard-a big, huge, incredible-shard of the Shikon was digging into her palms.

Trembling, Kikyou pulled away. "There. I'm giving you a choice."

Kagome's pulse was racing. "H-how?

Kikyou shot her a glare. "Does it really matter now?"

"No..." answered Kagome quietly, then louder, " No, it doesn't!"

Bewildered, Inuyasha scratched his head with a wary expression, opening his mouth to ask-

"I didn't do it for you, Inuyasha," murmured Kikyou.

Inuyasha bristled, opening his mouth again-

Kikyou glanced at Kagome, then lifted her hand with a quiet grace, calling for her Shinidamachuu.

"You're missing one," she said coolly, letting herself fall into the soulstealers' willowy arms.

Kagome watched her fade away, then dug around for the rest of the shards, clenching her fist around them.

She closed her eyes tightly, concentrating hard, and thanking whatever god the shards were already purified. Almost instinctively, the two fragments came together, and Kagome opened her eyes.


This thing was the source of all their misery and pain and loss. But it looked so innocent and beautiful and harmless just resting there in her outstretched palm, glittering in the sunshine, so close to granting someone a wish-

Frowning, Kagome tucked it away.

One missing.

"I wonder where he's keeping it," mused Shippou, looking ahead.

"Right here," came an amused voice.

All heads turned to the source.

Naraku-alone-stood behind them, a small shard showcased between his thumb and forefinger.

A storm of thin branches slashed across the air, cutting through everything and slicing at their skin.

Kagome hugged Shippou closer to her, wincing and wondering if her back would ever recover.

Then again, not like it really matters at this point...

"Interesting," sighed Naraku theatrically. "You've even swayed the undead."

Kagome lowered Shippou to the ground, clenching her fists. "Not here, Naraku," she said firmly.

Bored, Naraku raised an eyebrow. "Giving me orders now, are you?"

Inuyasha charged at him, only to be knocked backwards by some invisible force.

Except... it wasn't that invisible.

"Kagura," spat Inuyasha, wiping the blood from his lips.

Kagura gave a deep, suffering sigh, emerging from the darkness of the forest. "It remembers my name," she drawled. "How charming."

Inuyasha was shaking with rage and the Tetsusaiga was drawn and buzzing with restrained power and-

"Inuyasha, stop," hissed Sango.

Inuyasha pulled the Tetsusaiga back with barely repressed fury. "He doesn't play fair, why should we?" he grumbled, glaring at Kagome.

Kagome found herself at a loss for words.

It's... real.

It was real and, ultimately, someone had to die. And Kagome wouldn't-couldn't-let it be one of her friends.


Something big and strong crashed through the treetops, skidding across the ground and leaving a dusty trail behind it.


Kouga flashed her a grin, clicking his finger. "Hi."

Seething, Inuyasha exploded. "What the fuck-didn't we tell you to STAY AWAY!?"

Unperturbed, Kouga shrugged. "Heh," he grinned. "Like I'd listen to you, dog turd."

Kagome rubbed her temples. Her plan was so... not going well.

"Hey, I'm not here to fight," defended Kouga quickly. And then, before Kagome could even blink, he'd scooped her up in his arms. "I'm here to let YOU GUYS fight!"

And he was off, snatching Kagome right before their eyes.

"Kouga-kun-!" began Kagome, the wind tossing her hair over his furry shoulder.

"Look," he interrupted, not slowing down, "I'm not an idiot. And I won't let you sacrifice yourself."

Kagome frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"I don't know," he admitted, leaning into the wind. "But I'm pretty sure you thought you had something up your sleeve." He scowled. "Except, Naraku's not an idiot, either, Kagome."

Kagome's features softened. "Kouga-kun... take me to the well, please."

Kouga shook his head haughtily. "Nuh uh. I'm taking you somewhere he'll never find you." Pause. "You have the Shikon?"

Kagome nodded, raising a hand to protect herself from the gusts of wind. "He still has one shard."


"Kouga-kun, please. The well."

Kouga bared his fangs. "No."

"He'd find us anywhere."


Suddenly angry, Kagome dug her fingers into his arm. "It has to end."

Kouga slowed down imperceptibly. "Not like this."

"It's going to end okay, I promise," she murmured.

Unconvinced, Kouga slowed to a gradual stop. "Define okay."

Kagome pried his fingers off, waiting for him to lower her to the ground and realizing, with no little amount of surprise, they were-

-near the well.

"Thank you," she smiled gratefully, a warm kind of affection unfurling in her chest.

Kouga harrumphed. "They'll be here soon."


Kouga gave her a worried side-glance. "Why?"

Kagome kept smiling.

She knew what she had to do. There was only one thing she could do now.

She had no choice.

Even with Kikyou's help, she couldn't-

Slowly, the rest of her group trickled into the clearing. First Inuyasha, looking bloodthirsty, then Sango and Kirara and Shippou, and then-

"Let me have the wolf," hummed Kagura, fanning herself airily as though attending a luncheon.

"Always so eager to play with him," chided Naraku darkly. "Should I worry?"

Kagura seemed caught off guard for the briefest of moments, then straightened, pasting a lazy smile. "Oh, I promise this is the last time."

She slid past him and was soon a blur, accidentally brushing up against Kagome's shoulder in passing and whispering, "You don't have long. Make the best of it."

And then she and Kouga were off, fighting and screaming at each other.

Startled, Kagome glanced at the wind witch, then back at Inuyasha and Sango, who'd slipped into position.

What... what was that?

The scar on her back pulsed.

But she took a step closer to Naraku anyway, opening up her palm and showing him the shard.

I'm so tired.

Naraku came closer.

"Me, too," she thought she'd heard him say, but it must have been the wind.

The last shard dropped onto her palm and, without a word, she closed her hands, bringing them to her chest.

With a warm trickle of power, the jewel was complete and she knew.

And when she opened her eyes, Naraku was looking at her, almost sweetly.

He extended an arm, and, hesitantly, she took it.

I can't do this.

I can't wish for his death.

The Shikon heated her palm, trembling with an eager sort of power, tempting her, telling her to just do it, end it, let the jewel take them both because there was nothing left for her here or there and-

An image-an image of Miroku looking away as their class was officially dismissed somewhere in the background...

'Try to remember when you go back.'

Kagome's eyes widened wildly.


Miroku, not Kazuo.

"I have the Shikon, Naraku," she whispered, then straightened with determination.

Slight change of plans!

"Doesn't matter," he murmured, toying with a lock of her hair. "You'll give it to me soon anyway."

Kagome glanced at him. "I'm not going to give you anything."

Naraku frowned, irritated. "You don't have a choice. My flesh and blood-"

"Naraku," replied Kagome, taking a step closer. "There is no 'perfect vessel' for you to take." Yay, 20th century. "There isn't."

Naraku's lips thinned into a disbelieving line, one clawed finger sliding down Kagome's abdomen. "Liar," he growled, but sounded rather uncertain.

"You don't know anything about me," she said quietly, preparing to take one gigantic leap of faith. A thin branch sliced across her back, tearing through her uniform. Then, louder, she continued, "You don't know where I came from, where I'm going, what I'm thinking right now..." Fists clenched, she rose. "You don't-"

Naraku hummed, tilting his head. "You're thinking..." he began softly, his breath tickling her forehead, "you're thinking the taijiya will not miss." He waved a nonchalant hand.

A surprised gasp came from somewhere behind him-Sango's.

Her weapon fell to the ground.

"You're thinking the wolf will be fast enough this time."

His arms wrapped around her suddenly, holding her a little too tightly and-

-suddenly, the scenery changed. They were closer to the well.

"You're thinking the dog will be strong enough-"

Kagome closed her eyes, willing him to bring them closer, closer-just a little bit more-

"You're thinking you can somehow trick me," he smirked, the back of his legs touching the well's wall.

Kagome smiled.

"Not quite," she whispered, then wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pushed with all her weight and pain and hope, surprising him into stumbling back and-

-tripping over the well's brim.

Please be waiting for me.

"Kazuo-kun, please!"

"Yuka-san, I assure you-" began Miroku impatiently, "Kagome-san is perfectly fine-"

"But we haven't seen her in ages!" squeaked Yuka harshly. "And as her boyfriend, you should at least-"

Miroku's gut twisted most peculiarly. "I'm not-"

Hojou shook his fist dramatically. "Yasuo-san, this is intolerable!"

Souta groaned, looking up at Miroku and trying to close the shed door before someone peeked in there. "Everyone! Nee-chan is-"

"-back yet?" asked Mr. Yasuo, poking his head out of the shrine.

Miroku groaned.

Why was Buddha not cooperating?

All Miroku wanted was to finish the damn ofuda and possibly, you know, defy time and space before that silly little girl did something really stupid. Unfortunately, it seemed everyone chose this particular moment to show up and pester him about Kagome. And he promised himself, if (when, damn it, when) he saw her again, he would-

"Hey, what's that?" asked Erri suddenly, pointing at the shed door.

Which was ajar.

Miroku snapped his head around to glare at Souta.

"Eep! Nothing! It's nothing!" said Souta, embarrassed, trying to inconspicuously sneak away.

"What's nothing?" asked Mr. Yasuo, pushing past Ayumi and sticking his head into the woodshed. "Oh, hey, you're almost done! Go get her, son!"

Souta smacked his head.

Kagome's four friends exchanged suspicious glances.

"We've had enough! Is she in here?" wailed one of them, running into the shed. The others followed. "We DEMAND to see our Kagome-chan!"

Hojou scratched his head, glancing at the spider webs on the ceiling. "Yes-did she-did she... survive the Ebola?"

"Ebola!" gasped Mr. Yasuo worriedly, inspecting one of the drying ofuda.

Miroku groaned.

If ever there was a time for divine intervention-

The ground shook.

Miroku's eyes widened.

"What the-"

The ground shook again. Only, this time, it didn't stop shaking.

Miroku pushed the group behind him out of instinct, then spun on his heel to look at the well.

And the well...

...the well... was...

"HOLY BUDDHA OF CORN!" shouted Hojou, pointing wildly at the crumbling layers of stone.

Miroku's heart slammed against his ribcage as he jumped down the short flight of stairs.

He could sense... something. Something he hadn't felt in a lifetime.

Naraku's miasma.

"Get out!" he commanded, watching helplessly as the lip of the well practically melted and fused around the bright pink lacework of light surrounding it. Miroku took a breathless step back.

The roof of the woodshed seemed transparent, turning to dust and sand, and raining all around him, disintegrating the ofuda he'd strewn about. He spared a quick glance behind to assure himself everyone was out and safe, then took one, two, three steps closer, peering down into the painfully bright depth of the well.

Miroku inhaled deeply, an angry scowl marring his features.


Kagome was with him.

A surge of jealousy unlike any he'd felt before lanced through him.

"'Perished together into the depths of hell,' huh?" he shouted angrily, ducking a particularly sharp piece of debris.

Outside, Mr. Yasuo was dodging a flying fusion of brick and branch. "HELL-WELL... same difference!" he shouted back. "Japanese is a very confusing language, you know!"

Miroku ignored him, knuckles gripping the well's rim, turning white from the pressure.

"I couldn't fall for a ballerina, no~," he muttered to no one in particular, dusting off his bangs, "I just had to go for the crazy jinxed m-"

Miroku's heart stopped.

A sudden burst of power shot upwards, blowing the remains of the roof completely off.

And there, floating in the middle of this chaos, was Kagome.

Holding Naraku, her eyes tightly shut, long hair dancing around them both, oblivious.

Miroku lost it.

"Kagome!" he snarled, feeling a thrum of old power-his neglected Houriki-pulse through his palms.

Kagome twitched as though she'd heard him, but her eyes remained closed.

With a small whimper, she let go of Naraku and they both plunged to the ground, clearing a passage through the accumulating rubble.

Miroku was going to rush and check on her, honest, he was, but... his legs just. Wouldn't. Listen.

Kagome stirred, opening her eyes dazedly.

"Wh-" her eyes fell on Miroku, standing there in his uniform, looking at her like he'd never expected to see her again.

Which he hadn't.

"Miroku?" she whispered, looking for something.

Miroku froze.

"Miroku," she repeated.

And that's when it hit him.

She finally recognized him.

Something very heavy and terrified seemed to evaporate inside his chest, and then he was-

-grabbing her roughly, strong arms pulling her close to his chest, long fingers wrapping around her.

She felt like she'd been swallowed by a giant, steel pillow and thought all her ribs would crack but he was clinging to her so desperately she dared not move.

"Kagome," he whispered into her hair. His arms slid up, hands cupping her face. His grip tightened, body molding to hers. "Kagome," he repeated incredulously, astonishment lacing his voice.

"You waited for me," she mumbled tiredly, burrowing into his dusty chest.

His shoulders shook with repressed laughter. "Conceited."

"Very," she replied desperately, trying to melt into him.


Because it was Miroku. It was really him, not anyone else and she was stupid for ever doubting it and knew and no one would ever take him away again-

Abruptly, the well came to life, glowing with a white heat, flakes scraping off its charred walls and-

Inuyasha tumbled out.


And then a soft, desperate grunt, followed by a bushy tail.

"Shippou-chan!" yelled Kagome, pushing away from Miroku and crushing the little kitsune close to her chest. "How?"

Petrified, Shippou looked at her, practically on the verge of hyperventilating. "I don't know, I just wanted-"

A sickening crunch of bone.

All heads turned toward the noise.

Kagome's heart skipped a beat.


I forgot about Naraku.

But Naraku wasn't quite paying them any attention. He was staring at his arms, clearly out of his element, puzzled by the strange scents and sounds. The skin of his left arm bulged and inflated morbidly, hanging off his bones like a diseased patch of flesh, stretching into a long, thin thread.

And then it burst.

Instinctively, Kagome averted Shippou's eyes, trying to ignore the slimy texture of everything around her.

"He doesn't have the Shikon," whispered Shippou urgently. "Where's the Shikon?"

Frantically, Kagome patted herself down. "I-"

-lost it.

Inuyasha whirled around, torn between wanting the jewel and wanting to tear Naraku's throat out.

"Fuck the jewel," he growled finally, drawing the Tetsusaiga, "I'm going for the fucking JUGULAR!"

"Houshi," was all Naraku said, looking past Inuyasha with an odd, almost relieved look in his eyes. But Kagome blinked and the relief was gone, only to be replaced by fury and pain and... boredom.

"Interesting sorcery," he drawled. "Now give me the Shikon."

Kagome didn't know who made the first move, but within a second, Inuyasha's sword was wedged between Naraku's ribs, and Naraku's hands were crushing Inuyasha's windpipe.

"Fuck," muttered Miroku, obviously torn between letting Inuyasha get his revenge, and getting his own.

"Where's the jewel?" whispered Shippou frantically, his eyes widening incredulously as he finally spotted Miroku. "Ka-"

A low-pitched roar interrupted him.

Inuyasha took a nauseated step back, covering his face with his sleeve. "...the hell-"

Naraku's robes parted, slipping to the ground with a gentle rustle of cloth.

The scar on Kagome's back pulsed violently.

"The jewel," growled Naraku through gritted teeth. "Now."

"Whatever you do, make sure he doesn't get the jewel!" shouted Miroku. He grabbed Kagome's wrist and rambled, "Find the jewel and make a wish. Any wish. It doesn't matter. As long as the jewel's gone."

Kagome panted, trying to keep up. "Is that the catalyst?"

"Uhn," nodded Miroku, dodging a plank. "Where is it?"

"I-I don't know. I haven't been able to-feel the shards," admitted Kagome sheepishly.

Miroku froze. "What? Why?"

Naraku and Inuyasha's battle resumed in the background.

Kagome blushed furiously. "Um... because of you."

Thunderstruck, Miroku made her look at him. "Me? What did I do?"

Despite the immediate threat on her life, Kagome turned a dozen shades of red. "Um, you know how I could... um, pass through that cursed forest after we... um... you know..."

Miroku's eyes widened. Then, slowly, a horribly proud smirk was quirking his lips upward. "Was I that good?" He looked ridiculously pleased with himself, then touched two fingers to his chin. "Wait, does that mean Kikyou and Inuyasha never-"

"Concentrate!" screamed Kagome, feeling as though nothing between them had changed. At all.

Inuyasha flew past her, skidding to a halt amidst a pile of smoldering debris. "SHIKON, YOU IDIOTS!"

Naraku, thrumming with borrowed power, and seemingly towering over them all, seemed to agree. "I can still finish you off first," he murmured cockily and lunged.

Kagome cringed, then, with sudden panic, remembered.


She glanced around frantically, searching the wreckage and spotting a fluffy little silhouette digging through the ashes.


"GOT IT!" he shouted, darting past Inuyasha and Naraku, straight into-

Kagome's arms.

"What should I do, Kagome? What-should-I-do?" he asked, looking excited and terrified at the same time.

"Hand it over," said a cool, calm voice.

Naraku, looking unharmed, was watching them, holding Inuyasha by his red haori.

Shippou twitched anxiously, then jumped out of Kagome's arms and ran for it.

"I want-I want-"

-and the rest was cut off by a deafening cry of outrage and... something else.

And suddenly, there were demons crawling out of... Naraku, rupturing his skin and bursting forth-gnarled and excited; a whole hive of angry red eyes and swishing tails.

Kagome forced herself to look around, horrified with the sharp, pungent scent and the sound of tearing flesh and-

There were no fireworks or a magical shower of glitter or... anything.

Just Shippou, staring at his empty little hands.

Nothing had changed. He was still Shippou. Miroku was still Miroku. Inuyasha was still Inuyasha.

Naraku was still alive.

"WHAT DID YOU WISH FOR?" screamed Inuyasha, too shocked to even finish the spider off.

Shippou's lips parted as though he couldn't quite believe he'd made the wish and the jewel went. Away. Just. Like. That. "I-"


The mangled hive of hissing demons swerved, scattering above their heads and racing off toward Tokyo.

Shippou eeped and bolted, blocked by a half-burnt wall.

Seething, Inuyasha chased after him. "TELL ME!"

Terrified, Shippou dug into a corner, his little face blackened by the ashes. "IwantedKagometobehappy!"

Inuyasha skidded to a halt, bristling. "I-IDIOT! That's the stupidest wish ev-"

Shippou bolted again. "I couldn't think of anything else, wah!" He tripped over a dead demon, and gave up. "Because Kagome won't-Kagome won't be happy unless we're happy!"

Inuyasha froze, blinking.

Kagome couldn't quite feel anything below her neck. Miroku glanced at her, quirking an eyebrow.

"Well," he said smoothly, "at least it wasn't a lifetime supply of candy."

Kagome couldn't help it. She giggled, but the sound died in her throat as-

Naraku rose.

He seemed drained of color, his face sunken and sickly, his back muscles jutting out horribly, the spidery scars around them throbbing like a bloodstream, pumping with energy and-

"Where?" he asked in an odd, hollow voice. "Where are you hiding it?"

Inuyasha's grip on the Tetsusaiga tightened. "How is he not dead yet?!" he shouted, glancing at Kagome.

Kagome's eyes widened frantically. "I-I don't know! Maybe-maybe because-"

"It's not Onigumo's body," said Miroku calmly, grabbing her wrist and pushing her back. Quickly, he sent an almost confused look at his right palm. "He borrowed the prince's body before he killed Sango's family," he muttered. "The prince was healthy. Onigumo was not."

Wary, Kagome tried to pull him back, too. Because even without the jewel, Naraku... Naraku still had the body of a prince, the heart of a thief, and the memories of a demon, and she wasn't going to let him tell Miroku-

"Fortunately," hummed Naraku distractedly, "I kept my original flesh long enough, houshi."

The air grew thick with tension.

"What's he talking about?" asked Miroku, frowning.

Inuyasha growled, apparently not very surprised to see him again.

"What the hell does it MATTER? We're not here to chat!" he snarled, then lunged, only to be blocked by another sickening thud. A demon, shapeless and grabby, plopped to the ashen ground, attached to Naraku's back by a long, greasy cord.

"Shit, I'm going to need a serious shaw-rr after this," grumbled Inuyasha resignedly, then leapt forward, tangling his sword with the creature's boneless limbs.

Naraku slumped against a charred wall, exhaling as his spawn snapped off its cord and dove for Inuyasha.

"I gave you everything," he began, a dismayed sigh trembling upon his lips. "I gave you life, gave you the miko, gave you death when you asked for it." He drew a deep, shaky breath. "And you couldn't even repay me properly."

Miroku froze.

Inuyasha grunted in the background, colliding with the spawn's stringy cobweb.

"One thing," continued Naraku quietly, his cheeks sagging and hollowing out, pulling at his eyelids and tugging the skin down. "I asked for one thing."

Bewildered, Miroku glanced at Kagome and Shippou.

Kagome shrank back. "Ignore him," she whispered. "Please?"

But Naraku's voice grew stronger as his body weakened. "One purpose. You. Had. One. Purpose!" Outraged breath. "You're worthless!"

Miroku glanced at his hand, then back at Naraku.

Inuyasha tumbled through what was once the shed door.

The demon screeched.

"What's he talking about?" asked Miroku carefully.

Kagome shied away.

"He never mentioned him, did he?" asked Naraku, red eyes glittering with malice. "Never by name, never in detail."


"Your father."

Miroku's shoulders stiffened. "My father never mentioned who?"

But Naraku seemed to have forgotten what he was talking about. "And the Saimyoushou could never quite finish you off, could they?"

Kagome cringed, almost able to sense the phantom insects buzzing around Naraku. "Stop it."

Naraku shut his eyes tightly, gnawing on his bottom lip as another large demon left his body. "Stop what?" he gritted out, his eyes glassy and narrowed, hiding beneath furrowed eyebrows.

Kagome gasped. A stinging sensation moved from her eyes to her throat, the small of her back feeling sore and itching most irritably. "Stop. Toying. With. Him."

Looking so very lost, Miroku pulled her into him protectively. "Kagome-"

"He tricked her," she breathed angrily, wishing she could just scratch her entire back off, "he tricked Hotaru and stole something really important from Daichi and-"

Miroku tucked her head under his jaw and asked slowly, "What?"

"You," said Naraku glibly, trying to stand up, the skin on his face pulling down, revealing bleeding teeth and gums.

Kagome had the sensation of falling and collapsing in on herself, but Miroku rotated her in his arms, trying to find out for himself.

"You knew this?" she expected him to ask, and prepared herself for his disgust and anger, but he looked at her with relief and regret and asked, in a quiet, concerned voice, "You don't... you don't mind?"

Kagome's eyes shot open, whole body aching with some unidentifiable weakness.

A pained scream interrupted her reply.

Demons, mostly small and limber, were pouring out now, depleting Naraku of... everything.

Inuyasha stabbed the littered ground with his sword, panting. "Okay, three really nasty demons down... ten thousand left." With narrowed eyes, he glanced at Naraku. "Is he dead yet?"

Miroku let go of Kagome, looking dazed. "He's my...?"

Surprisingly, it was Shippou who answered him. "Yeah, but it doesn't count! Right, Kagome?"

Kagome shook her head, unable to tear her gaze away from Naraku. She didn't want to pity him, but... have lived such a half-life...

Naraku coughed violently, wiping blood from his lips, his eyes drained of pigment.

Kagome choked on a sob, and started for him-

-and was immediately pulled back.

By Inuyasha. And Miroku. And Shippou.

"Idiot!" roared Inuyasha. "He's still dangerous! Just let him die!"

Distraught, Kagome lowered her head. "I can't."

Miroku's grip on her tightened most painfully.

Naraku slumped to the ground. "This Onigumo inside," he rasped, "I want him out."

Slowly, Inuyasha let go of Kagome, drawing his Tetsusaiga. He sent a questioning glance at Miroku. Miroku seemed to contemplate deeply for a moment, then nodded as though giving the hanyou some unspoken sort of consent.

Inuyasha locked eyes with Naraku.

"For Kikyou," he said vindictively, but looked almost sympathetic.

And as his sword drove through Onigumo's heart, Naraku smiled.

And then, with a soft gasp, Kagome dropped to her knees, her horizons blurring and rippling and colliding against this crumbling reality until-

Sluggishly, with almost practiced indifference, her fingers went to the small of her back.

"Gone," she said, feeling the almost unfamiliar smoothness there. "It's gone."

Miroku dropped next to her, touching his forehead to hers.

Inuyasha wiped the Tetsusaiga off on what remained of Naraku (only his dark robes and a necklace made of fangs), then pointed it at Miroku and Kagome. "Get up."

So they did.

Despondent and pensive and lost in their own thoughts, they shuffled out of the demolished woodshed, Shippou securely snuggled in Kagome's arms.

They didn't speak for the longest time, stepping over the debris and making their way to the shrine.

Eventually, Shippou cleared his throat, evidently intent on taking their minds off... everything.

"So, this is your time, huh, Kagome?"

Kagome patted his head, glancing about. "Mm. It's usually less... trashed."

Miroku paused in his tracks, rubbing his chin in thought. "How'd you get through, Shippou?"

Shippou glanced at him with the tiniest amount of fear. "I... jumped?"

Aggravated, Inuyasha looked to the heavens. "I can't believe that was it," he grumbled. "I mean, all these months of thinking that bastard's some big threat to us and then he just goes and dies like THAT?"

Shippou crossed his arms buoyantly. "You're welcome!"

Inuyasha bonked him on the head.

Kagome threw him a sharp glare, wrapping her arms tighter around the little kitsune.

"And I can't believe you wasted my wish, runt," continued Inuyasha, eyes narrowed to vengeful slits.

Shippou bristled. "Well, what were you going to WISH for ANYWAY? Kikyou's alive (sort of) and Kohaku's okay and Miroku's obviously HERE, so-"

Unobtrusively, Miroku cleared his throat. "Be that as it may, I'm surprised your wish was granted, Shippou."


"Your wish," began Miroku, "however chivalrous it may seem, was still... selfish." He frowned. "And I was under the impression the Shikon wouldn't accede to self-indulgence."

Kagome tried very hard not to touch him and see if he was really, really, really real. "Miroku..."

...there is no such thing as an unselfish wish.

Miroku turned.

"Do you know?" he asked.

"Kikyou told me," she replied.


"I think."

"About Midoriko?"

Kagome nodded.

"EXCUSE ME," shouted Inuyasha. "But no one told ME anything." He gestured, looking suspenseful. "So, START already!"

Kagome twisted her fingers, adjusting her hold on Shippou. "Um... where to start... um..."

Inuyasha tapped his foot.

"Well, you know how the jewel was created, right?" she asked delicately. Inuyasha nodded impatiently. "And you know who Midoriko was, ri...ght...?"

Inuyasha snorted with disgust. "Get to the stuff I don't know."

Kagome grimaced, opening her mouth-

"The jewel was never going to grant you your wish, Inuyasha," said Miroku. "(Especially not you.) It wasn't even that important. (You were.) It was just leeching off of everyone's anger and hate and memories. (Mostly yours.) It wasn't a conscious decision for Midoriko. (Or you.) She didn't want-"

"So why the HELL did we spend all this time LOOKING for it?" snarled Inuyasha, face heating up.

Miroku grinned. "Good timber does not grow with ease." He gave them his patented Mona Lisa half-smile. "The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees."

"What the hell is THAT supposed to mean?"

Actually, Kagome wanted to know, too-

But Miroku just smiled like he knew something none of them did. "Let's just say this-all of this-is just a preface to your story."

Kagome's eyes widened. "Wow, really?" she bounced.


"And what about the rest of us?"

Miroku's features darkened peculiarly. "Not written yet."

Kagome exhaled, completely unable to recall the feeling she'd had only hours ago-the desperation and hopelessness and the fear. After all, she'd been-she'd been ready to... really, really stupid!

"By the way, does Inuyasha know?" asked Miroku, a ghost of a smile crossing his lips.

"God, no!" screamed Kagome, clamping a hand over Miroku's mouth.

"Wha?" blinked Inuyasha. "Know what? What?"

'You used to be a girl,' sounded like something someone with a deathwish would say, and Kagome was really not into that. Anymore.

"Um, you see," she rushed to explain (and distract), "the jewel was born from Midoriko's wish to keep fighting."

"Which would explain why the shards were so easily corrupted," added Miroku with a small nod. "The jewel itself was born out of despair, and shaped by-"

"-more despair," finished Kagome.

Inuyasha and Shippou exchanged glances.

"So anyway," said Inuyasha flippantly after a short pause, "you're Naraku's spawn?"

Kagome froze, chancing a distressed glance at Miroku.

But Miroku was looking at the shrine up ahead. "Evidently."

Inuyasha scoffed derisively. "And that doesn't bother you at all?"

Miroku looked ready to snap, but schooled his features. "Why fight something you can't change?"

Kagome's heart ached for him.

"And he's dead now," continued Inuyasha stubbornly.


"And you didn't get your revenge."


"And we're all here now."


Kagome looked up. "And how exactly is that possible? I mean, I thought I'd have trouble passing through, but-" her gaze shifted to Shippou, who immediately began fidgeting.

Oddly enough, Miroku averted his eyes. "I was trying to unseal the well," he elaborated piously. "Perhaps I was trying a little too hard."

Startled, Kagome turned her head. "What? Why-why would you want to-want to go through?"

Miroku waved a nonchalant hand. "Oh, no particular reason. You... forgot your lunch last time, so..."

Kagome paused, something wonderfully light and peaceful spreading through her flesh.

"We're done," she said, astonished.

Miroku smiled. "Uhn."

"Completely done."


Inuyasha tapped her on the head. "Not completely," he said, rolling up his sleeves and shooing Kagome away. "Monk."

Kagome's eyes widened in horror.

"Inuyasha," greeted Miroku amiably.

Kagome's heart threatened to jump out and run away.

"I knew it wasn't that easy to kill you," said Inuyasha, sniffing. He cracked his knuckles with a predatory grin. "Time to fix that!"

And then-

-he pounced.

Miroku grinned happily, hands automatically reaching for the nearest stick and bringing it under Inuyasha's jaw. Hard.

"You knew?" he asked, knuckles turning white.

Inuyasha's claws twitched mere centimeters from Miroku's face. "I have a nose, moron."

Miroku paused thoughtfully, then grunted and, with some effort, flipped Inuyasha over. "You could have said something, you know." He stood up and dusted off his pants, nodding at Kagome. "She's got some scary collections in her closet."

Kagome flushed, trying to quickly change the topic. "Ah! Um, Shippou! Shippou-chan! Did you know, too?"

Shippou gave a small nod. "Sort of. I mean, not that he was reincarnated, but that he was around, one way or another because-"

"Would you SHUT UP ALREADY and let me kill him!" growled Inuyasha, reaching for Miroku.


Absentmindedly, Kagome turned and-


Mrs. Higurashi wiped her hands on her apron with a nervous smile, emerging from the shrine's doorway.

Kagome tensed. "I'm, um, back?"

"Were you gone? I hadn't noticed," said Mrs. Higurashi, but sounded very broken, choking on great, big sobs and hiccuping occasionally as she crushed Kagome to her.

Kagome's fingers clenched around her mother's skirt, Shippou trapped between the two.

Inuyasha made a strange, strangled noise and stomped off; Miroku looked away, bangs hiding his eyes; Souta poked his head to see what the commotion was all about; and Shippou-

"Kagome," he coughed, almost shyly, tugging at her sleeve.

Mrs. Higurashi's eyes widened. A small cry of complete and utter delight slipped off her lips and-

"Is this-?" she asked, clearly trying to restrain herself from smothering the little kitsune.

"Shippou-chan-this is my mom," said Kagome happily. "And that's Souta."

Souta waved.

Shippou nodded, cheeks flushed, little nails digging into Kagome's arm. "Um, anyway... guess it's time for me and Inuyasha to go back..."

Kagome giggled wildly.

Miroku looked like he was trying very hard not to smile, then came to her rescue. "Higurashi-san," he began, bowing at Mrs. Higurashi. "Shippou-chan made a wish," he explained courtly, while Shippou shrank in on himself. "So, we're stuck with him."

Shippou bared his fangs. "You-"

"Hmm," mused Souta, cradling his elbow deep in thought, "if Nee-chan moves in with Nachan, then Shippou-chan can have her room-" he trailed off as Mrs. Higurashi sent him a rabid 'My Daughter, Living With a Boy? Never!' death glare.

"O-or," amended Souta hastily, "I could share my room? Eheh..."

Shippou looked confused. "Kagome, what are they talking about?"

Kagome ruffled his little bangs. "Shippou-chan... why did you make that wish for me? Someone else could have used it more-"

Shippou clamped both his hands on her mouth. "Kagome, rules are made to be broken," he quoted her cheerfully.

"Ah! Cute!" shrieked Mrs. Higurashi tearfully.

Shippou gave Kagome and Miroku a startled look, his gaze landing on a curious Souta.

"Ah!" cried Souta, clapping his hands with glee. "I've always wanted a brother!" He threw a covert glance at Miroku. "Younger brother! That doesn't cheat all the time!"

"Maa," sighed Miroku theatrically. "Who said Shippou was going to stay with you? I have as much right to him as Kagome."

Shippou blinked, then snickered adorably. "I'm glad you're not dead, but Kagome would never eat all of my pocky."

"I've only done that once!" defended Miroku.

Shippou pursed his lips.

"Perhaps twice," amended Miroku. "Possibly three t-that is, you're basing your entire future on pocky, Shippou?" he asked, feigning hurt.

Shippou cocked a tiny eyebrow.

"Good point," acquiesced Miroku with a wink.

Overwhelmed, Shippou watched him for a long moment, then-

-bolted and attached himself to Miroku's leg, clinging to it with his eyes tightly shut.

"Really glad you're not dead," he said, embarrassed, then-

-ran away before Miroku could even blink.

Kagome giggled, though her eyes were suspiciously bright. "Mama, can you-can make sure he doesn't fall asleep in the... dryer or something?"

Mrs. Higurashi's eyes were sparkling with merriment and... an odd... almost... deranged look.

"Oh, certainly!" she shrieked a little too eagerly, startling even herself, her hands twitching impatiently.

Kagome sincerely wished Shippou well in the next hour.

"The kid's a goner," grinned Souta, stretching. "Yo, Nachan. Your parents are digging around the shrine, and Kagome, your friends are... um, freaking out. So. Damage control time?"

Kagome glanced at the brooding shadow skulking near the demolished woodshed. "In a minute, Souta."

Quietly, Kagome made her way to Inuyasha, keeping her head down. The one wall that had survived hid him from her, and-

"Going alone?" asked Miroku casually, suddenly walking by her side.

Kagome fumed, poking his chest. "Don't you read manga? This should be private!"

Miroku narrowed his eyes, looking oddly possessive. "Exactly. Except, in manga, this would be the part where he snatches you away forever."

There were... butterflies... a gazillion butterflies fluttering somewhere in her stomach, filling her with this indescribable... joy.

"You're jealous?"

Miroku scoffed. "I'm never jealous."


Upset and strangely disappointed, Kagome placed a hand on his chest, eyebrows twitching. "Then wait here, jerk," she grumbled, spun around, and marched up to where Inuyasha was sulking.

"Are you sure you don't want me to kill him? Just a little?" asked Inuyasha, ears suspiciously flat.

Kagome smiled and-

-burrowed into his warm chest.

"One more for the road, Inuyasha," she smiled gently, burying her fingers in that silver mane of his, then quickly stepped away, her skirt covered in his blood. "Sit."

Inuyasha crashed to the ground.

"Bitch," he mumbled, grinning.

Kagome knelt next to him with a serious expression. "You're going to be happy, right?"

Inuyasha rolled his eyes, still unable to move. "Now that you're out of my hair, yeah."

Kagome smiled, pinching his ears. "And you're going to be nice to your brother, won't you?"


Kagome giggled. "And you'll help Sango-chan if she needs help."

"She won't need help."

"And you're going to tell Kouga-kun how you really feel about him?" she teased.

Inuyasha exploded, practically airborne within a second.

"Yeah, right after I KILL him!" he snarled, pointing a shaky claw at Kagome. Suddenly, his features relaxed into a noncommittal expression. "Monk," he greeted casually.

Kagome stiffened. "He didn't leave, did he?"

Inuyasha shook his head.

"He's leaning against the wall, isn't he?" she asked, trying not to sound too giddy.

Inuyasha nodded.

"Grinning like an idiot?" she asked.

Inuyasha nodded.

"Um... h-he is wearing clothes, right?" asked Kagome, suddenly petrified. "Right...? Inuyasha-Inuyasha, ANSWER me!"

Inuyasha gave her a disgusted glance and then-

A strong, possessive hand was resting on the small of her back, and a voice, exceptionally smooth and authoritative was whispering in her ear. "Mm, good little girls generally don't ask such naughty questions."

Inuyasha gagged. "Once again, I have EARS, too."

Flushed to the tips of her toes, Kagome coughed.

Inuyasha flicked some grime off his chest, then, with a soft whoosh, jumped into a crouch next to the well.

"See ya," he said over his shoulder, looking almost scary with that odd smile on his face. "Kagome."

Miroku cleared his throat.

Inuyasha sighed in defeat and rose, turning to him. "And you-pox on your house."

Miroku grinned widely, extending his hand.

Inuyasha clasped it with an embarrassed little flush. He cleared his throat and said, in a stuffy, deliberately low voice, "Take care of, uh, Shippou. Because if you don't..."

Miroku pulled the hanyou into a brotherly embrace. "Inuyasha?"

"Un?" replied Inuyasha, slightly startled, trying to squirm away.

"I can," said Miroku pointedly.

Confused, Kagome looked from one to the other. "What?"

Inuyasha harrumphed, turning away. "We'll see, monk."

Kagome blinked. "Hey, what-"


And then, Inuyasha was gone, and something inside Kagome felt very empty.

But that's where he belonged, and Kagome... Kagome belonged here. With-

"Miro-kun, seal it."

Miroku obeyed. Deathly serious, he stepped on the well's brim and dropped a thin piece of paper, watching it slowly drift down to the darkened bottom. After several minutes of quiet chanting, he opened his eyes (Kagome sucked in a breath), and looked at her.

"Done?" she asked, suddenly shy.

Miroku nodded. "Mh hmm. If we-what are you doing!"

Kagome jumped past him, shutting her eyes and enjoying this endless fall and almost hoping the connection was still there. But her feet touched ground and nothing changed and a small smile chased across her features.


It was all over.

She took a deep, calming breath and-

-was knocked down.

"Ow. How do your knees not hurt?" asked Miroku, practically straddling her. He placed his hands on each side of her head, and brought his lips near hers. "Please don't expect me to jump in after you every time you snap and go crazy."

Kagome bit back a giggle, the clumps of dirt beneath her digging into her back. "I didn't expect you to jump this time."

Miroku's eyes darkened. "Call it force of habit."

Kagome squirmed. "Um, about that-"

A horrible, high-pitched screech distracted her from finishing the sentence.

A hideous band of tailed demons was descending down the well, beady eyes fixed on Miroku and Kagome.

Kagome pushed Miroku off, and pressed him against the curved wall. "Climb!"

One of the smaller demons reached them first, sinking its tiny fangs into Kagome's ankle. She winced in pain and kicked at it. She was preparing to drop kick the thing into the next century, but was abruptly pulled up.

"Idiot," said Miroku, guiding her fingers around the rusty bars. "You climb."

The rest of the demons plunged to the bottom of the well. A few twitched and sprang back up, snapping at their feet.

"Okay, how about we both climb?" asked Kagome frantically as a particularly hyper demon headed for her head.

Miroku flung it off her. "Good idea," he grumbled, then pinched her hip. "GO."

So, Kagome did, wondering how it was possible for ALL of them to forget about the hundreds of demons scattering over Tokyo.

Hundreds. Of. Demons.

"Aaa, why'd you seal the well!" she whined.

"Because you TOLD me to!"

"-nn, the hell were you thinking about!"


Kagome's throat went dry. "Oh."

They both paused, ignoring the demons around them.



"Can I ask you something?"

Miroku swatted at a tiny demon, banging his head against the ladder with a groan. "Kagome..."

"Please!" she pleaded. "One thing!"

"Just one."

"Why was Souta blackmailing you?"

Miroku looked around as if trying to convince himself he wasn't hallucinating.

"Now? You want to know NOW?" he shouted bewilderedly.

A demon slashed at their feet for emphasis.

Kagome glanced down stubbornly. "Yes! We might die! And I can't die without knowing two things!" she shouted, climbing higher.

"What's the second thing?" asked Miroku before he could process how incredibly absurd the situation was.

"Um... sthntngue."

Miroku raised a curious eyebrow. "What?"

Once again, Kagome was reconsidering God's lack of benevolence. "That... thing... you do with... your... argh, you know!"

"Tongue?" smirked Miroku, looking ridiculously arrogant.

Flushed to the tips of her shivering toes, Kagome averted her eyes, muttering. "...not gonna need it... get my hands on scissors..."

Miroku paused, looking at her with a peculiar, unsettled expression. Finally, he sighed as though horribly defeated, then stuck his hand in his pocket, pulling out a compact leathery thing, flashing it in front of her eyes, then quickly snapping it closed and sticking it back in his pocket.

Kagome squinted, dazed.

She couldn't be positive (considering he'd practically blinded her with that hasty little display), but it'd almost looked like... a picture... a picture of...

"Ah! I'm in your wallet?" she asked incredulously.

Miroku ignored her huffily, and Kagome could've sworn she'd seen his cheeks darken.

"Shyeah... no," he said, waving her off.



"Can I see it again?"


They continued climbing in silence, slightly oblivious to the fact the demons weren't... around anymore.

Every so often, Miroku would freeze at the sound of Kagome's muffled giggles, turning to glare at her sharply. During one such incident, Kagome tugged at his pantleg.

"I have officially lost all respect for you," she giggled.

Miroku's heart felt inexplicably light.

"Excellent," he mused wickedly. "There's a chapter in the Kama Sutra that specifically prohibits respect." He glanced down at her, his hair tickling his flushed cheeks.

Kagome was staring at him with big blue eyes, lips parted and glistening and-

"Okay, this is officially not the time, Miro-kun!"

Miroku hid a grin and continued climbing. "I concur," he hummed. "We should get on level ground first."

Kagome giggled. "Preferably near a mental institution."

Miroku paused, his pants oddly tight. "...that wasn't a no, was it."

Mortified, Kagome huffed, then climbed on ahead of him, muttering under her breath.

Miroku glanced up, cocking his head as her tiny little skirt bounced against her ass, her muscles stretching most pleasantly as she climbed. Suddenly upset, he reached out an arm and wrapped his fingers around her ankle, effectively stopping her progress.

"Kagome," he said.

Kagome froze.

"The thing about paradoxes," he began with a concerned frown, "is that nothing changes."

Warily, Kagome looked down at him, hands tightly wrapped around the rusted bars. "I know."

Miroku watched her for a moment, deep in thought. Slowly, his grip on her ankle loosened, and he said, in an almost flustered voice, "So. I want to make up for it."

Kagome blinked. "For... what?"

"For what I... did before."

'You run off entirely too often. I should really tie you up.'

Miroku cringed.

'Running off in your imagination counts, too, Kagome.'

Kagome gave him a look of pure innocence. "Um, you're going to have to be a little more specific, Miro-kun."

Miroku shut his eyes tightly, thumping his head on the well's mossy wall.

He'd planned on apologizing for something he'd done a lifetime ago (though it felt like yesterday), but...

...slid his hand up her skirt instead.

"I'm sorry," he murmured.

Kagome was tense and blushing, but didn't attempt to move his fingers away. "F-for what, Miroku?"

"I haven't changed," he mumbled quietly. "I wanted to." For you. "But I couldn't."

Slowly, Kagome took a step down the ladder, then another, and one more, until she was staring him straight in the eye.

"I'm glad," was all she said.

Miroku's eyes widened.

'You won't tell them who I am?'



'Because it doesn't matter. You're you.'

Quickly, his arms reached out to crush her against his chest and once she was pinned to him, they both-

-tumbled to the bottom of the well.

"Ow!" cried Kagome, rubbing her bruised shoulder. "Aaa, why'd you let go of the ladder, you idiot!" She tugged her top down to check on her injuries. "Great. I'll be the only girl wearing long sleeves in summer! And pants! And-neeh!"

"Stay still," he whispered against her shoulder, setting her between his legs.

"W-why?" asked Kagome, shivering. "Can you make the bruises go away or something?"


Kagome frowned, confused. "So... why... oh."

Miroku grinned, slipping his arms around her waist and pulling her closer. "You're glad?" he asked humbly, feeling oddly vulnerable.

"Mh hmm," nodded Kagome, flushing adorably. "Because then I don't have to feel guilty for doing-" she raised her hand slowly, "-this!"

Amused, Miroku rubbed his aching cheek, then watched her jump up and dust herself off, refusing to meet his eyes.

"So," he began, grabbing onto a bar and pushing off the ground, "will this be a mutually sadomasochistic relationship, or-" here, he ducked, "-should I go look for Mitsuko-san?"

The dark outline of Kagome's shoulder was shaking.

Miroku took a wary step back.

"If the demons don't kill you..." she ground out, wrapping her fingers around the first bar.

"Ah," sighed Miroku dramatically, "surely, you're not threatening my life, Ka-go-me." He sent her an intrigued side-glance. "After all, I've already died once and am not in a hurry to-"

Miroku's eyes widened as Kagome let go of her bar and-

-pressed herself against his back, placing her hands on each side of him.

"Why'd you let go?"

A deep, coiling greed lanced through him. "I didn't."

Kagome's soft breath washed over the back of his neck. "Yes, you did."

Miroku carefully extracted himself from her embrace, then climbed higher. "Didn't."

Looking hurt, Kagome idly followed after him, brushing her knuckles against his calves every so often. "You let go, Miroku," she whispered eventually.

Miroku paused at the lip of the well, sunshine flickering through the rubble.

His features softened as he looked down. "I'm here, aren't I?"

And then he was out of the well, stretching out his arm to pull her out. He could feel himself being on the brink, brimming, teeming, ready to fall in and spill over from leaning in and out. And as her face came closer to his and her legs swung over the edge of the well, he...

"Do you have any idea how much I hated you?" they asked at the same time.

Miroku blinked. "Wait, what-you hated me?"

Equally puzzled, Kagome scowled. "I had good reason to!" she screeched. "What's YOUR excuse!"

Suddenly feeling a hundred pounds lighter, Miroku grinned. "I asked first."

"Technically, we asked at the same time-"

"I'll flip you for it."

Kagome gave a deep, suffering sigh. "Tails."

Miroku reached into his back pocket, searching for a coin. Casually, he tossed it into the air, then caught it against the back of his hand. "Ah, I'm afraid I win."

Kagome's eyes narrowed skeptically. "You cheated."


Exasperated, Kagome plopped to the ground, rubbing her eyes.

"For lying to me," she mumbled.

"I didn't lie to you."

Kagome ignored him. "It was so... hard trying to remember your promise." She looked up, a small frown marring her face. "Why did you make it if you couldn't keep it?"

Upset and oddly flustered, Miroku put some distance between them.

"I kept it," he murmured.

Slowly, Kagome stood up. "Not by choice."

Miroku turned around angrily. "No, not by choice!" he shouted, trying to calm down. "I had no choice. I had to know about you while thinking you didn't exist. I had to keep away from you once I actually found you again. I had to watch you prattle on about how wonderful and kind and great Inuyasha was. I had to be around you while you were completely oblivious and indifferent and stupid. I had to WAIT for you to come to your senses. I had to-"

"I was never indifferent," interrupted Kagome softly.

Miroku lost his train of thought.

Cautiously, Kagome took a step toward him. "So, you hated me for... not knowing?"

Miroku glanced away, looking prim. "Apparently."

Kagome was silent for a moment, then-

-threw a burnt piece of wood at him.


Miroku ducked. "What are you talking about? It's a perfectly-"

"So I didn't know!" she shouted, throwing more debris his way. "Big deal! It's not like YOU knew anything about me. You never asked me any questions. You never asked, 'Hey, Kagome, what's your favorite color?', or 'Hey, Kagome, do you mind if I get reincarnated and cause a million billion problems for you?' or-"


Kagome gaped. "W-what?"

"Your favorite color's purple."

Kagome blinked. "Well, yeah, but-"

Miroku shrugged. "I asked Souta."

Kagome's features softened considerably. "Why?"

"Because I wanted to know."


"WHY?" asked Miroku incredulously. "What do you mean, why? How many cursed monks do you see going around asking about other people's eccentricities? I was sorta focused on, you know, dying. I'm not anymore." He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "At this point, I probably know more about you than you do."

Kagome was watching him with an odd, almost dark look. "I suppose it's only fair. After all, I know more about you than you do."

Miroku couldn't help it. He laughed.

"It's not funny," grumbled Kagome. "This is as dysfunctional as it gets."

"True," agreed Miroku. "Considering you did have a thing for my grandfather..."

Kagome twitched. "Miroku..."

"Yes, Kagome?"


Miroku was by her side in an instant. "What happened?"

Kagome gave a soft whine, thrusting her palm out. "I was going to hit you with that big stick over there, but... splinter."

Miroku bit back a grin, cradling her hand in his. "Buddha doesn't approve of violence. You should take this as a sign, Ka-go-me~."

"Miro-k-" began Kagome huffily as Miroku raised her palm to his lips, "-ee."

He placed a quick kiss on her finger, then tugged the tiny little sliver out. "You're welcome."

Kagome swayed dangerously.

A wicked grin spread across Miroku's lips. "Oh, by the way," he hummed pleasantly, pressing against her. "Does my voice still make you-"

"Shut up," squirmed Kagome, trying to pry his fingers off. "I-"

And then she was gone, pulled away from him and onto the blackened ground.

Pulse racing, Miroku tried to focus his eyes on the sudden upsweeping of dust and ash, and saw-

-a demon, shapeless and slow, hovering over-


And suddenly, every single cell in his body seemed to melt and sever and there was only one thought rushing through his head.

She's not moving.

The demon's head-soggy and deformed-snapped up, its forked tongue hissing at Miroku.

"Get. Away. From. Her," he gritted out with sheer, mindless primality.

The demon swished its tail.

The wooden pillars supporting the wrecked doorway wobbled, cracked, and finally caved in, but Miroku didn't notice.

Because Kagome was still not moving.

A few more tiny demons trickled in, and Miroku could almost hear his blood circulating, his heart racing, his muscles stretching under a myriad of emotions until one surfaced, propelling him into action. A surge of Houriki slithered through his body, wrapping its warm edges around him, coiling him into a tremendous spiral of strength and-

-the demon disintegrated.

Miroku grimaced, breaths short and shallow. His eyes stung a little and his skin felt heavier and why wasn't Kagome moving?

Drained, Miroku dropped to his knees next to her, palms flat against the charred ground. "In our next life, you better be a ballerina, Kagome."



He wouldn't be sure later what exactly happened, but as Kagome's chest finally rose and her lips parted with a small sigh, a piece of him-one he'd carried for almost forty years-melted away, washing away the fear and pushing him over some hidden little cliff-

"What-what's going on?" she asked delicately, eyes fluttering open, long lashes brushing her cheeks.

Miroku wrapped an arm around her shoulders, trying to help her up, but-

"Don't-don't touch me!" she cried out, scrambling away from him.

Horrified, Miroku could only stare at her. "Kagome, what-"

"Who am I?"

Miroku blinked.

"W-who am I?" She was looking around timidly, her blue eyes huge and fearful. "Where am I? I-I don't-"

Miroku froze, color draining from his face.

"Kagome. You're Kagome," he murmured desperately. Because she couldn't-couldn't not remember everything, not now, not when-

"A-and who are you?" she asked nervously, scooting away as he advanced on her, his pulse racing.


Not after everything-

"You can't remember-?" he began frantically, soul laden with frustration and anger, thumb caressing the cut on her cheek.


She couldn't do this to him. She couldn't forget. She couldn't be-

A small, pretty smile was playing about her lips.


"That's not funny, Kagome!" he shouted, crushing her to his chest.

Kagome giggled into his shirt, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist. "I thought it was, Miro-kun."

An incredulous laugh was building up in his chest, relief washing over him in waves. "Toying with my sanity like that-"

"-what goes around-mmh!"

Her lips were soft against his, tasting like tears and-


And her heart kept swelling until it hurt to breathe.

She pulled away, still smiling. He tugged her closer and she thought that perhaps getting knocked around by a demon or fifty wasn't so very horrible if it drew such a reaction from...

"Miroku," she was going to say, but gasped instead.

Thank you for trying.

Kagome closed her eyes, Kikyou's soft voice still lingering within her.

And then, the borrowed fragment of her soul came back to her in a whisper, flaking off a thin layer of frost around her heart.

"Kagome?" asked Miroku worriedly, feeling her forehead. "Are you-"

"Perfectly fine," she replied guiltily, averting her eyes. "Miroku, I-"

"OY!" came a chorus of frantic voices.

Miroku looked up, frowning. "Remind me again why we sent Inuyasha back?"

Kagome followed his line of vision and saw-


Demons, of all shapes and sizes, were rampaging through the shrine and the streets surrounding it, munching on trees and cars. Several small fires were raging off to the side, and Kagome could've sworn that van careening down the alley belonged to the local news crew. Yuka and Erri seemed to be... playing with a tiny serpent demon, while Hojou and Ayumi guided a couple of kids into the nearest house.

Slowly, Kagome lifted her gaze to Miroku.

He was standing next to her, watching the scene with a solemn expression. His cheeks were smudged with dirt and ashes and crisscrossed with tiny little scratches. His uniform was torn and the white shirt underneath was bloody.

Quietly, Kagome slipped her hand in his, looking at the ground.

Miroku twitched, surprised.

And then he smiled, and wrapped his fingers around hers, still looking straight ahead.

Awkwardly, Kagome bit her lip.

Naraku was dead.

And she was alive.

So was Miroku.


She had so not planned for... that.

"Um," she said finally, "my mother's not going to approve, you know." She gave a mournful little sniffle. "You are, after all, really old."

"Ah," replied Miroku, equally saddened. "I suppose I shall just have to console myself with a modest harem."

Kagome kicked him. "Eunuchs don't need harems."

Miroku kissed her, laughing against her lips, hands cupping her face.

"Hey, that's really nice and everything," shouted Yuka frantically, brandishing a pointy branch, "but there's a demon on the loose!"

"Um... twelve... HUNDRED of them," supplied Ayumi, throwing her math book at a hissing demon.

"And they're really uuuugly!" whined Erri, wiping blood and guts from her shiny shoes with her expensive little handkerchief.

"Oooh, she is so dead if she doesn't stop kissing that guy and come help us right n-oooww, Hojou-kun!" wailed Yuka, rubbing her head.

"Oh, um, I'm sorry!" said Hojou sheepishly, eyes shut tightly in apology. "I was aiming for the demon."

Ayumi and Erri flew into a rage, whacking the boy with their weapons of choice.

"Think we should, you know... help?" asked Miroku softly, gaze slipping to her lips again.

Kagome watched him for a moment, distracted by his pretty cheekbones.

"Eight second rule, Kagome," he whispered against her lips, fingers weaving through her tangled hair.

"Miroku..." she began softly, heat pooling deep inside her. "I-"

"I know," he murmured, brushing his lips across the corner of hers. "Me, too."

Kagome's fingers splayed over his chest as she looked down. "Do you still-"


Kagome frowned, grabbing a handful of his dirty shirt. "You don't know what I was going to ask, you jerk!"

"Of course I do," he said lightly, sliding his fingers lower and hooking them around the waistband of her skirt. "You were going to ask if I noticed you weren't wearing a bra. And yes. Yes, I did."


"It's been a while," he said cheerfully, familiarly, rubbing his cheek, "I forgot how hard you hit."

Kagome's eyes were overly bright.

"Tomorrow..." she whispered uncertainly.

Miroku blinked.

"You-you're going to be here tomorrow?" she asked quietly.

Miroku's features softened.

"I don't know," he murmured gravely. "Will you be wearing a bra?"

A demon flew by, crashing into a brick wall.

Kagome huffed, poking Miroku's stupid chest. "I'm so going to date Hojou-kun when he wakes up! Well, IF he wakes up..."

And that's when it happened. Miroku tensed, tangled his fingers with hers, and looked at her-really looked at her-with an incredibly miserable, jaded, uncertain look. "Will you?"

Kagome's heart sped up. "Miroku?"

Yuka shrieked somewhere in the distance.

Miroku tilted his head slightly, eyebrow cocked. "Will you be here tomorrow?"

"Unh..." whispered Kagome, arching into him and hoping she never woke up. "Yes."

"Great!" he said, pushing her away and grinning. "Because guess what," here, his grin grew, curling his lips most attractively, "you're on time for finals."

"Aiee!" yelped Kagome, extending a mournful hand toward the wrecked well. "Okay, then! I think I can dig that thing out-so! I'll be back in a week or so, Miro-k-"

Abruptly, Miroku grabbed her hand, the blood on it as dry as his, and shook his head with a satisfied, predatory grin. "I don't think so, Ka-go-me." He pulled her closer, voice lowering to a possessive murmur. "I get to keep you, remember?"

And then he was off, running toward the demons, his torn shirt fluttering against his tanned back.

Kagome's heart ached with joy.

"Yeah," she smiled softly, then chased after him. "I remember."

Chasing Methuselah

A InuYasha Story
by Sandra E

Part 13 of 13

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