Continuing Tales

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 22 of 42

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Tales from the House of the Moon

"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another."
- James Matthew Barrie

. . .

Sesshoumaru was being a pill again.

Kagome laid her chin on his left shoulder so that she had a better view of his face and immediately regretted it. Not that his face was bad to look at - quite, quite the opposite, she acknowledged, a little embarrassed - but she found the mild expression he wore slightly disturbing given his actions. He looked vaguely enlightened - even content - as they sped away from the wolf camp and traveled ever further south and west, and he kept his eyes in the middle distance, as though his mind were a million miles away. Which, given how poorly connected to reality he usually seemed to be, was probably true. Kagome sighed.

"You know," she said reproachfully from her perch on his back, "once was okay, and twice I could understand, but you don't have to keep squishing him. That can't be good for his health."

Sesshoumaru gave her a superior, appraising look from the corner of his eye before he returned his attention to the path in front of him, and she saw a faint smile on his lips. "Your observation has been duly noted," he told her, "and I will give it the consideration it deserves." Leisurely, he lifted his right hand, in which, pinned between elegantly clawed thumb and forefinger, Myouga struggled mightily as he healed from the last bone-crushing pinch Sesshoumaru had given him.

"Sesshoumaru-sama, please, I could not take the cold of the north! You know that!" the flea wailed. "I was only attempting to preserve this old body so... so that..." he waved his tiny limbs in an effort to communicate his great distress. Or his great loyalty. It was difficult to tell. "So that..." he tried again.

The demon lord did not appear impressed, and Kagome winced as Myouga floundered. Pity forced her to take action and she interjected in what was probably a misguided attempt to save him. "So that he may live and continue to serve you!" she said quickly.

His golden eyes gave her another look, but she was used to it. "Hn," he said.

Then he squished Myouga again.

Kagome decided that she'd had enough. "Stop that!" she snapped, reaching over and smacking his hand, earning only an amused quirk of the lips for her efforts as Sesshoumaru moved his right hand out of her reach. She narrowed her eyes, recognizing the ancient game of keep-away. So he was going to be like that, was he? Well, she hadn't spent some fifteen years of her life as the sister to a little brother for nothing.

"Fine, be that way," she said huffily, drawing back and settling a little lower on his hips, hopefully giving him the impression that he had won. "See if I care." Kagome tossed her hair over her shoulder and looked away from him, apparently finding a haughty interest in the landscape that sped by.

"All right," he said, clearly entertained by her petulance. Kagome glared at the back of his head and listened to Myouga's plaintive cries as Sesshoumaru explained to his retainer - in a perfectly reasonable tone of voice - that he had not been given leave to stay at the wolf camp, and therefore needed to be reminded of proper procedures.


"Now, now," Sesshoumaru replied as Kagome slowly shifted her weight and worked herself beneath the blanket of his hair to the other side of his body, "one would think that you would know how to ask for permission by now - after all, you are how old? - but seeing as how you are still ignorant, you require education."


The demon lord shook his head. "Begging is useless - " he began.

Abruptly Kagome cut him off by shoving her right hand down the front of his armor in a most inappropriate manner. Then she wiggled her fingers in an even more inappropriate manner.

His mouth snapped shut. Startled into silence, Sesshoumaru shifted his eyes from the flea to his chest and stared at the offending appendage. Dimly, he tried to instruct his left hand to remove it from its intimate place on his person, but unfortunately the message seemed to keep getting waylaid on the way from his brain to his arm, so he carried on staring in disbelief and wondering why his stomach had gone all funny on him. He was almost too shocked, in fact, to pay attention to the rest of Kagome, which was drawing up over the opposite shoulder, leaning over, stretching out -

"Whoah!" he exclaimed with rather less dignity than he was accustomed to, jerking the flea out of her grasp. She tumbled against his shoulder and he scowled.

"I am not distracted so easily as that, miko!" he declared, despite evidence to the contrary.

"Damn!" he heard her say as her small hand emerged from its illicit den and she ducked back to his left side. "I almost had you!" she said sullenly, beating her little fist against his chest childishly.

Sesshoumaru sniffed, extending the flea straight in front of them so she would not be tempted to rescue him again. "No, you did not," he lied. "Never, at any point, did I lose control of the situation."

"Ha!" she barked. "I don't believe that for a moment."

"I am wounded deeply at your lack of faith in me," he said, voice dry.

"Yeah, I'll bet," she grumped, letting her chin drop again to its place on his shoulder before heaving a sigh that sounded almost like the sigh of a mother, exasperated with her disobedient offspring.

"Look, please stop abusing Myouga," she said, a pleading note creeping into her words. "It's just... not nice!"

Sesshoumaru twisted to look at her and raised a brow so high it nearly disappeared into his hair. "Indeed," he said. Clearly she wasn't used to the traditionally rough establishment of youkai hierarchy - Myouga had endured far worse and had come through no worse for the wear. On the other hand...

Kagome tilted her head so she could better pin him with her wide, compassionate eyes, putting him in mind of a hungry pup who wanted an extra cut of meat for dinner and who thought that looking wounded and pathetic would garner the sympathy necessary.

Unfortunately, it was working. Sesshoumaru swore silently as her face fell into an expression of almost-authentic heartbreak. "Please?" she begged, her form clinging slightly closer to him as though she could express her longing through pressure.

He was cursed - no, his whole damn line was cursed - no, all males everywhere were cursed. There was no other explanation. What was it about a sweetly pleading female that turned them all to butter? He'd never truly been able to resist, and really, really, she asked for so little and it couldn't hurt -

"Oh, very well," he exclaimed, exasperated with both her and himself. "If it will please you, you may have the worthless bastard." With the air of one granting a great boon he brought the flea to her cupped hand, growling at both of them in warning.

She paid him no mind. "Thank you," she said, her hand squeezing his shoulder in gratitude. He sighed with resigned acceptance of her victory as she urgently asked Myouga if he was all right.

Sesshoumaru scowled. Squishing the flea really wasn't that much fun anyway. Really.

Kagome looked at the flea in her hand with concern. Myouga was rubbing his bald head and wincing, a tiny flea-sized groan escaping from him. "I'm sorry," Kagome told him fervently, "I tried to get him to stop sooner - "

"Ah, Kagome-sama," the flea said, "it is not your fault. I deserved it."

"No you didn't!" she cried indignantly. "That's the silliest thing I ever heard. It was only a technicality anyway; I doubt Sesshoumaru would have insisted that you die of cold for him."

"Enough technicalities will grow into a calamity," Sesshoumaru announced to no one in particular.

Kagome opened her mouth to respond, but Myouga was flapping his hands as though to placate them both. "This is true, Kagome-sama," he said, "but of course I am willing to die for Sesshoumaru-sama. I am his servant!"

The servant's master snorted disbelievingly, and Kagome found herself siding with the demon lord; she'd never seen the flea willing to die for anything, except maybe food. Myouga ignored both his lord's incredulous laughter and Kagome's dubious look, instead hopping up to Kagome's shoulder and sliding down into her haori. "Regardless," she heard him chirp from the folds of her clothing, "I am sufficiently chastised. Next time I will not be so careless!"

Even though Kagome couldn't see his face, she had the distinct impression that Sesshoumaru had rolled his eyes, but Myouga continued obliviously. "Now," the flea commanded, "onward! We must make haste!"

Beneath her hands she could feel the shoulders of the demon lord lift and fall in a long-suffering sigh.

"Myouga-jii-chan!" Kagome admonished half-heartedly, but she could already feel him curling up against her collarbone, still too cold to stay awake for long. Her mouth twisted into a wry, resigned smile and she laid her chin against Sesshoumaru's shoulder once again, blinking into the cold wind that slipped by, whipping their hair back into a black and silver banner, swelling their clothing into curtains of red and white. Sesshoumaru flew steadily southward.

It had been four and a half days since she had woken with her head on his shoulder in their cozy mountainside shelter, and she thought they were making very good time. For one thing, they were going consistently downhill instead of up an incline, so it took much less effort to propel them along. For another, Sesshoumaru appeared to have grown weary of their journey, now wishing for it to be over as soon as possible, and so he carried her on his back. She had to admit it was better than both of them walking, and all it took was a small sacrifice of dignity. Sesshoumaru seemed to have a surfeit of it anyway, she reasoned, so losing a little bit of it wouldn't hurt.

In fact it had been a remarkably pleasant journey, even though she slept poorly each night, propped against a tree like her companion and covered in a heavy fur, and her only complaint was Sesshoumaru's seeming delight in punishing Myouga multiple times for one crime. He had been particularly vicious today. Kagome suspected he was bored, and itching for a fight in which his opponent could actually take his blows. Verbal sparring only went so far.

Idly, Kagome watched the landscape speed by and wondered how long it would take to get to Machiko. Even though she was furious with Kouga - not to mention his stupid son - she found herself incredibly anxious to find them and unite them with the newest additions to their family. After she kicked Kouga in the unmentionables, of course. Still, the most important thing was to deliver their package and then, maybe then, she could ask Kouga where Miroku and Sango and Shippou had gone. Then she could go home, and sleep in a bed, and be warm again.

She sighed a little wistfully. It was summer back home, and she'd been here for a little over a month now. Her mother would be worried.

In her chest, something lurched, dragging a dull edge down her middle.

Kagome blinked, surprised at how that thought seemed to shake her. Never before had thoughts of her family been a jarring thing in the Sengoku Jidai; they had always been a refuge when she began to long for the comforts of the modern era, even if the comforts of home no longer soothed her as they once had. Yet after her mother's concern the last time she had seen her - woefully well-placed concern, Kagome thought regretfully, absentmindedly flexing her scarred fingers - it suddenly seemed like her real life was a dream, misty and safe and secure, and her family seemed further away than even time could take them. Thoughts of them were difficult to hold, slippery, and there was an uncomfortable quality to them as well, as if their passage across her mind were out of place instead of natural.

Troubled, Kagome let her cheek come down to rest against her companion and sighed. She had time enough for psychoanalysis when she went home, she supposed, but right now she had a task to attend to, a duty to complete before she could indulge in thoughts of her soft bed and her mother's cooking. But of course then she would long for the clear air and her companions of the past.

She felt a frown creep onto her face at the thought. Perhaps she would be forever discontent no matter where she was or what time she was in, because those who were dear to her were no longer the same. Or perhaps the problem lay in her; perhaps it was her own failings that made her feel this way. Kagome sighed and huddled closer to Sesshoumaru and let her eyes unfocus, trying to find some peace in her own mind.

She was startled out of her reverie when the warm hands lightly gripping her legs tightened, and Sesshoumaru's claws pricked her, very slightly, through the thick fabric of her hakama.

"Hey," she said vaguely, lifting her head up to look at him. In her clothes, she heard Myouga's snores trip over themselves as he woke up, but she ignored the flea as he groggily climbed to the surface, choosing instead to study the far more intriguing sight of Sesshoumaru's expression. She could tell from the look on his face that something was about to happen, and as it was probably more exciting than traveling she found the prospect not entirely unwelcome, despite the pensive air the demon had assumed.

Sesshoumaru's brows were drawn down into the frown he used to intimidate those he considered beneath him - which was everyone - and his lips had flattened into a thin line. She watched as he sniffed the air experimentally.

"Hmm," he said.

Kagome waited patiently for his train of thought to leave the station. "Yes?" she prompted after she felt an appropriate amount of time had passed.

He blinked and turned to her. "It appears Kouga and his wayward son have saved us quite a bit of time," he told her cryptically. Kagome did not appreciate this.

"Yes...?" she said again. Sesshoumaru gave her an annoyed look.

"Machiko is nearby," he elaborated. "probably in the nearest village, and Kouga and Akiyama appear to have found her first." He was flying high above the treetops, needing only to touch down on the occasional branch, and he could see the rising smoke and cleared land of a village perched just on the edge of the horizon.

"Oh, good," Kagome said. "That makes our job easier."

"This is possible," Sesshoumaru conceded, guiltily aware that Machiko's scent told him that she was in a great deal of distress, both physically and mentally. The last time he had smelled that on a woman was when he had entered Izayoi's chambers for the second time, when she had been fading into darkness and taking her child with her. He decided that this information should probably be withheld from Kagome for as long as possible, for it would only upset her if she knew. He hoped she would not pounce on his careful wording and figure it out for herself.

She didn't. Instead, Kagome said thoughtfully, "That's weird." From the corner of his eye he could discern a slight frown marring her pretty face.

Not wanting to appear out of the loop, Sesshoumaru waited for her to enlighten him as to what she found strange about the situation. She liked the sound of her own voice, after all, so he had no doubt that she would seize this fabulous opportunity to hear herself speak. He waited expectantly.

She did not disappoint. "Why would Akiyama be here? I thought he wanted to avoid his responsibility, not run to it."

Sesshoumaru shrugged. "Perhaps Kouga persuaded him otherwise," he suggested.

"Maaaaaybe," Kagome said, her tone of voice making it abundantly clear what she thought of Kouga's persuasive talents. "But then why would they seek out Machiko if they didn't have the herbs they needed?"

"To lead us to her?" Myouga piped up from her collar. Deep in thought, Kagome shook her head.

"But then if he found Akiyama, why didn't he send him our way to take this little burden off our hands?"

Good question, Sesshoumaru thought, frowning. Absentmindedly he angled them in the direction of the village where he detected the fickle hime and their wayward allies, and attempted to unravel the puzzle before him. Distantly, he reflected that Kagome must be rubbing off on him, as he was more accustomed to simply slicing through knots rather than taking the time to disentangle them, but at least it was something with which to keep his mind occupied. He let himself sink gingerly into contemplation.

Sesshoumaru was so deeply embroiled in this new sensation that the angry shout rising up to meet him would have escaped his notice if Kagome had not tensed beneath his fingers. He snapped out of his musings just in time to dodge the downsweep of a katana. Bewildered, Sesshoumaru darted backwards, keeping himself between Kagome and his attacker, who plummeted toward the trees before swiftly turning and glaring up at them with angry green eyes, the source of all their troubles.

The feeling of thoughtfulness gave way to the far more familiar sensation of annoyance.

Akiyama was oblivious. "I'm not letting you near that village, you bastard!" he yelled as he touched down on a tree branch and shot upwards again.

Silently Sesshoumaru cursed his lack of available limbs, and then he cursed his lack of viable weapons; even if he had an arm free he wasn't sure he could draw Toukijin from his sash without slicing Kagome's leg to ribbons. Mostly, though, he cursed stupid wolves who didn't know what was good for them. He flexed his right hand and released its hold on Kagome - he felt her tense around him in response to the loss of support - as he readied his poisonous claws and cleared his mind of extraneous distractions.

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that someone else wished to have a word with them as well. Sesshoumaru was so focused on keeping himself between Akiyama and Kagome that he didn't register the second attacker until he was ten feet away and closing fast. Intensely annoyed, Sesshoumaru whirled in the air as Kouga came up to greet them before planting his feet squarely in the wolf's chest and using his hapless ally as a jumping point.

Sesshoumaru and Kagome shot further into the air. Stomach bathed in icy panic, Kagome peered over Sesshoumaru's shoulder with growing dismay as Kouga flipped over, regained his upward momentum, and drew alongside his still-advancing son. She was at a loss; she didn't understand why they would be attacking the very allies who had undertaken such a dangerous mission for their sake - it didn't make any sense! Even worse, she felt betrayal drag its ragged claws through her stomach as she numbly watched their one-time allies surge forward in attack. As the wolf prince placed a supporting, fatherly hand on his son's shoulder, Kagome let out a wounded gasp.

Then Kouga turned and punched Akiyama across the jaw.

Kagome blinked. Uncomprehending, she saw the younger wolf tumbled downwards as Kouga continued toward them, a sharp, satisfied grin on his face.

She decided that this moment called for action.

"What the hell?" Kagome said. As actions went, it wasn't much, but it was better than letting her mouth hang open and risk exposing the world to the teeth she hadn't brushed in almost a week.

Sesshoumaru made a sound in his throat that was probably an agreement, but his inflection was lost in the wind and she couldn't discern if it was a soft version of the 'I Know Something You Don't Know' laugh, or a sharp version of the 'Surely This Sesshoumaru Does Not Deserve This Aggravation' sigh. It was hard to tell with him, sometimes.

"Oy!" Kouga yelled up at them. "Give me Kagome!"

There was that little groan again - that was definitely the sigh, Kagome decided - and Sesshoumaru straightened from his defensive posture.

"Why," he said impatiently, "should I?" Casually he moved away from the wolf prince, darting down and back in a move that caused Kagome's heart temporarily relocate to her mouth.

"Eep," she urked. Neither demon paid attention.

Kouga looked even more annoyed than before. "Because my son is not convinced that you won't slaughter his family," Kouga shot back, following. "He's decided he likes them now."

"Hn," Sesshoumaru replied blandly. "What faith my allies place in me."

They were almost to the village now. Kouga growled, drawing level. "I don't want Kagome to get hurt. Just give her to me while you kick his ass, will ya?"

Sesshoumaru was momentarily torn. On the one hand, with Kagome he could not wield a weapon, and she threw off his balance, which was a terrible hindrance in one-on-one combat. On the other hand, he didn't trust the wolf to protect her, which would be bad as that was his self appointed job. Decisions, decisions...

"Please," Kagome whispered in his ear, making up his mind for him, "I don't want to hinder you. Please."

Reluctantly, Sesshoumaru turned in the air as Kouga sailed by, and he felt her familiar weight leave him as the wolf scooped her up in his arms and headed for solid ground. Sighing, he turned back to the task at hand and drew Toukijin from its resting place, resigning himself to a fight that promised little in the way of excitement, and only a negligible arm workout.

Kagome squinted up at the youkai lord from her place in Kouga's arms, following his graceful movements as he darted across the sky, sleeves trailing behind him in the wind, hair shining in the early afternoon sun. He was so pleasant to watch that she almost didn't even notice when metal met metal and he sent the young wolf crashing downwards into the branches.

"He's not going to get hurt, is he?" she asked anxiously.

"Sesshoumaru?" Kouga said incredulously. "That asshole goes ballistic and takes out whole forests when he gets a nick in his precious armor. He'll be fine."

With a flash of guilt, Kagome remembered the time she had actually hit him with an arrow and shattered said armor before she brushed it aside. "No," she said with exasperation. "I meant Akiyama. He just fell in that maple tree over there."

"Ah-ha," Kouga said. "If he does get hurt, it would serve him right."

Kagome moved her eyes from Sesshoumaru's figure and looked up at her current handler as they hit the ground and he took off running. "You aren't very forgiving of your son, you know," she said, letting just a hint of disapproval leak into her voice.

The wolf just shrugged. "Well, he is kind of a shit," Kouga said nonchalantly. "Frankly, I'm just surprised he decided to take any responsibility, even if it was the wrong kind of responsibility at the time."

"What do you mean, wrong - oh, yeah!" she exclaimed. "I forgot, I'm not speaking to you, you... you ass!" Kagome crossed her arms and jerked her head to face away from him with as much dignity as one could muster while being carried and jostled.

"What? You just were!" Kouga said, befuddled. "Why aren't you talking to me now?"

Kagome, busy having flashbacks to dragon goop and disfigurement, declined to answer.

Kouga looked at the miko in his arms and sighed inwardly. There had been a time when this would have been the perfect opportunity to try and steal a kiss from her lovely mouth, but, unfortunately, with middle age came a disturbing trend towards more fatherly feelings concerning pretty young ladies. It was depressing that now, after all these years of her memory trailing wistful fingers over him, she should be in his arms, scolding him and prettily petulant, and his first inclination was not illicit kisses but rather the overwhelming urge to chastize her and send her to bed without her share of rabbit. One of life's little ironies, he supposed. How the times did change.

Less than a minute later they were skidding to a stop on the outskirts of the village where Kouga and Akiyama had obviously set up camp. Kagome tried not to wrinkle her nose at the remains of various small rodent carcasses half-buried in the dust, remembering her own brush with lupine eating habits, and hopped out of Kouga's embrace as soon as they had halted. Smoothing her wind-blown hair, Kagome turned and stalked away from him to stand at the outskirts of the clearing and glare at the forest with righteous indignation.

"Kagome," she heard him say, tone conciliatory. "I'm sorry I sent you off on such a terrible mission, but I had no other choice. You know that. You would never let a girl and her baby suffer, would you?"

Damn him and his stupid appeal to reason! "Of course not," she sniffed, staring at a particularly interesting twig, "but I didn't expect to get permanent scars from the ordeal either!" Not, she thought with a tickle of guilt, that my fingers are more important than two lives, but they're my fingers. I really liked them the way they were. Kagome was aware that she was being childish, but she was tired of traveling and mucking about in other people's problems and generally being taken advantage of. Everyone wanted something from her. Please kill the youkai, miko-sama! What herbs should I use for this disease, miko-sama? Fetch this medicine, Kagome, do you have those wonderful snacks, Kagome, find those shards - In fact, the only person who didn't seem to want something was Sesshoumaru, and he was... was... well, he was him.

She was being mean and petty, and knowing that made it worse. Kagome sighed, chastising herself for her selfishness. On the other hand, a friend would have at least warned her of what she was in for. Kagome turned and gave Kouga a speculative look.

Kouga, for his part, took a step back, not liking the appraising light in her eyes one bit. He took another step when she pivoted and strode toward him with something akin to determination gracing her steps.

When she reached him, Kagome halted, stared him in the eye, and threw her arms around him.

"What - ?" Kouga said, mildly incoherently. Kagome was beginning to worry him - this was her second mood-swing in as many minutes, and the way she was see-sawing between affection and anger was extremely disconcerting. Nevertheless, she was still a pretty girl, and he wasn't one to deny her a hug. He put his arms around her.

"Kouga..." she murmured, sending a warm breath of air across his ear, and suddenly he was no longer feeling purely paternal toward her, and as she shifted, rubbing her hips across his, he crash-landed in perilously lascivious territory.

"Uh..." He struggled to think, but she was speaking again.

"Kouga," she whispered, her chest pressing against his, "I'm sorry."

He was getting extremely muzzy. With effort, he galvanized his tongue into action. "Um... sorry for wh - " he began.

Kagome jerked her well-placed knee.

There was a pause, and then Kouga gurgled and slid to the ground as she stepped back.

That was almost better than a rosary, Kagome thought, her vengeance satisfied. "You deserved that," she informed him. "Now we're even and I forgive you."

Kouga, curled in face-down in a fetal position, just nodded his head and wheezed. Kagome scratched her scarred fingers and strolled away to find a suitable place to sit.

He did deserve it. He knew this. That didn't make it hurt less, of course, but at least he didn't feel guilty any longer. Who would have thought his innocent little Kagome would stoop to such underhanded tactics to exact her revenge! Bemused, he concentrated on controlling his breathing and willed the pain to go away.

After a minute, black shoes and white hakama appeared at the edge of his vision. He didn't even bother looking up to see the face of his ally, who was no doubt highly entertained by the situation.

"I see Kagome has informed you of her opinion regarding our journey," Sesshoumaru said with amusement. He hadn't really expected the little miko to go through with her threat to visit pain upon the wolf prince, but he wasn't exactly surprised either. She was a very... honest woman, and he found her justice swift and fitting - a curse upon Kouga's line, as it were. Of course, he was also terribly pleased to see the wolf brought low and groaning in the dirt because of a human girl; it was appropriately humiliating.

"Where's Akiyama?" Kagome asked from her perch on one of the fallen trees.

"Recovering," Sesshoumaru replied, looking up at her. He hadn't hurt the hot-headed youth too much, after all; he would be along any minute now, and then they could call an end to this annoying quest. "I suggest we leave our delivery here and depart."

To his vague dismay, Kagome frowned. "I still need to talk to Kouga about something," she told him. "Would it be all right if we stayed a little longer?"

Inwardly he sighed with reluctance, but there was no reason they couldn't wait for five more minutes. Behind him, something came crashing through the trees.

Kagome smiled when she saw the young wolf slide to a stop, his hair whipping around his face with the momentum of his run - he very much resembled his father in that moment - and look around frantically. She saw his eyes light upon his father's hunched figure.

"You!" he howled, lunging toward Sesshoumaru. She thought she heard the demon sigh as he leapt high into the air.

"Do be silent, whelp," he said from his position over their heads, "it was the miko, not I."

Akiyama stopped his attack and looked at Kagome suspiciously. "You?" he said, clearly doubting Kagome's abilities as a warrior. She felt a little annoyed by that.

"Yes, me," she snapped back at him.

The dubious look on his face deepened as Sesshoumaru touched down beside her. "How?" he wanted to know.

Kagome sniffed. "I hugged him. Then I hit him where it hurts."

Akiyama winced. "Why?"

Her patience was running thin. "Because," she said with exasperation, "he trapped us into an extremely difficult mission, and it sucked. I just wanted to let him know that it wasn't appreciated." She sniffed primly and made a show of smoothing her hakama.

"Oh," the young wolf said. She watched as he walked over to his father and prodded him with a toe. "You okay?" he asked.

Kouga groaned and sat up. "I'm feeling better," he told his son, and his tone of voice was so dejected that Kagome almost felt bad about her trick. Almost.

After a moment Kouga shook his dark hair out of his eyes and huffed. "So," he said, clearly wanting to move on from the subject of his rather ignominious defeat, "do you have it?"

Kagome nodded and stood. Turning her back to them she reached inside her haori and fished the package out. "Kouga," she said as she performed the slight acrobatics needed to keep her clothes in at least a modest state, "why didn't you come and get it from us when you found Akiyama?" Vaguely triumphantly she pulled it out and began to straighten her top again.

She heard the wolf sigh. "There have been... complications," he said carefully.

Complications, Kagome thought, turning back, the parcel clutched in her hands. Oh, good. This sounds like the sort of complications that pop up on family vacations when you're thirty thousand feet in the air and the pilot announces that there are complications right before you hit the side of the mountain and have to eat your mother-in-law. I love complications.

"Complications?" Sesshoumaru voiced her question for her, though his voice was steeped in displeasure instead of worry.

Kagome watched Kouga run a hand through his hair, his agitated fingers making more of a mess than if he had just left it alone. "The hime is experiencing problems with the pregnancy. She and her maid were forced to stop here, but the village has not been... receptive... to a girl carrying a hanyou child. They put her in a little abandoned hut, and Akiyama told me that he arrived only just in time to kick the crap out of some punks who were bothering her. He originally came in case you showed up first - " here he shot a reproving look at his stoic ally " - but she was in so much danger that we stayed to make sure she would be safe."

As Kouga spoke, Kagome saw Akiyama's face falling, and the expression crawling across his features was horrible - it was a mixture of dread, anxiety, and the only barely dawning comprehension of the troubles he had wrought for the child and its mother. In her chest, her heart gave a little half-twist and she began to realize, for the first time, the true gravity of the situation. That someone would harass a clearly frightened and pregnant girl - ! It made her sick to her stomach, closed her throat in a half-realized gag, made her insides slide over and around themselves in visceral disgust.

"Where is she?"

Kagome hadn't known that she had spoken until Akiyama took a step toward her. In his neck, she saw the muscles work in a hard, dry swallow. "Just through those trees," he pointed. "I'll take you to her, if you want."

She nodded. He started off, shoulders bowed, and Kagome followed him, still clutching the precious package in her cold hands.

Sesshoumaru stood in the clearing with Kouga and watched her go.

They were both silent for a moment. "Hn," Sesshoumaru said finally, apparently addressing the air. "I see she has you well-trained."

He heard the wolf snort. "I would not be talking if I were you," he replied.

Sesshoumaru snapped his head toward the wolf. "I would not speak of things of which I know nothing if I were you, which, thankfully, I am not," he retorted coldly.

Kouga snickered again, but declined to comment. When it was apparent their exchange was at an end Sesshoumaru walked to the nearest tree and sat, leaning against its trunk, to wait for Kagome to return.

. . .

Machiko was dying. Kagome was hit with the thick, stuffy smell of the sickroom the second she stepped inside the hut and her eyes alighted on the hime's pale face, covered in a sheen of sweat. She lay beneath a heavy kimono, and even Kagome could hear her labored breathing as it rasped through her lungs, dragging over her teeth. Her thin, nervous maid knelt by her side, brushing the damp strands of hair from the hime's forehead and murmuring soft, calming nothings to her, though she stopped and looked up when they walked in. Dimly, Kagome wondered what had become of the carriage and the coachman they had been traveling in, but it probably didn't matter.

Akiyama stood just to the side of the door, head bowed and hair obscuring his eyes from her, but she could see his clenched fists trembling at his sides, and she could hear his teeth grinding in impotent frustration. Kagome felt guilty about all the uncharitable thoughts she had allowed herself to think about him; despite what his father said, he cared deeply, and it was killing him to see his one-time lover in agony.

One thing was abundantly clear. The girl needed the medicine now.

Feeling so out of her depth that she might have been in the middle of the ocean, Kagome squared her shoulders. "Myouga," she said, her voice stronger than her suddenly knocking knees would suggest.

Beneath her clothes she felt the flea rustle. "Kagome-sama?" he replied.

"How do we prepare this?" She gestured to the package in her hand.

She heard him swallow hard. "Kagome-sama, the medicine will induce la - "

"I know that," she said before turning to the maid. "Do you know how to deliver a baby?" she asked.

The maid looked nervously from side to side, licking her lips. "I have... assisted in births before," she said cautiously. "I thought you were trained...?"

"I'm not," Kagome told her, only slightly regretfully. "You're going to have to do this. Do you think you can?" Please, please say you can. All I know about delivering babies I learned from the movies. It involves breathing. And pushing. I think.

For a moment, Kagome thought all was lost and she would be forced to deliver a baby blindly, but then the maid gave a firm nod of her head. "Yes," she replied. "Yes, I think I know what to do."

Giving her a relieved, grateful smile, Kagome turned back to Myouga, who cleared his throat. "Prepare it in a tea," he said. "Keep giving it to her until the process begins, and if there are complications, make her drink another cup."

"I'll fetch the water," Akiyama said suddenly, surprising her. She watched as he snatched one of the dusty pots piled by the fire and hurried out of the hut, every line of his body speaking of his tension and worry.

"I will, uh, go with him," Myouga coughed. Kagome frowned but she let him go. He was a coward in the best of times, but this - this was something entirely different. On the map of life experience, the uncharted waters of childbearing were shoved to the side and labeled 'here be dragons.' It was strange that even though she was a modern woman she should know nothing of it. It just wasn't... touched upon, really. She was familiar with the mechanics of sex - intellectually, at least - but the consequences of it were a mystery.

Kagome bit her lip as she walked softly toward the hime before sinking to her knees beside her.

With great effort, as though she were inhaling water, Machiko drew a breath and opened her glassy eyes. "Miko-sama..." she said weakly.

Kagome put a finger to her lips. "You'll be all right," she assured her, though in truth she had no idea if she would be all right at all. What if she died?

Machiko's eyelids drooped closed again and Kagome chewed her lower lip earnestly.

"You will need to help me."

Startled, Kagome looked up at the maid, who had spoken. "What?" she said. "No, I can't help you, I don't know anything about this!"

The maid shrugged. "You are a woman," she said simply, as if being a woman came with an instruction manual.

Panic flooded her mind, but what else could she do?

Nothing, she realized with growing dread. She could not just leave. Deliver this baby, miko-sama...

Her mounting fear was interrupted by Akiyama, tossing the hanging door aside and lurching forward anxiously to set the now-full pot of water over the cooking fire. Kagome felt as though she were in a daze, and she watched with a strange, agitated detachment as the maid strode forward purposefully, taking the package that contained the precious herbs from Kagome's hands before she shooed the wolf out of the hut.

They were silent as they waited for the water to boil, and only Machiko's labored breathing and the crackle of the fire broke the silence, though each noise danced on her nerves, manifesting as almost a physical weight moving against her skin. Kagome squirmed, trying to clear her mind and still her pounding heart. The tension was almost too much to bear.

"Miko-sama," the maid said after a moment. She did not lift her eyes from the pot as she waited for the water to begin its bubbling dance.

Kagome jumped at the sound. "Eh?" she replied. It was not the sharpest of responses, but given the circumstances she thought she was doing pretty damn well.

"What was your name again?" the maid said.

"My name? Oh - Kagome. Um. And yours?"


There was a pause, and in it she could hear the water begin to roil in its iron prison.

"Are you ready, Kagome-sama?"

Kagome wanted to say something strong, or flippant, or clever - anything to offset what she actually felt, which was sick. Unable to open her mouth, she just nodded. She could feel her legs, cold and hollow, shaking beneath her as she sat on the hard dirt floor and watched Yukiko open the package - that damn package that she and Sesshoumaru had gone to so much trouble to procure - and then dump it without ceremony into the boiling water.

It took only a few minutes, and then Yukiko was ladling the brew into a bowl and passing it over to Kagome. Turning to the hime, Kagome worked her fingers beneath her neck and tried to lift her head so that she could take the tea.

Machiko was too weak. She could feel the girl's skull - strange how heavy and how fragile it seemed - lolling over her own fragile hands, the thick hair grating over itself, making her hold slippery.

Anxiously Kagome set the cup down and moved to the head of the meager pile of blankets. She swept the heavy curtain of hair aside before awkwardly slipping her hand beneath the girl's neck and rolling her into something resembling a half-reclined position.

"Machiko-sama, you must drink," Kagome said urgently as she cupped the girl's chin and coaxed it open. Machiko gave a grunt of pain, but opened her mouth and drank as Kagome poured the tea down her throat. Once she was done Kagome handed it back to Yukiko, who filled it again.

After the fourth cup, Kagome was beginning to panic, and her back and thighs were beginning to hurt from propping the heavy hime up against her own body.

"Why isn't it working?" she asked anxiously. Unconsciously she rubbed her thumbs across the scars on her index fingers as she ground her teeth. Funny, but she couldn't seem to get enough air, either.

Yukiko shook her head, her brow wrinkled in a worry that mirrored Kagome's. "I do not know," she said, her voice pitching slightly higher in panic as she filled the cup a fifth time. "I will need more water soon if she does not begin." When she handed the bowl over, her hand was shaking, spilling a little of the scalding water over Kagome's own fingers. Kagome hissed and drew the bowl to her side, blowing on the surface of the tea to cool it before tipping it once more into Machiko's mouth.

Halfway through, the hime jerked in her arms, and Kagome cried out as the bowl was knocked from her hands to soak through the kimono and splash against the floor, but her cry was drowned out by Machiko's own keening groan. Distantly, Kagome could hear the clatter of the ladle in the pot, and Yukiko stumbled into her line of vision.

"What has happened?" she cried, her birdlike hands fluttering out toward her mistress.

"I don't know, I don't know," Kagome babbled as the hime groaned again and her back bowed under what seemed to be some kind of pressure.

Swiftly the maid reached beneath the spread kimono and hiked the girl's legs up into a bent position before throwing the coverings back to between the girl's spread knees. Blushing furiously Kagome moved as though to lay the girl back down.

"No! Stay there!" Yukiko barked. Frightened, Kagome complied, snaking an arm across the girl's chest to hold her in place and averting her eyes.

This is the most humiliating thing I have ever seen, she thought numbly. Her childhood dreams of happy motherhood were becoming stained with the scent of dying and pungent herbs and the groans of the girl in her arms. She tried to calm her breathing as the hime moaned piteously once more.

"Too fast, too fast," she heard Yukiko mutter frantically as she knelt between the girls legs. "Kagome!"

Kagome's head jerked up, and she stared wide-eyed at the woman in front of her.

"Massage her belly."

"What? How - ?"

"Gently, try to get her to relax, and don't let her move too much. I will be right back."

"What?" Kagome almost said, but she was too slow. The word was only halfway to her mouth when Yukiko reached the door and ducked out, another pot clutched in her thin fingers, and Kagome was left alone with the girl.

Oh god, she thought, oh god oh god, this is so unbelievably bad there is no word to describe it. I'm going to have to invent a new one just for this experience.

At a loss, Kagome propped the girl a little higher and reached around her to place her hands on her belly. As she began to move her hands over the strange, taught skin beneath the heavy cloth, Machiko tipped backwards, her head hitting Kagome's collarbone with bruising force.

Then they were pressed cheek to cheek, and Kagome felt the hime's scalding tears slide down her own face.

. . .

The sun had gone down half an hour ago, and still the girl shrieked in her wooden prison. Sesshoumaru ground his teeth and tried to block the screams from his skull, but it was no use; they grated down the inside of his brain like fingernails.

The two wolf demons in the clearing were on edge; Kouga was methodically dismembering what Sesshoumaru could only assume was a particularly offensive tree, and Akiyama was pacing with steps so violent he had already worn a shallow trench into the dirt. Both of them would stop periodically to rake a hand through their hair in exactly the same manner before resuming their occupations. Their agitation was both entertaining and entirely understandable.

What Sesshoumaru did not understand was his own reaction to the situation.

He fidgeted, a restless anxiety clawing its way through his body, and he didn't know why.

No, that wasn't true; he did know why, but he didn't know why.

The worst part was the smell. He could smell the blood, the birth fluids, the pungent brew, and the sweat emanating from the little hut, but those scents were not the causes of his agitation. No, the scent that made his claws twitch involuntarily - preludes to an action he could not name - was the scent of feminine distress: the hime's, the maid's... and Kagome's.

Kagome was exhausted and frightened.

He did not like that at all. It made him want to pierce his own skin to free the frustration inside him. It made him want to crawl out of his own bones.

Sesshoumaru felt a growl grate its way across his throat.

It was because he'd spent so much time in her company, he decided. He was used to her damnable scent the way it usually was: calm, determined, bright - occasionally exasperated, he thought with more than a little gleeful pride - and confident. Now that it had changed it was making him extremely uncomfortable to smell these new layers to it. The contrast was too jarring from her normal smell, as if she was suddenly obscured and changed, altered in ways entirely unpleasant to him.

He should have never let her go with that stupid wolf.

"Oh, stop sighing, mutt."

Sesshoumaru's head snapped up and he leveled one of his more impressive glares at Kouga, who had spoken. The wolf was standing ten feet away, hands on his hips, tail swishing angrily. Sesshoumaru arched a brow and refused to dignify the obvious baiting.

Kouga crossed his arms. "Babies just don't slide into the world, you know," he continued. "It takes time, so quit being such an ass about it."

With great effort, Sesshoumaru kept his other eyebrow from shooting up to his hairline in surprise; if Kouga was mistaking his disturbance for impatience, he certainly was not going to correct him.

"Your progeny," he said as icily as he could, "should no longer be our concern."

"Our concern?" Kouga pounced on the word. "Oh, so you two are a team now?"

Sesshoumaru felt his lip curl in a barely repressed growl, but it was no use. The wolf saw the slight flash of sharp white teeth in the dim twilight, and grinned.

"I don't think I'm the one who's been trained," he said, and he was already leaping backwards, the sword at his hip out and deflecting Toukijin's sharp sidestroke, and Sesshoumaru snarled as the wolf jumped into the trees, laughing. "Here, boy!" Kouga called, darting away.

Sesshoumaru followed, boiling blood singing, welcoming the clearly deliberate distraction from the scent of Kagome's distress as he and Kouga sailed up into the night sky to spar.

Inside the hut, the world had become tiny and sharp. Kagome's arms ached. Her shoulders ached. Her back ached. Her thighs ached. Her abdomen ached. Her head ached.

Her heart ached most of all.

She had never thought one person could cry so much, but the sleeve of her haori was soaked through, and the hime's beautiful face was swollen and blotchy, slippery with snot. Mechanically Kagome ran her hands in heavy strokes over the girls belly, though every bone in her arms screamed for her to stop, soothing the tight muscles and relaxing Machiko's body by force. Time and time again she had to halt her massaging motions as the girl convulsed in pain, and Kagome desperately covered her hand in the thick fabric of her sleeve and put it to the girl's lips, wincing as Machiko bit down so hard she left bruises.

"Breathe, breathe, relax, breathe, push when you need to, breathe," she chanted to the girl over and over. "You'll be done soon, it will be okay, you are almost through." Little promises that she didn't fully believe herself fell from her mouth and seemed to patter to the floor, unheeded. Occasionally though, she felt the girl's head nod against her shoulder and the hime would quiet for a few moments before she was once again wracked with pain. Kneeling at her feet, Yukiko slowly massaged the girl's lower back, occasionally stopping to wipe away the excrement or amniotic fluid that leaked out, cleaning her with fresh water, speaking to her mistress in soothing tones all the while.

Kagome had long ago given up complaining in her head. There didn't seem to be any point to it, really, and it was patently ridiculous to feel sorry for herself in the face of so much pain.

Circle circle, stroke stroke, she thought, circle circle, stroke stroke, circle, bite... circle, stroke stroke, circle circle, stroke stroke, circle circle, stroke stroke -


Wearily Kagome lifted her head to see Yukiko's face light up as she down. "The baby!" the maid gasped, the tired lines around her eyes and mouth smoothing into delight. "Hime-sama, just a little more, just a little more - "

Machiko threw her head back and screamed, and Kagome clung to her as Machiko's fingers scrabbled against her arm, grabbing her already bruised hand and squeezing so mightily that Kagome barely bit back her own cry of pain.

"Breathe, hime-sama, breathe, do not push too hard," Yukiko cried. "Let him come, let him come on his own - "

Kagome struggled to brush away the heavy mantle of pain and exhaustion, desperately trying to remember what happened now and finally pouncing on a faint memory.

"Breathe with me, Machiko," she said, though she was so tired it came out as a groan. "In, in, out... can you do that?" She felt the girl nod, her sobs shuddering through both of them.

"You are so brave," Kagome told her, the platitude seeming stupid, absurd in its inadequacy, but Machiko did not seem to notice. Instead she struggled to breathe in the pattern Kagome had just hissed, and Kagome let the girl crush her hand with her grip as they breathed together.

"Almost, almost, almost - !" Yukiko chanted on the edge of Kagome's hearing, and then Machiko gave one last shriek and Yukiko cried out in joy.

"Ah! He is here! He is beautiful!" Kagome didn't even look up to watch Yukiko do... whatever it was that one did with newborns.

"Just push a little more, and you may rest," the maid said. Then Machiko pushed twice, and the baby slid out into the world, wet and screaming and alive.

Within moments he was rubbed clean, and Yukiko tied the cord, passing him to his mother's quaking arms.

He was huge, and he had wolf ears. Kagome thought she saw his wet tail give a tired wag, and then it was over.

Machiko was still crying, and the baby's own wail rose in tandem with hers. Yukiko appeared next to Kagome, gently taking the hime from her aching arms and laying her back to rest on her meager bed.

Kagome crawled away, too tired to be grateful, only feeling a vague weight lifting from her shoulders as she wearily climbed to her feet.

"Don't go anywhere yet," Yukiko told her. "We aren't finished."

"What - ?"

The maid scooted back to her place between the girl's legs. "Just a minute," she said.

Kagome decided that since waiting did not involve moving in any way, she could probably manage it. She waited, trying not to lean on her bruised hands.

After a few minutes she heard Yukiko give a sharp intake of breath and then, " - ah - !"

One minute later Kagome stood outside in the cold, gagging and letting the afterbirth in her hands flop to the ground.

Spitting bile, Kagome decided that she was going to kill someone. Maybe herself. Or whoever had decided that she was a miko reincarnated, because she was most definitely not cut out for this.

There is no way in hell, she thought half-coherently as she bent and chopped at the ground with the crude shovel she had unearthed from the huts plundered stores. Her spent arms trembled with the effort, but the adrenaline in her system didn't go to waste. In ten minutes she had a decent hole in the hard earth, and Kagome fell to her knees and pushed the placenta in before mechanically shoving the dirt back into the hole with her hands, too tired to stand unless it was absolutely necessary.

When she was finished she stared at the little mound of dirt for a full five minutes, not thinking of anything much, before she was able to galvanize herself to her feet and go back inside the hut.

Her legs were so tired she thought she might fall when she crouched next to the bucket and dipped a scrap of cloth into it, wringing it out before scrubbing the disgusting detritus from her hands.

No, mom, she thought, I don't want to give you grandchildren. I'm adopting. Yes I am.


She let the damp, dirty cloth fall where it may in the corner before she trudged back into the cold to inform Akiyama that his son was born.

Her feet fascinated her. She stared at them as they moved surprisingly steadily, one in front of the other, toward the clearing where she had left the men.

Left, right, left, right, she thought. Left, right, left, right, left, right, left, clash, left, ri -

Wait, no. Something is amiss.

There was another clang of metal against metal, and as Kagome entered the clearing she looked up to find Sesshoumaru and Kouga leaping through the trees and slashing viciously at one another like a pair of monkeys on PCP.

Kagome stared, slowly discovering that she was definitely not too tired to be pissed off.

This is good, Sesshoumaru thought, wind whipping through his hair, this is definitely the distraction I needed. Kouga was not the most skilled of sparring partners, but he was fast, and that partially made up for his terrible technique. Only partially, though. Sesshoumaru found himself holding back so as not to injure him, but luckily the physical exertion required to chase the wolf through the barren trees was enough to work the anxious kinks out of his muscles.

Without warning, Kouga leapt high into the air, and Sesshoumaru saw an opening. He touched and sprang, sword ready in one hand, the other in a fist, ready to knock the wolf out. In slow motion, he saw Kouga's eyes widen as he realized his mistake, and the wolf twisted, as though on a noose, but there was no way to correct it as Sesshoumaru drew up, raising Toukijin to block -


- and the wolf was distracted, his sword twisting, and Sesshoumaru had to dodge to correct his block, the impact sending both of them in opposite directions, concentration - and subsequently balance - shattered. At the last moment Sesshoumaru managed to flip over and land safely on a branch half way up one of the naked trees, but Kouga was not so lucky. Sesshoumaru watched as the wolf smacked into one of the more solid branches of a maple and tumbled down to earth, forearms shielding his face as he landed in a crouch, scratched and bruised. Transferring his gaze to the source of the voice he also found the source of his anxiety, still tired but no longer frightened, and quite, quite exasperated.

Ah, he thought. Much better.

Kagome felt slightly guilty as Kouga brought his arms down and straightened, but only slightly. So typical of men! She was working her ass off to help bring a new life into the world, and they were busy waving their swords at each other in what was no doubt some kind of contest replete with subtext. Not to mention the father was nowhere to be seen!

Not knowing what else to do, Kagome stamped her foot as Kouga frowned at her.

"Why are you yelling at me?" he demanded.

"Because you are fighting like children, and I am cranky," Kagome snapped.

"No," the wolf corrected himself, "why are you yelling at me? Your mutt was fighting with me!"

Kagome ignored the slight rumble she heard from Sesshoumaru at the words 'your mutt' - what was it with people assuming he belonged to her, anyway? - and crossed her arms. "Because," she said, slightly calmer, "the person who started the fight was probably you. Go ahead and tell me I'm wrong and I'll apologize."

In the dim light of the rising moon, Kagome could swear that Kouga had flushed slightly. He opened his mouth after a moment, but Kagome waved her hand as though dismissing him.

"Anyway," she said, transferring her gaze from one to the other meaningfully, "I came to announce that the child is born, and he and the mother are in good health. Where, by the way, is the father?"

She saw Kouga's face melt into a sharp grin at the news. "Akiyama? Oh, he couldn't stand the tension so he went for a run."

Closing her eyes, Kagome pinched the bridge of her nose, feeling extremely put out. He couldn't stand the tension? He couldn't stand the tension?

"Er," she heard Kouga say, "I'll just go find him, right?" Without waiting for an answer, she heard his feet slide over the dirt, and he was gone.

She and Sesshoumaru were both silent for a long moment before Kagome finally opened her eyes and looked up at him. She was only slightly surprised to find him returning her gaze.

It was so strange to remember that he was a demon, sometimes. She forgot that fact so easily, but in the light of the moon it was impossible to avoid it. Beneath the night sky his hair shone, silver and white, the undertones of blue fading in the shadows, and his pristine white clothes and pale skin seemed almost luminous. He was beautiful, and she felt something in her chest clench at the sight.

He blinked and she realized she had been staring. Kagome cursed her overly tired brain and turned away from him, suddenly too exhausted to remain standing. Clumsily she sank to her knees and tried to find a comfortable position that did not involve placing her bruised palms against the ground, finally settling for crossing her legs and resting her forehead against her wrists.

Ungh, she thought. It was not terribly eloquent, but she thought that it summed up her state of existence quite succinctly. She listened to herself breathing, drifting -

"Kagome," she heard him say, dropping his voice into the night between them like a pebble into a pond. She felt the ripples of him wash over her.

She was so tired...

Some noise jerked her out of her doze and she sat up straight, blinking away the light bleariness in her eyes. "What?" she said, but she needn't have bothered. The trail of cold dust flying up in a straight line through the clearing and in the direction of Machiko's hut was enough to tell her that she had been yanked into consciousness by the passing of two excited wolves. She blinked a little more, trying to clear the fog in her head.

Sesshoumaru watched her blink as she drifted just out of the reach of sleep, and felt a slight twinge of annoyance that she had been so rudely disturbed. He jumped down from his perch and walked toward her as she climbed heavily to her feet and turned toward him, opening her mouth.

"Would you like to see the baby?" she asked him.

Absentmindedly rubbing her cold arms, Kagome waited as her companion appeared to consider this before he shrugged, as if to say it didn't matter to him. She just nodded and moved in the direction of the hut before a thought poked her.

She frowned. "You're not going to do any baby-killing, are you?" she asked him, picking her way down the overgrown path as he followed behind. She heard him snort.

"No," he told her.

"Good," she said.

They were silent for the rest of the short trip, and it seemed to Kagome that there was no time at all between the path and the hut, where Akiyama was standing in the doorway, holding his brand new baby boy.

Kagome felt her heart melt a little at the sight.

Then Akiyama passed the pup over to Kouga, who took his grandson in his arms and broke Kagome's heart just a little more.

She watched, suddenly feeling alien and out of place, a stranger again in this person's life. She knew that he had changed, was more mature, had a son, was no longer infatuated with her, but it took seeing him with the little baby that was part of his family, actually descended from him, for her to realize, with a force so heavy she felt her breath leave her body, that he had moved on.

He probably hadn't thought of her in years. She was no longer important. She was just a side character in his life, a strange girl who hadn't aged, who hadn't grown, and he had moved on while she stayed anchored in place.

Kagome wavered, her feet itching to carry her somewhere that she could not go.

She could feel Sesshoumaru behind her, knew his silver hair tossed in the wind, knew his golden eyes watched her, but she didn't have the courage to turn and face him.

Instead she stayed right where she was, unable to move between a past and a future, each indistinguishable from the other.

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 22 of 42

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