The Crucible of Time By Fujifunmum

Epilogue
She reached the ladder first and climbed several steps, excited to be home, excited to have her heart's desire. He was right behind her. As they had jumped into the well, their eyes met with the promise of future happiness. Then she sped ahead, a little anxious when she lost hold of his hand in the void.

She lightly touched down in the old well house and sighed her relief; smiling with pride at all they had accomplished together, all they would accomplish together in the future. It wouldn't be easy, but nothing had ever come easy for Kagome or Inuyasha. They had fought for their future in the past. Now they would fight for it here in her present. She was elated as she grasped onto the ladder, calling her joy behind her.

"My mom won't even be surprised Inuyasha, I've been telling her that you were coming back with me. Promising it to myself. Preparing her and my family. You'll have a family now, too. Not that I haven't always been your family."

She turned to look over her shoulder, smiling and wanting to see his expression as they started their new life together. She stopped abruptly, her face reflecting her surprise at his absence, quickly changing to inquiry, then to worry. She paused on the ladder waiting. Surely he would be there now. He had been right behind her.

She looked deeply into the old shadowed pit of a well, searching its depths for an indication of his coming, and found none.

After an interminable wait of perhaps ninety seconds, she jumped, hell bent to return and find him. Nothing would separate them now. Nothing.

Nothing but time.

She fell to the bottom of the well with a thud, incredulity taking its toll on her senses.

Tears turned the bottom of the well to mud as she knelt on the dirt floor and the pain in her heart poured out of her.

They had worked so hard to defeat Naraku. They had tried in vain to resurrect the dead Miko. They had lost friends, family, and regained only some of what they had lost. The Shikon no Tama had been the crucible of Inuyasha's soul. Releasing the Jewel of the four souls had only really been possible once she and Kikyo had released his.

Startled, she looked up at the roof, the full moon of the present glowing slightly through the ancient cracks. The jewel had been their focus, Naraku their enemy, but the well had become her crucible: a crucible of time.

She had suffered the same human frailty that Inuyasha had suffered. He had looked from the earth and bone Kikyo formed by Urasue to the encapsulated Kagome all those years ago and in one startled utterance of the wrong name had cost them personal happiness in Sengoku Jidai. Her error had been just as innocent and unthinking. And only the entire experience of the quest had given her the ability to see what she had done. She wept again. Inuyasha, back in Sengoku Jidai, in the darkness of his own forest, would never even know what she had done.

It had been her choice. She saw it clearly now. The well gave her the freedom to roam between times in order to serve the Shikon no Tama. The jewel was now purified and dissolved, the souls freed. Inuyasha's crucible had been one of fire, the jewel. Hers had been one of water, the well. She had a choice, and just as his had been, that choice was hers alone. She could have stayed with him but she did not see what her Miko senses would have shown her had she looked. She was too happy. She was too startled. She wanted it all. Inuyasha and her family.

In the blink of an eye she had chosen her family and the present, and the choice was as fatal as Inuyasha's innocent utterance of Kikyo's name. He, too, had chosen unwisely and without thinking.

She concentrated her Miko powers and poured all the magic she could summon through her hands and into the bottom of the well. Maybe she could will herself back.

The crucible of time had moved on. The well no longer held the magic of the Shikon no Tama.

Though her tears she heard the faint wail of dogs baying at the moon in the distance.