Author's Notes: New story and definitely alternate universe. It's a romance and who else? Inu/Kag, my darlings. On a little happy note, Miroku and Kagome get to be related! Yay! I always thought they would be cute as family. You know… minus all those times Miroku comes on to her in the anime. Let's not have any incestuous thoughts going on here.

The Low Down: I don't think I've seen an Inuyasha Western yet… It seemed like fun. If you have some experience with rodeo… sorry if there's too much explanation of the process. Just wanted to make everything clear for plot purposes and I'm assuming that it's not the most common knowledge. If it's not enough exposition… let me know and I'll clarify more in later chapters. Giddy-up…

Oh! And I've got to say... I decided that Koga is going to have a role... and I absolutely love it.


Chapter 1

Back in the Saddle


His eyes are cold and restless.
His wounds are almost healed.

Kagome held her breath as they pulled his riggings tight. Miroku was just a little too confident for his own good sometimes and she hated that silly little smirk on his dirty, sweat-streaked face. His hand was already bandaged from his last ride where a 1500 pound hunk of muscle thought it would be fun to hammer it in the ground with a cloven hoof. That hand hadn't even been fully healed from where it had been torn open and beneath the bandage he would carry a scar for the rest of his life. And he was one of the lucky ones-honestly! The man had been tossed, stepped on, bashed, and bruised… and all in the last three hours. 'Don't let 'em grow up to be cowboys…' Kagome thought, 'They may not live to grow up!'

Pummeled or no, Miroku was performing better than he had ever before. He was at the top of the lists and easily favored to win the go-round. Not bad when he was the miracle of the day; only a year prior had she rushed by his side as he lay on a gurney being wheeled into emergency care for what should have been a career ending ride. The bull no man could ride almost took away the only man in her life… and here he was being lashed onto another killing machine of muscle and blood.

"Men are so stupid…" She whispered into the roaring crowd's chants of her brother's name. Miroku waved to them with his free arm and flashed that picture perfect smile he hoped, after today, would grace the covers of magazines. The bull jumped violently in the shoots, and so did Kagome's strained heart, but it couldn't wipe the grin from Miroku's face. Always calm, reserved, confident, charming: the crowd loved him for it and, most times, Kagome just wanted to throw her Dr. Pepper bottle at his head.

They were retightening his riggings, thrown loose by the bull's jolt. A cowboy was not allowed to touch the bull with his free hand at any point during the ride, or he would be disqualified, and should his grip come loose in the ride, he risked a whole lot more than losing a title. Kagome watched in earnest as they pulled the ropes tight, only to have the bull lunge and jump against them again. She caught a worried glint flash across his face only for a moment before it was covered again with that smile.

Nerve is a huge obstacle for a cowboy; once he's decided to put himself on the line, the hard parts over. Then all he has to concentrate on is dipping that hat and holding on for the next eight furious seconds of his life. The longer he's in the shoots however, the harder it is to keep that nerve, and if he looses it, he's lost. They finished tying the straps and Miroku flexed his hand-it was still too lose. The rodeo-hand went to retie it a third time, but Miroku shook his head no and pushed him aside. There was no good in angering his ride even more and there was no way he'd give his nerve a chance to falter. He'd come too far and worked to hard. This was his day.

Miroku took a deep breath and clenched his fist around the piece of leather holding him down to the 1500 pound fury-driven beast below him. He raised his left hand high over his head and tipped his hat.

The gates flung open with a loud bang and a blood red short-horned bull lunged forward into the sand. The whole arena echoed with cheering and people banging the bleachers. The bull threw his neck brutally from side to side and kicked up and out in furious circles. It threw itself to the right, banging into the metal walls of the shoots and almost cracked Miroku's head. It flung itself to the left, jumping and twitching in the air as it's rider jabbed its side with his spurs. Kagome held her breath and kept her eyes on the clock in the big overhead screen and wondered how time could suddenly slow itself down so much-3…4…5 seconds! Miroku was spurring furiously, getting every possible hit he could in to drive up his score. It would be phenomenal! He was in perfect balance with the writhing animal and with all the hit points, no one could beat him--6…7 seconds! He only had to last the full 8 seconds!

The video screen picked up his happy smile as he spurred the beast. He knew he had it. Just as the seventh second ticked off, and with the crowd screaming like maniacs in the background, Miroku lifted his leg to spur again and the bull threw his head down between his front hocks. The bull flung itself forward and upwards, twisting with agility an animal of that size just shouldn't naturally possess, and with force enough to almost throw it on its back in the dirt.

Miroku was air born.

Miroku hit the ground and thought he was going to die from the pain, but instinct alone had him rolling with the momentum and out of the way before he was caught beneath the lumbering body. He kept rolling, desperately trying to escape the promised death by an angry short-horn as the beast struck the ground trying to pin him with its hooves or impale him with the blunt horns on its head. Wasn't it about time to send in the clowns? And here they came! Grown men in huge, brightly colored pants with cowboy hats came rushing up in front of him. His saviors so many times over distracted the animal long enough for him to some distance between himself and the vengeful creature.

Kagome ran from her spot in the stands to the ground levels as her brother heaved himself over the metal barriers wheezing and coughing. She cried to him, getting a cocky little grin as he wiped the dirt from his brow. "Hey Kag…" he coughed out. "Didn't that look like fun?" Miroku caught the tears beginning to form in her eyes and knew he needed to assuage her fears quickly. He gave her a gentler smile and held an arm out in invitation to hug her, which she took and squeezed him gently. He winced and hissed.

"Oh!" she jumped back a foot and jolted her hands up to her mouth. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sor…." Miroku started laughing at her.

"You stupid jerk!" she screamed and punched him cleanly in the shoulder, sending him back several steps. "How can you be so stupid?! Do you really just want to end up dead? Huh?! You just keep putting your life in danger… day… after…" her ranting became choppy as she was steadily losing the fight with the tears coming into her voice. Kagome flung herself in his arms again and sniffled into his dirty shirt. Miroku, not quite sure how to handle his sister's volatile emotions, patted her back soothingly and smiled down at her.

"Hey…" he said softly, "I'm ok. I knew it would be ok, Kagome. You don't have to worry."

She was about to tell him just how much of an idiot he was when the drawling voice came over the loud speaker again. "Miroku Higurashi's ride… 7.8 seconds…" Every member of the audience let out their heartbreak to echo through the air. Kagome felt the exact same disappointment and looked up to see Miroku's eyes clenched shut in pain. His injured hand slowly fisted and relaxed at his side.

He wouldn't place.

Kagome squeezed his uninjured hand to get him to glance down at her and gave her best 'it's-ok-you're-great-and-you'll-beat-them-all-next-time' smile. Ok… so he drove her crazy with worry every time he stepped in the shoots… She just couldn't deny that this was his dream. He was family… her only family now. She'd help and support him however she could. Miroku smiled back at her and gave her small hand a quick squeeze in return. "Let's get out of here. I'm starved." He said. The walked back up the bleachers to the music of "Next time, Miroku!" and "You were great, Miroku!"

Ahh, but crowds are suck fickle beings. A wave of awe swept over the arena as the speaker boomed, "We now welcome, to the bull riding arena, a long absent contender, Inuyasha Taisho!" She and Miroku turned at the unfamiliar name and watched the bull fly from the shoots with a bang. Kagome watched appreciatively at his skill as the cowboy seemed liquid with the bull's thrashing, spurring the animal casually, and beneath his black felt hat a long stream of silver hair whipped behind him. Miroku gapped at the man… he looked like he might use his free hand to pat a yawn any moment!

The clock stopped with a harsh buzz and the crowd went crazy. Eight seconds… The new cowboy had a perfect ride… and this Sunday crowd had a new hero. Kagome gave a stunned glance up at her brother who had turned to stone at her side. He shook himself out of his daze quickly enough when a blonde cowgirl in tight jeans climbed up past them. Kagome soon found herself alone in the stands and chuckled. Miroku tended to get over disappointments quickly. 'Guess he's not too broken up.'

As always with the rodeo, things moved right along. The bull had hardly been removed when the loud speaker announced the next event, barrel racing, was about to begin. Kagome smiled and decided to find Miroku again later as she took her seat once more as the first rider galloped across the arena. Several perky cowgirls ran the clover pattern with respectable time, but not much to get excited over.

"Kagome!" a shrill yell caught her attention and she noticed a familiar batch of brightly colored fuzz running up the stands to her. A sweet little boy with auburn hair and big green eyes scurried up the bleachers careful not to trip on his oversized, lime-green clown pants. She couldn't help but grin every time she saw him with little fuzzy buttons down the front of his shirt and one big puffy orange fluff ball on the seat of his pants. He was the cutest rodeo clown she had ever seen-- or clown in training at least. He ran up next to her and hugged her neck. "I didn't know if you were coming today!" He said happily.

"Of course, Shippo!" she laughed at the child who insisted on being called his clown name at all times. "It was Miroku's first time back since the accident."

He nodded with a frown and crossed his short arms over his fluffy buttons. "Everyone thought Miroku was going to come out first. Instead it was stolen away from him for some white-haired jerk."

"That Inuyasha guy?" Kagome blinked in surprise. It wasn't like Shippo to think so low of anyone. "Why don't you like him?"

"He's mean, Kagome!" Shippo turned those big, green, sympathy-evoking pools on her full force. "I was just practicing my rope tricks and he took my lariat away!"

Kagome laughed at Shippo's pouting. "You caught him in one of your 'cow traps,' didn't you?" She giggled more as the tips of his ears turned pink in an affirming blush. A 'cow trap' was a simple little rope trick her child friend had invented a few months ago and since the first day he'd proudly shown it to her, many a cowboy had been toppled to the ground by the little rope loop hidden in the sand. "So…" she grinned down at him and decided to let him have another subject. "What do you think of the barrel racers this time?"

He cheered up instantly. "They're pretty good this go-round. They all have had respectable time's so far, but they don't really have much heart. They take their turns wide. It's safer, but it costs them a few seconds." As he spoke, he let his eyes drift shut and his words carried an authority a six-year-old just shouldn't have. But oddly enough, if you wanted information about anything in the rodeo, Shippo was the one to ask, and Kagome easily agreed with him. The cowgirls were good… but they were all the same. Nothing just made them stand out from the rest…

"Yes!" Shippo yelled and bounced to his feet. "She's up! It's her turn finally! They would save her for last…"

And then there was Sango! She burst into the arena on her buckskin mare with her long black ponytail streaming behind her. Kagome was on her feet jumping along with Shippo as she reached the first barrel. Sango threw herself into the turn as the pony circled it only inches away and sent sand flying into the air like water. In a flash, they crossed to the second barrel, swinging around with only a hair's width between Sango's legs and the metal. But Sango held no fear and whipped around to the last barrel of the clover pattern. "Come on Sango!" Kagome yelled from the stands.

"You can do it Sango!" Shippo jumped from foot to foot. "Hurry, Kirara! Hurry!"

"Look at that girl go! Sango comes roaring in and blows every other rider away!" The announcer was screaming over the speakers and the crowds were jumping. "What a ride! What a horse! What a girl!"

"Yes!" Kagome punched the air and jumped in joy with Shippo. "Come on! Let's go find her." She grabbed the child by the hand and ran down the bleachers to the shoots. Without a thought, she swung herself up and over the metal barriers. Shippo yelled out as they dropped to a lower level leading to the arena. Shippo did not appreciate her acrobatics in the least, but once she set him on down and ran off, he forgave her quickly enough and chased after.

They ran out into the light and caught sight of the black clad cowgirl tying Kirara to her trailer to be unsaddled. "Sango!" Kagome waved and shouted. She turned and smiled and greeted them sweetly, thanking them on the shower of congratulations they shot at her simultaneously. She didn't say it, but she always loved it most when they would come find her after a ride. Kagome and Shippo were always so lively and innocent, Sango loved their genuine eagerness to spend time with her.

They made her remember…

"Hey, Kagome?" Sango said and went to work on Kirara and motioned with her chin. "Who's that new guy with your truck?"

"New guy?" Kagome looked over to their trailer and sure enough, standing with arms crossed and face scowling, was the silver-haired cowboy in a black felt hat. "That's that bull rider who beat Miroku." She said softly.

"Yeah," Sango huffed as she lugged her saddle into storage. "Heard he used to be famous in the event before an injury several years ago. Not bad for his first ride back in the game."

"That was his first ride in years?" Kagome gasped.

"Yep." Sango nodded. "Amazing huh?"

"He's still a jerk…" came a muttered growl at their knees.

Kagome and Sango exchanged amused glances on behalf of the pouting clown child. "Well, jerk or not, I'm going to talk to him." Kagome said with a grin. "Besides, I need to find out why he's lounging around our equipment."

She walked over with a smile and stood close to him, not the least bit unnerved that he didn't look up to acknowledge her presence. Sometimes cowboys just lived in a world of their own and others just weren't allowed to intrude on a whim.

"Hi there." She said cheerily. "Congratulations on your win… That was an amazing ride, but why…"

"Beat it, little girl." He snapped still without looking up. "I'm not signing any autographs."

Kagome's eyes snapped wide and she jammed her hands on her hips. She had yet to meet any one with such nerve to be so openly rude to her! What happened to always saying 'Yes Ma'am' and 'Howdy' and stuff?! "Well aren't you full of yourself?" She huffed.

At her knees, Shippo took a similar stance and looked up at her, whispering, "I told you he was a jerk." But Kagome was far from paying attention to the boy. She was too focused on a pair of arrogant eyes smirking up at her with satisfied superiority and the fury that imagined how beautiful they would be if they were framed with ugly black and blue flesh. He sneered at her and she gritted her teeth, her fist raising to make that fantasy come to life.

"Oh Kagome! There you are." Came a drawling voice from around the trailer and a short, balding, little fat man with a pointed nose came dawdling towards them. "I see you're getting acquainted with our new boy. Good good!"

"New boy?!" Kagome yelled at her employer. How could he possibly take on this jerk? "Mr. Myoga, you can't be serious!"

Mr. F.D. Myoga walked grinning to his newest prodigy and slapped him affectionately on the shoulder. He'd been disappointed enough in his ill-found hopes for a big win from Miroku, but when he'd witnessed that perfect ride, he was still shivering when he considered his possible profits.

"Just imagine it, Kagome!" He said and rung his hands with a silly hungry sort of grin. "With him as a rodeo champion! Think of the business for the ranch! It will be beautiful…" and he wiped a tear away thinking of his glorious future. Kagome remained unimpressed… he had once said the same thing of her brother. How quickly forgotten...

Inuyasha was smirking viscously up at her again as her employer rattled on about what wonderful things he would mean to his ranch. She felt like rubbing his smug little face in the dirt. The message was perfectly clear: He was holding all the cards and she had to go along with it.

Not… a… chance… in… hell.

"So that's all settled." Myoga called her from her thoughts. "I'll finish up around her and you just drive him out home and get him acquainted and settled in!" He clapped her on the shoulder before she could argue and scuttled off towards the main arena, his round little body swaying precariously on his short stubby legs. Kagome closed her eyes and took a deep breath before she turned her attention again to her unwanted guest.

"Alright, little girl," Kagome flinched with his condescending jeer. "You heard your boss. Drive me out to this ranch I'm supposed to make famous."

"Why… you…" her lips were pursed in a razor thin line and she clenched her hands in front of her. "That… does…"

"Kagome!" She whipped around in her fury only to find an unconscious brother being dragged with his arm slung around Sango's shoulder. Inuyasha would never know that he was closer to death than he had ever been on any bull. "Does this belong to you?" Sango joked, "I found him harassing the Catalina Cowgirls. I let them teach him the lesson, but you better get him home."

Kagome's whole day just got a little brighter as she turned and smiled a scarily sweet grin to the source of her animosity.

"Sorry." She drawled cutely and watched Sango set Miroku in the truck's passenger seat. "But this taxi just filled up."

She flashed past him and jumped into the cab. It didn't take him a second to figure out what she had planned and Inuyasha started to dart after her. Unfortunately, his foot caught in a hidden loop just beneath the sand and with a startled cry, he found himself eating dirt.

Inuyasha coughed the sand out of his mouth and watched truck and trailer bounce quickly from the arena parking lot. He also saw a little orange poof scurrying away after the other woman… holding the rope he had taken from the brat earlier.

"Get back here you little runt!" he screamed and pushed himself out of the dirt to give chase.

It's the ropes and the reins
And the joy and the pain
And the call the thing a rodeo.

Next Chapter: Home on the Range
So it starts... I'm planning on having some fun with this... so don't take it too seriously. I'm poking a little fun at my Texan-ness ^_~ Ciao!