Rumiko Takahashi is a great person and owns everything she ever wrote. I am not so great. My version of events is my own, however, and in no way her fault

M for misery--or mochi cakes Which I actually like as long as no-one tries to serve them to me as soup. I am starting from chapter 292 of volume 30 thanks to Chris Rijk's translations.

Will Inuyasha ever admit how he feels for Kagome? Will they survive? Good luck; it's either the end or the beginning. Originally posted March 2003

ONLY TO BE DISTRACTED

PROLOGUE: THE PLAYERS GATHER

The hanyou relaxed, allowing the branch he was on to rock him gently in the slightly chill autumn air. Kagome would be coming up the path soon, wearing her odd form-fitting bathing suit. What that did to preserve her modesty he had yet to understand since it left onlyher actual skin to his imagination. But all of her clothing was like that: deliciously indecent while she was both indecorous and demanding her privacy at the same time.

He smiled and stretched out a hand to pull off some bark from a tree limb and crumble it between his claws. The tree was slowing down into its winter cycle soon, as all of the forest would be.

A rising shriek cut across his nerves, causing him to break the branch he was touching. He saw it begin its fall to the ground as he leaped to his feet on his tree limb, unconsciously balancing as he cast about him for the source of the noise.

A desperately gasping kitsune streaked beneath the tree carrying the remains of a broken pickle-pot and dripping pickles in his small hands.

Immediately behind him ran a near-naked miko. Her ivory skin was flushed and wet hair slapped against her back as she stumbled to a halt at the crest of the hill.

"Shippou! Just give the pot back! Kaede-bachan's going to kill us anyway!"

Kagome clapped a hand to her chest with a wet slap and shivered, clasping her goose fleshed arms about her self. There was a slight cold breeze that made her ears burn in her wet hair and her joints ache.

There was a deep chuckle above her and she found herself looking through the dripping bangs, which were plastered to her forehead, to regard the half-youkai.

"Baka, you won't be catching that kitsune this side of the hill. He's already tossed that broken pot away and hared off into the woods."

Inuyasha dropped through the tree branches to land easily on the ground.

"Come on, the broken pot can wait. I've been wanting to talk to you but you always seem to be busy these days." He did not look back to see the flash of half-hopeful half-bemused expression.

She really had not known what to make of him since he came through the well to pick her up a week ago. In most ways his attitude remained unchanged. But his attention seemed more firmly fixed on her than ever. As if some doubt had been put aside and he now just bided his time.

He slid off his suikan and dropped it over her shoulders. "I guess we can pick your stuff up at the pools. If you want " He would rather have left it.

"I really need my things." she replied. She waited for some enlightenment as to what the big subject was but in vain until she had collected all of her things and shouldered the bag to bring it back to the village.

"Um, Kagome," he started, "it looks like Naraku has gotten almost all of the shikon shards. I guess we don't really have such a great record in that department. We have to get the last few to stop him but three of them are important to people we know. Kouga has those two in his legs, the cheat." Kagome just looked at him. "The other one is in the back of Kohaku, and it will kill him when it's taken." She frowned and walked on, looking away from him.

"From what that mind-controlling baby of Naraku's was saying while you were passed out there are only one or two more left to be found. Kagome, the odds are getting very high of us losing." Inuyasha stopped her with a hand to her elbow. "I want you to pull out. This all seems too much. I want you alive, Kagome, alive and happy even if I never see you again."

She spun to face him. "I thought we had been all over this." She said determinedly. "I'm in until you really don't want me anymore. I chose this. Do you really want me to go?"

"Kagome, I ... Gods fuck me! What if I can't protect you? What if Naraku gets you again? What if the whole thing blows up in our faces and you are caught?"

"Since when did you do so much thinking Inuyasha? What if you got your heart's desire? Then we would all have a little peace until you find something else you want." She daringly brushed his lips with a kiss and spun lightly out of his grip to start in a jog in the direction of the village. "Look for Shippou and find out what he thinks he's done!" She called back over her shoulder. She saw him hesitate and then break off in a new direction.

"That's funny. I thought Shippou came this way." She bent down and retrieved some broken pieces of clay pot and carried them the rest of the way cradled in her hands, comforted both by the warmth of the fire rat's fur and the faint tang of forest and warm Inuyasha. She carried the broken pot pieces before her as if they were an offering. It was not a long walk to the little house at the edge of the village where Kaede sat separating her herbs in the autumn sunshine.

"Kaede-sama, I'm so sorry but it seems that your pot broke. Inuyasha has gone to retrieve Shippou and ask him why he ran away."

"It is good that Inuyasha is showing some sense¬óbut a shame about my pickle pot." Kaede said calmly, receiving the broken pot from Kagome's hands. "You have perceived no further rumor of Shikon Shards?"

"No." Kagome sighed and dropped down to the dirt where Kaede was crouched sorting herbs. "There hasn't been all week. It's as if there aren't any more. I guess there must be though. Inuyasha insists that the baby said so." Kagome winced away from the thought of that baby. The experience of having an alien presence in her mind sorting through the feelings in her heart and labeling them for its own purposes still disturbed her.

She gazed about her, feeling again that sense of dislocation that this area always gave her. Why, in her own time the steps were there right enough, but Kaede's house was a small bus stop and she would be currently sitting in the street in imminent danger of being run down. Actually, she still felt like she was about to be hit by a truck where she sat.

:::0:::

Inuyasha eased forward through the tall dry reeds by the lake, difficult indeed to do silently. The kitsune continued to show promise, he thought. He had picked a good hiding place. Shippou had made two errors though; underestimating the persistence of his sensei and the simple fact that the pickles made him stink like nobody's business.

"Arrgh this is bad, what will I do?" muttered Shippou's gruff little voice. Inuyasha crept forward. Shippou came into view, just a thin screen of reeds between them.

The kitsune was sitting on the damp ground with what looked to be a large pale daikon pickle in front of him. The pickle was whipping back and forth however, more like some sort of tormented maggot than any respectably pickled vegetable matter.

It made a sudden twist and snap and was upon Shippou and almost before he could register it, Inuyasha lunged forward out of his cover, grabbed and, feeling his hand slide up the radish, found himself collecting a moving ledge of chilled mucus before it slid past his second hand and bit him in the leg.

"Yak!" He yelped. More from astonishment than any real fear or pain since even animated radishes don't have teeth.

Shippou reacted to save his hanyou more quickly than he could ever have done for himself. "Kitsune-bi!" he shrilled, slapping an ofuda on it. It became still.

"Inuyasha, please run and get another pot so we can bring this thing to Kaede-sama!" Shippou implored.

Inuyasha grunted and was off in a moment to the outskirts of the village only to quickly return with a large old pickle pot of antique design. "This was sitting out under a tree. It will have to do." The two demons pulled the stopper to dump the previous contents but the pot proved empty. They stuffed their prize into it.

Later that afternoon Miroku and Sango returned to Kaede's hut to find what appeared to be a war session going on. Kaede sat by the sullenly burning fire pit, feeding it twigs. Next to her was a large old pickle pot of a kind that had not been in the area for many years. An inconvenient sort, recalled Miroku, since once you sealed the pot you usually had to break it to get your pickle out.

Inuyasha had so far graced the activities by actually sitting up, but the center attraction was certainly Kagome and Shippou. Pouring over sheets of paper on the floor, which turned out to be a map of sorts showing the village and some five miles around near as Miroku could tell.

Sango went to the fire to start to doff her armor and get ready for a bath. That was another thing, Miroku thought miserably. How was he to have known that the tavern keeper's girls would all be so pretty and that they actually had water in that central plaza's horse fountain? The headman of the town had thrown in an extra silver piece because the brave exterminator had taken a dunking in the fountain when her assistant had failed to spot her closely enough.

They had worked together so well for a couple of years. And then all that needed to happen was a few overly hair-raising adventures and some extra guilt and the next thing you know there he was, proposing marriage when he really... The pot jumped. "What do you have in there Kaede-sama?"

"We think it's a pickle demon," said Shippou darkly. "But you never can tell. Could be the pot."

Miroku wished he could think of that as a joke.

Sango quietly left. Taking her kit along with her. She might be back tonight; She might not. She was an adult and answered perfectly well to her own code of conduct. Miroku just watched her go in a silence that rapidly spread across the room.

:::OO:::

High up in the eastern mountains there was a deserted fane. What god or goddess it had served was long lost to time. But a graceful portico remained improbably suspended over a precipitous valley with little freshets of waterfalls sparkling out from the mossy cliffs and eventually combining to make a mist that obscured the bottom.

Kagura stood, holding a baby, her heart thudding uncomfortably. Naraku had spawned again, and this creature was worse than anything she'd ever been. She had to get out of this somehow. What was her status? Would she be free if Naraku went down or would she too be destroyed?

The baby appeared to be resting, it was certainly silent. Its violet hair a downy fluff on its head, eyes shut and delicate fingers still where they rested on the white baboon pelt.

Suddenly its voice sounded in her mind. "They are all there; the girl, the hanyou and their companions. No matter. They will not be able to intervene. I have divined the final Shikon shard. There remains only to collect the others: One from Kohaku and two from the legs of that fool Kouga."

"Well then where is the last?" Kagura queried.

"Haven't you ever wondered about the miko Kagome? Where she comes from and where she goes back to? I sensed a far different history in her thoughts than any others. A different world. There is significance in that Mimisenri of the Thousand Ears cannot always hear her. That she disappears, always from that village where the miko Kikyou first died. Where the Shikon-no-tama was lost, reappeared and was shattered."

The baby opened his eyes and smiled. "There is a different meaning to the threshold of this word and the next. It could be the metaphysical idea of death. This is a physical one. And the threshold is in that village or very close to it."

Kagura smiled too, now. Then it could be done.

The winds bore them where they wished to go.

::::000:::::

Sesshoumaru strolled along the banks of a particular river where he could recall having strolled before. On that particular occasion he had lost his left arm, lost to his younger brother and had to accept that the sword that had originally been left him by his unlamented father as the best he was going to get. Sesshoumaru admired restraint and the elegance of silk and steel above all things. He was beginning to think that his father had been inelegant.

Or had he? Obviously his unlamented sire had left a pair of very pointed patrimonies to his sons; A sword which only could be used for non-physical attacks and to heal; a sword which could not even be used at all unless in defense of a human and which forced an ever expanding awareness of the cosmos upon the user. No mater how crude. They were indeed causing changes in their recipients.

Sesshoumaru glanced briefly behind him at Rin. She was dozing in perfect comfort on the back of his beast. She believed it to be a two-headed dragon. This was not true but he wished all things to remain in her frame of reference. He was having enough trouble figuring out his own life.

There were two sparkling trails across the sky. Sesshoumaru smiled unseen in the darkness. All of the birdies coming home to roost... Including Naraku.

"Sesshoumaru-sama, where are we going?" said a sleepy little voice.

"Visiting." He replied

"Oh, good. I like visits."

"You should not presume to ask Sesshoumaru-sama questions! Do not put forward you paltry opinions!"

"I hate you Jaken!"

"Se---" a firm step landed on the speaker and there was just one more muddy lump left in the field. Only this one groaned, cursed and got up to follow.