Disclaimer: What? Well fine, then! Who needs your dumb old show anyway! Grrr…I don't own Inu Yasha.

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"I wish you weren't leaving so soon, Kagome," Mrs. Higurashi said for the third time as she helped Kagome pack the last package of Ramen into the bulging blue backpack. It was Kagome's old one and it was a little more worn out, but at least it wasn't yellow.

"I know, Mom," she replied, pushing down breathlessly as she finally managed to zip it all the way around. "I was going to stay longer, but I can't with those two here." She nodded toward Inuyasha and Kouga, who were brooding outside in the backyard by the well house.

Mrs. Higurashi chuckled. "So that's the young man you told me was in love with you," she said through her smile. "He's cute."

Kagome blushed, horrified. "Mom!"

"What?" The older woman laughed as she helped Kagome strap the bag onto her back. "You don't think so?"

The miko looked down at her feet, feeling the heat rise in her face. "I guess so, but still, Mom! What would Inuyasha say?"

"Well, I guess you have quite a dilemma there, dear. Though I do suppose Inuyasha has an unfair advantage with those ears of his," she said mischievously. She chuckled again when Kagome covered her face with her hands. Her daughter was positively glowing red.

"Kagome," she added after a brief hesitation, "be careful, okay?"

Kagome turned at the sudden seriousness in her voice. "Mom? What's the matter?"

Mrs. Higurashi looked down at her and shrugged. "I don't know," she said, looking toward the well. "But the other day, I had a horrible feeling. I don't know how to explain it. Out of nowhere, I suddenly felt incredibly afraid. I couldn't get you out of my head, and I became worried."

Then she laughed. "I guess it was just my mind playing with me. I just worry about you so much when you're over in that dangerous place, but I guess I don't help you much by telling you these things."

Kagome felt tears well up in her eyes. She had died without a second thought, and her mother had sensed it all the way across time. What would have happened if she hadn't come back?

"Oh, mom," she choked, burying her head into her mother's arms. "I'll never leave you or Souta, or Grandpa! I'm sorry!"

Mrs. Higurashi stroked her head and gave her a small hug, then helped her straighten up. "Now, now, Kagome," she said lightly. "It was just a silly thought, that's all. Go on and do what you have to. I'll tell your grandfather and Souta you said hello."

Kagome sniffed once and nodded, then made her way outside.

"And Kagome!"

She turned back, and Mrs. Higurashi winked.

"Make sure you bring those boys back sometime. I'm sure Souta would love to meet Kouga! Plus, they owe me a television."

Kagome made a face as the back door closed, then continued her burdened walk toward the Goshinboku. She could make out Inuyasha's red haori among the leaves.

"Inuyasha," she called, adjusting the heavy backpack on her shoulders. "Time to go. I could really use a hand with this bag."

Inuyasha jumped down and landed next to her with a huff. "Why don't you tell your wolf boy to help you?" he asked sharply. "I'm sure he won't mind."

When her face fell, he turned away quickly and started toward the well house. His ears twitched at her sharp intake of breath, but he kept walking.

"I'll be glad to take that for you, Kagome," Kouga said from her side. "You know there's nothing I won't do for my woman."

"Thanks," Kagome mumbled half-heartedly, surrendering the overstuffed blue bag. "It's really heavy this time. I had to pack extra bandages and food."

They followed the hanyou to the small wooden building that housed the portal to the past, and all the while Kagome fought with the urge to sit him. Now what's gotten into him? she wondered, glaring at his back. Last night he was acting normally. Why is he so moody all of a sudden?

She had reached the well now. Inuyasha was standing beside it with his arms crossed expectantly, but he was looking away. Obviously, he was avoiding eye contact with her.

Fine, she thought as she swung her leg over the wooden edge. If he wants to be moody, then he can stay that way.

She yelped as she was pulled back roughly by the back of her blouse. "What's your problem, jerk?" she snapped as Inuyasha stepped in front of her.

"We'll go first," he said shortly. "I wanna make sure it's safe, and I also want to be sure Kouga doesn't try anything."

Kagome sighed. "Well, fine. How did you two come through the first time?"

Inuyasha made a face. "He was holding onto my hair. I don't want to do that again."

Kouga grinned. "What, you touchy about that mop of yours? Didn't tangle it, did I, Mutt?"

The hanyou turned red. "Why, you son of a--"

"Why don't I just take him through?" Kagome interjected, feeling the situation turn ugly. "That way you won't have to hold on to each other at all."

"No way." Inuyasha crossed his arms. "What if he decides to take you once you're through? I ain't gonna give him that chance."

"Well then, hold hands or something," Kagome said impatiently. "We can't stand around here all day."

Both boys turned red and looked away. "There's no way I'm holding his hand," they both growled at the same time.

"Forget this," the miko said, climbing onto the well again. "You figure it out. I'll meet you on the other side." With a grunt, she pushed off and disappeared in a flash of light.

"Kagome! Damn it, I don't want her there alone!" Inuyasha growled and glared at the wolf prince.

Kouga glared back.

For a moment, neither of them spoke. Then, all of a sudden, the two youkai joined hands and leapt into the darkness.

There was a bright flash of pink light, and they were gone.

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"I hope they hurry up," Kagome groaned as she pushed herself out onto the grass. She took a moment to stretch and inhale the clean air, a ritual subconsciously adopted after numerous trips between eras.

She stopped in mid-stretch and frowned. Her arms lowered and she looked toward the forest warily.

"Something's wrong," she murmured, reaching for her arrows out of habit and cursing when she found nothing.

"Sango!"

"Miroku?"

The cry had come from straight ahead, and she sensed the strong pull of multiple jewel shards.

Naraku!

Without a second thought, she bolted in the direction of the scream.

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Miroku's heart leapt to his throat at the sight of the deadly blade.

"No!!"

Just as Miroku lunged at Naraku's poised arm, the dark hanyou jumped back and lowered his weapon harmlessly to his side.

"There she is." His lips curved into a smirk. "And she's alone. How convenient."

Miroku sighed in relief, but it didn't last long as his senses picked up Kagome's aura. Before he could do anything, Naraku threw the taijiya aside.

The houshi sprinted forward and barely managed to catch her, but doing so kept him from warning Kagome as she entered the scene.

Kagome was struggling. She had been ever since she had started running in the direction of the shards. Her breathing was labored, and she was staggering across the worn paths. Her forehead was damp with sweat, and drops of it weighed heavily on her eyelashes. She blinked and shook her head. What's happening? she thought hazily. I feel like I'm going to pass out!

Suddenly, she felt two things at once: one was an excruciating pain that began at the side of her neck where Naraku's bite mark was beginning to heal; the other was a violent wind that howled in her ears and forced out all other senses.

Oh Kami, what is going on? Ugh…I can't see!

"Kagome."

The miko froze.

Naraku?

"Yes, miko." The dark hanyou chuckled. "Come. I think you will find obeying me much easier than struggling against my spell."

Miroku stared at the young girl with alarm as she slumped back against a tree. "What have you done to Kagome, you monster?"

Naraku chuckled, the sound reverberating throughout the clearing. "I suppose you can call it an extended spell," he said, drawing out the words. "I marked her with my poison the other day, and now it is beginning to take effect. All she needed was to be beckoned by her master."

"Naraku!"

The fierce cry was followed by a crash as two figures burst into the scene. Inuyasha was holding Tetsusaiga out in front of him, and Kouga stood next to him with readied claws.

"Ah, Inuyasha. You've come at the perfect moment," Naraku said. "I was just explaining to the houshi that I have come to claim the miko."

The hanyou bristled. "Like hell you are. You've got nothing to claim, you bastard!"

"I'll cut you in pieces if you try to lay a hand on my woman!" Kouga snarled, running to stand in front of a very pale Kagome. "I've already claimed her as mine, so I don't know what the hell you're talking about!"

"You're both mistaken," Naraku stated. "Neither of you has any right to keep her from me now. I have marked her as my own. See for yourself."

Slowly, both boys turned to look at Kagome.

She was a sickly shade of green now. Just below her neck, an angry red bite mark was beginning to show against her blanched skin. Slowly, lines extended from it and met to form a distinct shape.

Naraku's name stood emblazoned in perfect kanji, just above the junction of her neck and shoulder.

"No, Kagome!" Inuyasha's arms lowered as he moved closer.

She looked at him. For a brief instant, her eyes flashed at him. She was trying to tell him something, but before he could figure it out, her eyes glazed over and her face turned blank.

"Come, Kagome," Naraku ordered firmly. Although he was thoroughly enjoying the desperation that was radiating off the white-haired hanyou and the wolf youkai, he did not want to risk his still fragile hold on the girl.

"You are mine now," he declared, as if the statement in itself would strengthen the spell.

Inuyasha watched in disbelief as the miko straightened and walked past him toward the evil hanyou. Her steps were steady, and her gaze never left Naraku's.

Naraku was surprised, though it was well hidden beneath his mask. She has stopped struggling, he realized. It was truly unsettling, but he decided instantly that he hadn't any time to ponder it. "No, Kagome!"

Kouga's anguished cry yanked the hanyou back to reality, and they both leapt at the baboon pelt. With an amused laugh, Naraku moved swiftly out of the way and pulled Kagome into his arms. "You shall meet again," he said as he rose into the sky, surrounded by his miasma. "When she is ready."

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There. Another one. I will finish this, I tell you. Just have patience with me, and thank you for your continued support. I love you guys! As always, tell me what you think!