Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha or any other of Takahashi-sama's original characters. I am simply here to twist and torture them for my own sadistic delight! Can hear Inuyasha scoffing…

This is a response to a challenge posted by Trouble in Shangri-La.

'Thoughts.'

This symbol: xxx memories.

Temporal Sequence

Chapter 1:

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For a specific series of actions between two variables to occur, there must be a logical connection. But this connection must be sparked in a specific order of events. Causation is impossible without proper temporal sequence…

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"I have outlined the four steps of causation," the gray-headed man began, "and it will be on your exam next week."

'Thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six…'

"Remember that these four steps are necessary, but not sufficient, to attribute causation."

'Thirty-nine, forty…'

"It is vital that these four steps be in the correct order…"

'Forty-four, forty-five…'

"First there must be a logical theoretical connection, secondly, X and Y must correlate…"

'Forty-nine, fifty…'

"Thirdly, X must precede Y. Temporal sequence is vital, because if this third step does not hold true, then the correlation will be false and the forth step will be overlooked, which is the elimination of spurious relationships."

'Fifty-nine, sixty… '

Rrrrriiiinnng!

Kagome practically leapt out of her seat at the shrilling sound of the bell. Tenkada-sensei was a brilliant man, but he was terribly boring. So she had spent the last minute of class zoning out while counting away the ticking seconds. Research Methods was a relatively easy class and she didn't really need to come to the review today. In her mind she had already aced the test, though she wouldn't take it for another week. But thinking back to all those skipped classes and taxing all-nighters that resulted in less than impressive grades, she decided that perfect attendance was in order.

She stepped out of the musty building and closed her eyes as the warm sun embraced her. A gentle breeze flowed past and she hoped it would be this lovely in the Sengoku Jidai. With that thought, she took off in a light sprint toward her car. Inuyasha was going to be furious with her tardiness when she crossed into the era that had become her second home.

Things were looking up in the modern world though. She had managed to pass high school with mediocre grades, meaning a respectable university was not within her grasp. So being the optimist she was she did the next best thing—she enrolled in a local community college. It was probably better that way since she could live at home and borrow her mother's car. Running a historical shrine did not result in a substantial cash flow after all.

But she was lonely in this era. Hunting non-stop for jewel shards had alienated her from her school friends. Being as studious as they were, they had all gone off to prestigious schools and never looked back. Only Ayumi had said goodbye.

She opened the door to her mother's early nineties sedan and plopped in with a thud, slamming the door beside her. She stared ahead at nothing at all and thought about her future. And she saw nothing…

Her mother was so kind, so understanding, and a remarkably good liar. She knew she was a disappointment, but her mother had pretended to be proud. Proud of a sub-par daughter that had thrown all opportunities to the wind so she could spend every free moment with a hanyou that lived five hundred years in the past. Yes, her mother was indeed an excellent liar, for the woman had never once let her tongue slip the horrible truth. Sometimes she wished her mother would be candid with her and just spill it.

She started the car and carefully found her way to the street that would lead her home. But was it really home? Sometimes she felt like a specter floating between eras, awaiting the finish line of eternity. An apparition hardly noticed by her own family and hardly appreciated by her friends of centuries past.

She supposed her family did have a right to overlook her presence; after all she wasn't often in their company. She was a time traveler and they had learned to accept that fact long ago. Her grandfather had ignited the family's reluctant approval by spouting the single word 'fate.' Was it her fate to jump through time? Was it her destiny to meet a hanyou? Did fate preordain her befriending a kitsune, houshi, and taijiya for the purpose of eradicating evil? Was she supposed to fall in love with Inuyasha?

Inuyasha… Was she still in love with the unpredictable half-demon? Well, he wasn't completely unpredictable. He was always irritated when she returned home and he always devoured ramen with haste. He always bickered with her and protected her, though his concern for her safety was a bit overbearing. He was always…Inuyasha.

A year ago all she ever wanted was for the brash hanyou to kiss her, claim her; declare his love for her for the whole world to hear. But fate had a strange way of doing things. It had been four years since she first laid eyes on the ruggedly handsome boy with little doggy ears, slumbering peacefully against a tree; an arrow buried within the red fabric covering his shoulder. He looked so serene, but appearances were deceiving. From the moment he opened those impossibly beautiful eyes, all he saw was Kikyou…

Was that why he was so unwavering in his loyalty and protection of her? Was it because she carried the soul of Kikyou within her body? She had hoped and longed for the day when his eyes would look at her with no shadows of the past lingering within them—shadows that spoke volumes of his fixation of yore—of years when Kikyou still walked among the living. It was nearly a year ago that that optimism that marked her persona had faded into the abyss of her psyche, the part that harnessed memories forgotten.

Some people might have said that it was a good thing that she was trying to move on.

But it had hurt—continued to hurt. She crumpled that unrequited love like a piece of paper to be thrown away, but she hadn't thrown it away; she was too weak to permanently discard it. So she took that wrinkled and marred paper and confined it deep within to be reopened and reexamined on a moment's whim. She wished she could simply burn it into oblivion, never to be touched or felt again. But that was asking a lot, and she really wasn't sure if that was possible in the first place.

She parked the old sedan and slowly exited the small car, stalling for a moment as the breeze shifted her hair, tickling her skin. She had to go back to the Feudal Era today, but she wished she could sit by the old god tree and let the warm air engulf her and sooth her mind into mere nothingness. But not today, for today she had to go back to the past and back to Inuyasha.

"Mama, I'm home!" she yelled as she slipped through the door. This house was a special place. The place where she slowly became a woman, where a supporting woman had nurtured her, a kind brother had idolized her, and an old man had cultivated her creativity with old legends and useless magic. With that thought she realized that maybe she was destined to travel into the past, since even her own family seemed surrounded by its invisible mist.

"Kagome?" her mother said softly, a large bowl and spoon in her hands. "How was class?"

"Normal, I guess," she said with a shrug. She dropped her backpack to the floor and immediately knelt down to remove her books. Her mother quickly noticed the action and its underlying meaning as a slight frown crossed her face.

"Yeah," she replied, trying her best to ignore the tone of her mother's voice. "I'm leaving after dinner."

"Oh, well at least you're staying for a bit," her mother said cheerily.

Kagome inwardly sighed as her mother sauntered back into the kitchen. Throughout the years of journeying between eras she had changed. She had become stronger, more patient, more willed, and much, much quicker, in more ways than one. Intuition was said to be an innate trait of a miko, but she felt that hers was gained through experience. She was still a bit ignorant and maybe a little too innocent at times, but she had slowly learned to read people, at least to a certain extent. She was especially sensitive to the things they were really saying under all those words and false pretenses. And she knew one thing at that moment and it was that her mother had not said what she really wanted to say.

"I wish you would stop living in the past, Kagome."

She had felt this from her mother on too many occasions. Her mother understood the importance of her quest, but she also knew that danger awaited her daughter on the other side of the well. Blood thirsty demons aside, her mother knew she was becoming attached and she knew all too well that Kagome had fallen in love with a man half a millennium out of her reach. It was an impossible situation. Maybe her mother was a miko after all and just didn't know it, because her intuition was off the charts.

After dinner Kagome helped her mother with the dishes. Supper was unusually quiet and the silence among the normally elated Higurashi household was becoming unbearable. Her mother had barely spoken a word to her since she arrived home from school.

"How many more shards are left, dear?" The silence had finally been broken, but much to Kagome's chagrin.

"I don't know, mama," she replied truthfully, knowing her mother would have liked a different answer—something like 'only three, or two' or even better, 'only one left, mama!'

"Well," her mother began uneasily, "I hope you find the rest soon." She thought she could almost hear the subtle truth behind those words…

"I wish that well had never pulled you in. Then you never would've broken that jewel and fallen in love with that boy. Then none of this would have ever happened."

"Yeah, me too," she said softly. A small voice in the back of her mind whispered a thought to the contrary, but she ignored it as she remembered how it felt to love a man who never gave any indication of reciprocity.

Dusk was settling as she walked to the well house. The air was cooling from its previous warmth, but she didn't mind. It almost seemed to coincide with her state of being—not nearly as warm as it used to be, but slowly freezing nonetheless. She shook her head as though that action alone would remove all those disconcerting thoughts; she wanted a clear head when she crossed time's barrier.

She entered the dark little shed and apprehensively approached the well. She knelt down and peered over its rim as though the gesture would permit her to see if anyone was waiting for her by the well, five hundred years in the past. She hoped that Inuyasha wouldn't be there so that she would have more time to relieve her mind of its debris. Maybe it would be Shippou. The little kitsune had a magnificent ability to lift her spirits. But it really shouldn't matter, because she'd still have to see Inuyasha.

'Why did it have to be my stupid fate intertwined with the past, huh? The gods must despise me and relish in my torment!'

She had been doing this for almost a year now and so she knew she could do it again. She could look him in the face and pretend nothing had changed. She could pretend his mere presence did not affect her. She had become quite proficient at putting on facades for whatever the occasion required—it made things easier to handle. She was the one who brought that wretched jewel back into their era and broke it into hundreds of pieces scattered throughout Japan. It was her duty to piece it back together so that no more evil beings could abuse it and wreak havoc. The current state of her own time was dependent on her to fix her mistake of four years past.

Her shoulders suddenly felt heavy as though the lives of all people, past and present, were counting on her to save the world. The burden was on her, as always, to ensure the happiness of others. She was never a selfish person, but the more she thought about it the more angry she became. Why was it that no one seemed to care about her happiness? Didn't she deserve to be content as well? Maybe it was high time she started thinking about herself a little more. Well, she kind of already did that when she made that bargain with Inuyasha. It really wasn't a bargain though, but it was necessary nonetheless.

'Get a grip, girl!'

She really wasn't being fair. There were plenty of people who cared about her happiness. She inhaled sharply, closed her eyes, and plunged into the dark abyss of the well, knowing she would not hit the bottom until clear skies were overhead. She felt the strong swirl of magic surround her and enclose her body in its mystical arms as though it was carrying its child. Then, after a few moments, the magic that seemed to be more a part of herself than a foreign entity set her down gently onto her feet. She was on hard ground again and when she snapped her head upward she saw the light orange hue of the sky, drifting off to slumber as the sun set, awaiting the arrival of the moon.

She started climbing the vines attached to the wall of the old well that were no longer present in her era. When her head sprouted over the rim she was met face to face with the red-clad hanyou that always invaded her thoughts like an incurable plague. Sometimes she wondered if he would be the death of her.

"Took ya long enough," he said with a huff.

"School, Inuyasha," she spat. "Or did you forget?"

He stood to his full height and crossed his arms over his chest indignantly. "No, but I still think it's stupid."

"Well, in my time it's a necessity!" she exclaimed with rising anger.

"You should stay here so we can find the shards quicker!" he said, challenging her anger.

"We made a deal, Inuyasha!" she stated with finality, pointing an accusing finger at him.

"It wasn't a deal. It was a COMMAND!"

Every time, every single time she crossed into this era he did this. He was very unhappy that day many months ago when she announced that she was going to spend more time in her own era. She had a life there and it had been going downhill since she was spending entirely too much time trekking across ancient Japan, piecing together a jewel that had fallen into the forgotten realm of legend. But she did what she felt she had to and spent more time studying so that she wouldn't remain a lost cause. She worked hard to pull her grades up in high school, though the last minute effort produced less than average grades, but at least she had graduated. Then she was accepted into a small two-year institution and she was not going to repeat the past. She needed nearly perfect grades to get into a decent university and she wasn't about to let Inuyasha ruin that for her.

"Whatever, Inuyasha," she stated with exasperation. "I don't feel like arguing right now." She pulled herself completely out of the well and followed his retreating form back to Kaede's village.

Inuyasha didn't even help her out of the well anymore and he seemed unfazed by their lack of bickering, though they still fought like siblings at times, but not like they once had. He was becoming more distant and it unnerved her a bit. He was not adapting well to her new scheduled life like the others had. They understood she had another life in a world they could only imagine, but never see. Inuyasha was simply furious that their shard hunting would be delayed by her new insistence that she had to focus on her education. He was being more selfish than ever these past months, something of which even she had trouble believing, though he had always been too egocentric. There were those too-few memories of him being caring and understanding toward her, but he had never adopted those traits as being more central to his personality. Sometimes she wondered how she could have ever fallen for such man. She silently giggled, recalling a time long ago when she had thought she wanted a man completely unlike Inuyasha, but she eventually saw the other sides of him.

Night came upon them quickly and Kagome was overwhelmed by the lavish greetings from her friends. She enjoyed their happy hellos and warm embraces, but it was not enough to fill the void that had begun overtaking her soul. She hated these feelings of emptiness and she hated the self-pitying it incited even more, but she didn't show it. She put her 'overjoyed' façade in place and gabbed with them about what everyone had been doing all week. Shippou showered her with affection and proudly showed off his collection of drawings that he had accumulated since her departure. He was becoming quite the artist and she felt pride swell within her chest. A genuine smile crept upon her lips and she hugged the little boy with fervor. He eagerly accepted her loving attention, eliciting a contended sigh from her.

Her friends fell into an easy slumber in Kaede's hut, all except she and Inuyasha. Inuyasha had disappeared without a word, but that had become the norm a few months back. At first she was curious as to where he was going, afraid he might be sneaking off with Kikyou, but now she couldn't muster the energy to care. If Inuyasha wanted to go to hell with Kikyou then that was fine with her, because she had come to terms with the fact that Kikyou would always be his first and only choice.

She decided a nice leisurely stroll was in order and so she quietly left the hut and headed into the dark woods. She knew it wasn't the greatest of ideas, but she came prepared. She brought a bow and a quiver full of arrows as well as a small dagger strapped to her side that Miroku had given her. Over the years she had learned to fight a little, but definitely not sufficiently enough to adequately defend herself. She had also gained a keen sense of awareness through many practiced sessions of meditation with Kaede. Miroku continued in Kaede's absence when they were traveling. She could sense jyaki with ease and she could even tell if they meant her harm or not. But she couldn't sense youkai unless they were emitting their youki, and that was a problem. She doubted that she'd ever get this miko thing down pat enough for it to become second nature.

She treaded along through the dense woods, her mind preoccupied with a certain hanyou again, not realizing how far from the village she had gone. Then she sensed it—a faint youki was near. It was so faint she wondered if she had even sensed it all.

She pulled her bow from her back and followed the trace youki out of curiosity, feeling confident that she could handle a weak youaki on her own. She parted the foliage and stepped into a small clearing, immediately noticing the blood blanketing the ground. The youki was nearly undetectable because it was nothing more than a remnant of a previous battle. She then caught sight of a body and recognition clicked almost immediately. His furry pelt looked so much smaller drenched in blood and his two swords were scattered several feet away. It would seem that whoever attacked him had tried to steal his swords, but didn't succeed. Toukijin was too evilly powerful to control and Tensaiga was probably deemed worthless, though she thought it was the most valuable sword on the face of the planet. Too bad he possessed it.

She approached his prone form, indecision weighing her down. She figured people would have told her to turn around and walk back to camp. They would have said if he was to be healed, then lives would be lost. They would have said that such a cruel demon did not deserve help, especially from a human he deemed inferior; a race he supposedly hated. A fleeting image of a little girl waded past her mind's eye and she focused on the fragmented memory.

There was a little girl with dark hair pulled sloppily into a ponytail at the side of her head. She wore a checkered kimono tied by a green obi and she was riding on the back of a two-headed dragon, Tetsusaiga clutched in one hand as the other reached for something. She cried for someone and a little green hand grasped her free one, but she was unable to hold onto him. Then Tetsusaiga plummeted from the sky as though the girl did not think it worth her attention.

She now remembered. Sesshoumaru had taken in an orphaned little girl—a human girl no less. Did she view him as her father? It was admirable and shocking, but should one such as he be raising an impressionable young girl? Would he teach her to hate her own kind as he did?

She looked down at him and her breath caught. His face was so bloody he was almost unrecognizable. His hair was a mess and stained red, as was his usually pristine clothing. So much of him was drenched in blood that she couldn't even begin to decipher where his wounds began and ended. Should she do something? Should she help him? Surely a taiyoukai had many enemies and he would probably be finished off in this state.

Another much clearer memory came to mind that made her want to leave him as he was and take his chances with the wilds. She recalled the time he had doused her in poison right after she pulled Tetsusaiga from the stone in which it was lodged. He was infuriated with her interference and stood before her within the blink of an eye, prepared to destroy her. He had stated his intent right in front of her and she had never been more terrified in her entire life. She had witnessed the deathly power of youkai and had seen Inuyasha kill several offending demons during their short travels, but none even compared to his own full-youkai brother. She doubted even Inuyasha's superior strength could handle Sesshoumaru. But fortunately Tetsusaiga had saved her from an untimely death. Surely the gods must want her to complete her quest.

Another thought crept into the forefront of her mind. She recalled the time Sesshoumaru had replaced his left arm with a human one, which enabled him to wield the Tetsusaiga against Inuyasha. The taiyoukai had known how to unleash its awesome power and later, when the brothers fought yet again, he had chastised Inuyasha for letting its power go to waste. She assumed then that Sesshoumaru knew all about Tetsusaiga. Did he know it would protect her? 'Hell no…'

Kagome was never the type to let harm come to anyone, no matter the extent of their transgressions. She hated seeing people hurt or killed, and her sympathetic side was telling her to nurse Sesshoumaru back to health. It seemed wrong to let him die from his injuries, though that most likely wouldn't happen, but the thought of him being murdered while defenseless was unsettling. She had never seen the proud taiyoukai helpless, so it was hard to imagine him being killed while unconscious, but the reality of the situation was that if she left him as he was then he would probably end up dead. Inuyasha would be angry if she helped his brother, but a lot of things made Inuyasha angry. And a tiny part of her had always hoped that one day the two would make amends and act like real siblings. That seemed implausible, but her damned psyche pushed another memory to the front of her mind, as though to remind her that things were not always as they seemed. It felt like it had happened a lifetime ago…

xxx

Inuyasha had once again turned full-youkai out of necessity, but this time things took a turn for the worst. She ran to him, blinding herself to his rampage, Tetsusaiga gripped within whitened knuckles. But an unexpected visitor appeared on the scene, giving her pause.

"Sesshoumaru!" she gasped.

"What is he doing here?" she heard Miroku say from behind her. A few moments later the demon in question finally found words.

"You are nothing more than a murderous demon," he said dangerously, as though he was displeased. Kagome found this somewhat shocking since Sesshoumaru didn't seem to be bothered by bloodshed, especially human bloodshed.

"Come after me, Inuyasha," he said calmly. "I wish to test your strength transformed as such."

Inuyasha snarled in response and wasted no time running toward his brother. Sesshoumaru just stood there, his hand not even resting on the hilt of his sword. Inuyasha leapt into the air and just as he was about to strike his new opponent, Sesshoumaru unsheathed Toukijin. Inuyasha seemed suspended midair as the sword's power plunged blue daggers into his flesh, but Inuyasha kept going until he fought it off and slapped the sword away.

The fighting continued in a blur as Kagome watched with bated breath. Sesshoumaru moved with liquid accuracy, easily dodging each attack thrown sloppily his way by the wildly demonic Inuyasha. He knocked Inuyasha back several feet with his katana; Inuyasha skidded to a halt, more blood carelessly finding the ground in the futile battle. He went after Sesshoumaru again and the taiyoukai pushed him forward with his sword, causing another horrific spray of blood to spew from Inuyasha, as he did a graceful back flip and landed a good distance away.

"And now little brother, I understand," he said coolly. "You are not a full-fledged demon. All you are is a half-breed," he spat with distaste. That infuriated Inuyasha further, if that were even possible, and he lunged at Sesshoumaru again, the latter preparing his sword by angling it to the side and slightly toward himself.

"Know your place in the world," he called to the growling Inuyasha. "A half-breed should act like one. On your knees!" He thrust Toukijin outward, but still the sideways blade faced himself more than Inuyasha, which puzzled her.

"PLEASE, STOP!" she screamed, but to no avail.

Inuyasha hit the surge of demonic energy that flowed from Toukijin like a river rapid and his limp body flew through the air and hit the ground with a loud thud. She ran to him and threw her body over his, as though she could protect him from the inevitable. But the inevitable never came…

"He has finally been brought down." His voice was too close. She looked over her shoulder with angry eyes, quickly noticing that Sesshoumaru was indeed too close for comfort.

"Don't come any nearer!" she cried desperately. She was scared—scared for Inuyasha's life. To her surprise, Sesshoumaru stopped and just stood there staring at her with a blank expression.

"If you wish him to stop, use Tetsusaiga to reverse the transformation. Otherwise he will continue to fight when he awakens."

'I thought he wanted to kill Inuyasha…?'

Then Miroku and Sango appeared, blocking her view of Sesshoumaru Even though he must have heard them running his way, his eyes never left hers until the monk stepped in between them.

"You could have finished him off earlier if you wanted to," Miroku began with an icy tinge to his voice. "Instead you merely held him off with your sword. Why did you stop at that?" Miroku asked in disbelief. "We all know you despise Inuyasha. I can't believe you've developed feelings for your brother!" Kagome cringed, thinking of all the possible fatal outcomes for Miroku's tone toward Sesshoumaru.

But to her immense surprise, Miroku was merely answered, "I will slay him…eventually. Why kill him now when he does not know himself? There would be no point." Then he turned and walked away, disappearing into the forest on the other side of the clearing.

xxx

He had spared their lives when he could have easily taken them. Maybe he wasn't the heartless killer she had assumed him to be. She felt awful now that she thought about it. That had happened so long ago and yet she had never pondered the probable meanings it held concerning his character.

It was final; her mind now determined to go through with a plan of action. Inuyasha be damned; she was going to help Sesshoumaru.

x x x