Author's Note: As I noted in "The Challenge Posed" - I will be very busy, for a while. Wedding plans + Christmas + multiple birthdays + bar exam review from January until March = not much time for fanfiction. Hope you guys enjoy the chapter.
Chapter 20: Future Past
"Inuyasha!" the priestess cried joyously, "We did it!"
When he turned to see her face, it was split by a wide grin. And although he was not one for expressing strong emotions (other than anger) Inuyasha could not help but return the smile. They had beaten Naraku once and for all!
Well... maybe. Had they actually killed Naraku? The experience had not quite settled in yet. Shock and exhaustion wore him thin, and part of his heart felt unsure. Many times before, they had thought the defeat of Naraku was close at hand, but their evil nemesis had always slithered out of trouble.
Furthermore, if they had defeated Naraku, what was he supposed to feel? Happiness, certainly. But distress and concern were eating Inuyasha up inside, too. Why was that?
Kagome seemed certain, though. She had been the one with the hardest duty. She had needed to fire an arrow at exactly the right moment, when their enemy began to draw upon the Shikon no Tama's power to fortify his soul. Kikyou had claimed that Naraku would merge with the Jewel, and Kagome had agreed to annihilate the bastard exactly when that happened.
So, if Kagome believed that the dark-haired demon was gone, then it must be true.
Excitement began to build inside him, as Inuyasha moved forward to pick up the Shikon no Tama. It was completely pure, because Kagome's holy aura had touched it, while her powers were unsealed. Truly, if Naraku had tried to merge with the Jewel, at the moment Kagome purified it, the bastard must have died. Even he still felt a bit terrified by the extreme level of holy energy with which she had showered the area.
The smile on Inuyasha's face grew a little bit wider – fierce and fanged, nothing like a human grin. As he stepped toward the priestess, he held out the Shikon no Tama like an emblem signifying their success. "Yea," he agreed brightly, "Looks like it! I delayed and distracted him, Sesshoumaru dissolved his form, and you... you..."
His summary of events was cut short, as the priestess collapsed. Blue-eyes shut, and she fell onto the bow that she carried. "Kagome?!" the half-demon continued, unable to accept what he was seeing. One hand remained aloft, offering the Jewel for its protector to take. The other hand clenched in a fist.
"She lost too much blood," explained his elder brother quietly. The dog-demon smoothly rolled Kagome onto her side. Then, he checked the bandages on her leg. Bandages that Inuyasha had not even noticed yet. Still, there was not much more Sesshoumaru could accomplish. A silk-tourniquet could only grasp a leg so tightly.
Streaks of crimson and scarlet smeared over her thigh, and her face was ashen. The fabric binding her leg, along with the green skirt she normally wore, were utterly soaked with blood.
"Is she going to be okay?" Inuyasha inquired of his sibling, as if Sesshoumaru had all the answers.
His older brother did not respond.
And just like that, Inuyasha felt his heart compress into a tiny ball. All the inexplicable worry he had felt earlier, tainting his happiness, returned with a vengeance. Sesshoumaru never hesitated or minced words, so if he could not promise her safety, then Kagome was in a heap of trouble.
"What happened?!" he shouted angrily. Angry with Naraku, angry with himself for choosing to help Kouga instead of Kagome, and angry with Sesshoumaru for failing to protect her.
"Naraku's newest minion utilized your technique - spears of diamond - to attack the human girls." Emphasizing the fact that it was an attack which should have belonged only to Inuyasha, the elder brother implied the entire situation was his fault. "The demon-slayer was also injured, although the armor she wears protected her."
Ears pinned against his head, the half-demon growled, "Kagome gets skewered, and you stand there, watching?"
Sesshoumaru's expression darkened. "Of course not!" he snapped, his tone matching the fury and frustration that Inuyasha felt. But soon, the dog-demon turned back to the priestess, redirecting the conversation. "There is no time for this. She is dying."
Eyes wide with panic, Inuyasha paced in a tight circle. Neither of them knew what to do first. At last, the half-demon gestured the way that they had come. "Her time-period!" he squeaked suddenly, "They have medicine that can fix it!"
The older dog-demon was already in motion. "Take hold of my fur." Gathering Kagome to his chest, he nodded at his sibling.
"I cannot carry both of you," Sesshoumaru impatiently snarled, as if the conclusion should be obvious. "And you are the only one who may pass through the well."
"Oh, right." Stuffing the Jewel down the front of his shirt, Inuyasha wrapped it in fabric, ensuring that it would not fall out while they traveled. Next, he found himself clinging to the bottom half of the white fur that looped over his older brother's shoulder.
And then, the world turned white. Like a river of stars rushing past them, only without all those nice, relaxing black spaces in-between the stars. It was like they had transformed into an orb of light. With a surprised yelp, Inuyasha squeezed his eyes shut.
About sixty heartbeats later, dirt slammed into his face. Fortunately, the dog-eared boy was accustomed to this kind of treatment from his time with Kagome. She was constantly using rosary beads to subdue him. Moreover, it might have been partly his own fault. Sesshoumaru had failed to inform him of the impending landing, but he could have seen it for himself, if his eyes had been open during the trip.
"Holy shit, you travel fast," he grumbled. Jealousy was inappropriate at the moment, but Inuyasha carefully filed away the memory for later, when he had more time to be pissed off about it.
Shaking his head, the half-demon stood and approached the Bone Eater's Well. His brother was already waiting beside it, a human girl delicately wrapped in his arms. And for once, it was easy to discern Sesshoumaru's emotions. Anxiety was unmistakably written across his features. Inuyasha stared.
"This... really matters to you... doesn't it?" he murmured softly, finally beginning to understand.
Something twisted unpleasantly inside his chest, as he realized the icy demon-lord honestly seemed to care about this human. Almost as much as he did. Almost, Inuyasha assured himself. Surely, no one could worry about Kagome as much as he did.
"Do not permit her death," came the firm instruction, accompanied by the usual threat, "Or yours shall follow." Transferring the priestess into his grasp, Sesshoumaru retreated from the rim of the well and watched, helplessly, as his younger brother stepped through time.
In the background, she could hear Inuyasha's voice, loud and clear, breaking through her peaceful state of calm. Sometimes, the half-demon could be so noisy! Didn't he know that people needed to sleep occasionally?
The back of her hand hurt, and her leg was a constant throbbing pain. Muttering softly, Kagome turned her head. The voices around her fell silent, but only for a second or two.
Soon, Inuyasha's voice rang out again. "There!" he exclaimed in a surly tone. "See? Told ya. You woke her."
"Doubtful," added another voice, deep and rich with dark humor. Ah! She knew that voice too! It was Sesshoumaru.
Blinking uncomfortably, she opened her eyes and squinted into the sunlight. There was a window only a few steps away, and warm, soft blankets surrounded her. Bars encased the bed on both sides, and an I.V. line stretched out from the back of her hand. A hospital?
"You should leave, before she sees you," her friend continued to grumble. "Scare the shit outta her..."
Just to check that she was not dreaming, the priestess subdued her half-demon companion. Inuyasha obediently plummeted to the ground, smashing into the tiles at his feet. Kagome stared in surprise. It was not a dream. But when had she arrived at a hospital? The last thing she remembered was... fighting Naraku!
Apologizing to the half-demon, she struggled to sit up, only to feel a hand wrap around her arm and stop her from moving. It was Sesshoumaru. Intellectually, she knew this. When she looked up, however, her mind slid to a halt.
Only the golden eyes were the same. Everything else had changed. Silver hair was cropped short, and no markings adorned his cheeks. He wore modern clothing, a white, button-down shirt and tan slacks. Even his expression seemed different. Older. Calmer.
"You... How?" With a gasp, Kagome tried to string together a coherent sentence. "You couldn't pass through the Well," she finally managed. Of course, the answer was staring her in the face, so she grasped it easily enough. It was still amazing, though. "You lived."
He nodded. Without releasing her hand, the demon-lord pulled a chair closer to the edge of the bed. "Welcome back," the dog-demon said pleasantly.
Meanwhile, the spell on the rosary beads wore off, and Inuyasha peeled himself off the tile flooring. Her friend immediately appeared on the opposite side of the bed, reaching out and tightly gripping her other hand, as if to compete with his elder brother. Kagome winced. The I.V. entered the back of that hand, and it hurt to have Inuyasha squeezing it. She looked pointedly at the half-demon, but he was busy glaring at Sesshoumaru and he failed to notice. Rolling her eyes, Kagome subdued him once again.
A glimmer of amusement danced through Sesshoumaru's eyes. "It has been a long time, since I watched you do that."
Below the bed, she heard Inuyasha whimper pitifully. The ceramic tiles of the hospital floor had tiny cracks running through them now. Part of Kagome felt sorry for the guy, she really did. But the rest of her focused on the older demon at her side. Sesshoumaru! Alive in the twentieth century! It was so amazing that it seemed impossible. It felt all wrong, meeting him like this.
Giving the conversation one more try, determined to do better this time, Kagome opened her mouth. Only to quickly close it again. She did not know what to say.
Thankfully, he took the matter out of her hands. "Do you remember being pierced by one of Inuyasha's diamond spears?" he asked carefully. She signaled her agreement, so he continued. "You lost a great deal of blood. Inuyasha carried you through the Bone Eater's Well, and I transported you the rest of the way. Transfusions - very helpful, yet completely unavailable in the feudal era," he finished with a wry smile. It made his face look weary, bleak.
Despite the strangeness of the situation, Kagome grinned. A thousand pathways opened in her mind, and she could not tell whether to feel hopeful or discouraged. Demons should not exist in her world. Yet obviously, they did! The strongest demon she knew was sitting right in front of her, and she could not sense his aura at all. It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time. Yes, some demons were alarming and dangerous. But others were charming and intelligent! She had always felt a bit sad, when she pondered a complete lack of magic and demons in the future.
Tears gathered in her eyes. He had been here, all along, and she had never even suspected it. Furthermore, the dog-demon had remembered her. This seemed like a miracle - that he had recalled their final battle with Naraku, and he had returned to visit her in a hospital bed. "You lived," she repeated in awe.
"I cannot tell you much, because it is not my intention to interfere with the past," he informed her honestly. "But... if you have any urgent questions to ask..." Only a flicker of hesitation betrayed the significance of these words. Without meeting her gaze, the demon-lord stared at their hands, still curled around one another on the bed-sheet.
For the second time, Inuyasha managed to drag himself off the floor. Clambering upward by gripping the edge of her mattress, the half-demon growled. "She don't have nothing to say to you. Bastard."
A delighted laugh tore free of her. It was crazy, but she loved how these two brothers spoke to each other. She loved the way that Inuyasha had paused, before tacking on the usual insult, as if he only remembered at the last instant. And she loved the way that Sesshoumaru had managed to live five hundred years merely to antagonize his half-brother in a brand new fashion - accidentally.
At least he was not mocking or trying to assassinate his little brother anymore. That could only be a good sign. Many things must have changed, in the past, for these two brothers to begin to get along.
Naturally, she could not ask about it. Sesshoumaru was correct. Knowing too much would only encourage her to make changes or to hurry the future along.
"Tell me whatever you think is appropriate," she decided. Affronted, Inuyasha looked mildly outraged by the suggestion. She ignored him.
So, Sesshoumaru told her. He explained just enough, and it was not as satisfying as it should have been, as it could have been, because it was all incredibly obvious. Miroku and Sango would get married - well, of course! - she already knew that. Kouga would seek revenge for his fallen comrades against Kagura, but he would never succeed in this goal. This also seemed incredibly likely and did not require a huge stretch of the imagination. Shippo would become a fine fox-demon, a fact which she was glad to know, yet one which she expected in any case. As his adopted mother, Kagome would have believed Shippo to be an excellent fox, regardless of what he did with his life.
All the vital facts were missing. She could detect their absence, like waking up one morning without vision in one eye. It was glaringly prominent, what he carefully did not say. Whether Rin died old or young. Whether he and Inuyasha ever acted like a true family. Not to mention whether she, Kagome, ever built a satisfactory life for herself in the past. Hmm.
As they spoke, the sun gradually began to set. Interestingly enough, Sesshoumaru was still holding her hand. She could feel his heartbeat through their palms. The gesture seemed to be driving Inuyasha up the wall. On the other hand, the half-demon was interested in what his half-brother had to say too, and he did not interrupt (very often).
"Did you... ever have any children?" Kagome inquired finally, unable to stand the suspense. She wanted to know something new - something that she could not have predicted. Was it rude to ask this type of question? If the Lord of the West had never produced an heir, then he might feel sensitive on this subject.
The white-haired demon exhaled sharply, a trace of humor curling the corner of his lip. "I anticipated you would ask for your own future, not mine."
She blushed slightly, wiggling her fingers under his. "Well, I wouldn't want to know that sort of thing about myself," she admitted. "Otherwise I'd feel obligated to have children, until I made my quota."
Sesshoumaru laughed. The sound brightened the room. She realized she had never heard him laugh until that moment. "Ah!" he grinned fiercely, "I should not inform you, in that case?"
Inuyasha shifted uncomfortably, a frown written across his face. The younger brother could not seem to understand the point of her last inquiry. Or perhaps it was his sibling's answer that annoyed him. Either way, Kagome did not bother to decipher the mystery. More pressing matters drew her attention.
"So, did you?" she persisted, envisioning a multitude of silver-haired, golden-eyed, mini-Sesshoumaru clones. As if he could almost see the images forming in her mind, the smile on his face became more sincere.
"Yes, " he agreed slowly. Hidden comments lurked behind his smile. Before long, the joyful expression faded, and she was left with the usual, solemn Sesshoumaru. "If you will permit it," he finished, "The pups would like to see you, before you leave."
"What?!" squeaked Kagome. In her opinion, this was flattery in its highest form. His children - Sesshoumaru's children! - they wanted to meet her. "Of course!"
A nurse slipped into the room, along with her mother. Mrs. Higurashi beamed at her daughter and placed one hand over her mouth, while her eyes began to shine with tears. Belatedly, it finally dawned on Kagome that she must have been reasonably close to death, or else her mother would not look so frantically happy to see her awake. Politely, Sesshoumaru surrendered his spot at her bedside to her mother.
Before he withdrew, she gripped his hand one more time, stretching out her arm. "Wait! Tell me something I don't know," she demanded excitedly, impatiently. "Please? Something I wouldn't expect."
And, indeed, what came next was so unexpected that it nearly turned her brain into mush.
He blinked, looking down at her with an eerie calm, steady composure. She could practically see the years hovering around him, even as his movement stripped them away. Bending, he placed a soft kiss on her forehead, and Kagome was so surprised that she almost missed his whisper.
"I missed you."
Inuyasha gagged, then sputtered ineffectively, from where he stood. "Hey!" he snarled, "You don't... You take that back!"
With a sigh, the dog-demon strode toward his sibling. "Come, little brother," he said. Upon hearing this term, Inuyasha nearly suffered an apoplectic fit, which allowed Sesshoumaru to tug him out of the room. "There are subjects we should discuss, as well."
As soon as the doctors gave her a clean bill of health, Kagome was out the door. Because it was difficult to sleep in a hospital, with so much activity around her, she was glad to see the last of it. Furthermore, the Higurashi family did not have much income, and she did not want anyone to spend too much money for her treatment.
Sesshoumaru had offered to pay the entire medical bill, but she had protested. It felt weird to accept money from a man she had never known to exist... until recently. Or rather... she had known that he existed... but not that he still existed in the present. Agh! Merely thinking about it was confusing.
In any case, he had offered money, she had declined it, and she suspected that he probably paid for her treatment despite her wishes. Why? Because Grandfather never liked anyone as much as he seemed to like Sesshoumaru. The elderly man practically doted on their guest in the hospital room. And Sesshoumaru had not even listened to any of the old man's wildly meandering stories. It could only mean that he had given Grandfather money.
She was supposed to stay off her leg for a month, at least. Then, a doctor would remove the stitches and she would be able to walk with a cane, rather than crutches. But for now, she was safely tucked into a wheelchair.
The shrine steps had never seemed quite as high as they did when she gazed at them from a wheelchair. As Sesshoumaru parked the car, after driving them home, Kagome frowned at the stairway. On the other hand, Mrs. Higurashi clapped her hands delightedly, as if she was unable to see a problem.
"All right!" cried her mother, "Wait here, and I will get Inuyasha. He can carry your chair..."
From the top of the stairs, a scuffle sounded, drawing their attention upward. Kagome overheard Inuyasha's voice, raised in anger, and another person yelling right back at him. Even with human ears, she could detect growls and snarls.
She grimaced. At this rate, they would be lucky to arrive and find the shrine in one piece. The half-demon tended to use the Kaze no Kizu first and ask questions later.
"O-Su-Wari!" Kagome shrieked, deciding it was the fastest, easiest method to prevent her best friend from destroying something. Hmm. This was the third time she had subdued the guy in just as many days. Poor Inuyasha.
Instantly, the shrine staircase became a flurry of activity. Four heads sprouted over the topmost step, and two of the newcomers immediately sprinted down the stairs, while a third person descended more sedately, and the fourth individual remained at the top.
"Hi!" the first one said, a pair of fuzzy, black ears twitching on his head, "I'm Kin."
"Idiot," interrupted the second individual, a girl with silvery hair and normal, human-looking ears, but a trace of white fur around the collar of her shirt. "You aren't supposed to tell her that."
"Oh! As if we can avoid it," growled the first boy, glaring at his companion. "I refuse to be called 'Boy-With-Black-Ears' when I have a perfectly good name..."
"I suppose I should tell Father," rejoined the light-haired girl.
Kin growled, although it was only mildly threatening. Kagome overheard similar growls from her companion, when Inuyasha taunted the fox-demon in their group. The silver-haired girl repaid this noise with a mocking glare, as if she was entirely unimpressed.
By then, the third silver-haired individual had reached the bottom of the steps. Ironically, he was the only one of the bunch wearing traditional Japanese clothing. Both hands were tucked inside the sleeves of his outer coat, and similar to the old version of Sesshoumaru, he wore bright white pants. Thankfully, the hakama were not tied at the ankles, causing the pants to balloon outward at the bottom of the leg. That particular fashion had become somewhat outdated, even in the feudal era.
Nodding at the girl beside her, the newcomer introduced the rest of them. "Shizue," he indicated calmly, "And my name is Akio. Fuyu is waiting above."
Mrs. Higurashi seemed a bit flustered, but Kagome smiled brightly. These must be the mysterious children she had learned about a few days ago! Somehow, she had not predicted that Sesshoumaru would have four children. Four! Even more remarkable, the two young men had dog-like ears. Because of this, they slightly resembled Inuyasha.
She held out her hand, ready to shake the newcomer's hand, since Akio seemed like the most tranquil one in the group. But he brushed the hand aside, leaning forward to give her an awkward hug. The breath caught in her throat. It was too much, too soon. Why would he...
Pulling back, the light-haired boy signaled to his brother. Together, they carried the wheelchair up the shrine steps, leaving Kagome puzzled. All the children seemed to be around the same age, only a few years apart. Shizue appeared to be in her early teens, while Akio looked about nineteen or twenty. Kin was the only one with dark coloring, but all of Sesshoumaru's children had vibrant golden eyes.
Halfway up the stairs, Inuyasha overcame the subjugation spell and interrupted. "No!" her friend barked, sounding like a startled dog, yelping in surprise. "Put her down!"
Naturally, like any self-respecting child of the (ex-)Lord of the Western Lands, they ignored the command. Kagome giggled. At the entrance to the courtyard, she was gently deposited in front of the fourth child, the one she did not meet yet.
The girl had shockingly white hair, so pale that it made her ashen-colored skin seem ruddy by comparison. She wore a plain, soft pastel dress, which stretched all the way to her ankles, and her ears were covered by the way her hair bound around the back of her head. When the last girl did not speak, Kagome began uncertainly, "I hear your name is Fuyu?"
Hands crossed in front of her, the other girl nodded silently, refusing to look up. Kagome interpreted it as a sign of bashfulness. Rather adorable, she thought, that one of Sesshoumaru's daughters would be so beautiful and so timid, at the same time. And she was beautiful. Fuyu looked like a supermodel - svelte, graceful, curved in all the right places... it was almost enough to make her jealous. Almost. Pale coloring ruined the equation, however, shocking viewers enough to do a double-take. Just like her name implied, Fuyu resembled 'winter.'
"It's nice to meet you," Kagome continued, because the best way to break someone of being shy was to ignore it. Sometimes, people simply needed extra time and space to become accustomed to a situation. Turning toward the others to include them in her statement, she added, "All of you!"
In the corner of her eye, she saw Fuyu shudder and pull her arms inward, wrapping around her torso. The others showed no response; they merely passed over the statement for more important conversation.
"I want a hug too!" Kin announced happily. "It's my turn!"
This sparked another argument with his younger sister. Shizue reminded him of the wheelchair, and Kin said that he would simply lift her out of it, at which point she explained how manhandling people was rude, while Kin maintained that hugs were healthful, medicine for the soul...
Turning to the eldest son, Kagome whispered behind her hand, "Is this normal?"
Akio merely smiled.
By the end of the day, Kagome could not recall how wonderfully peaceful her home used to be.
Her little brother, Souta, was having a field-day with the newcomers, because two of them understood the importance of video games. Inuyasha had descended into a constantly aggravated state, nearly always drumming his claws against the surface of a table, or the banister railing, or a windowsill, or the wooden doorframe to her room... Her best friend could not seem to deal with the fact that his elder sibling had descendants. Lots of them.
And oddly enough, Sesshoumaru was not helping matters. The dog-demon had been hovering only a short distance away from her, all afternoon. It was enough to make her go insane. Especially because she did not have the freedom to escape. Her mobility was severely decreased, while she was restricted to a wheelchair. And it would not increase very much, when she was allowed to start using crutches.
Even more bizarre, each and every one of Sesshoumaru's children had embraced her, by now. The youngest boy had lifted her out of the chair, exactly as he threatened earlier. Then, Kin had been reprimanded by his father and sheepishly, carefully replaced her in the seat. Perhaps they had a close relationship in the past, or rather... they were going to have one?
Kagome rubbed her temples, trying to suppress her irritation.
Surrounded by this kind of confusion, she was glad the demon-lord had not introduced his family sooner. She hated the constant need to remind herself about a past that was a future. It was not exactly confusing, per se. She understood the theory behind time-travel, paradox, and such things. But it was still annoying. Every few minutes, she shook her head, forcing herself to remember that she could not miss them, because they had not been born yet. Also, when she traveled into the past, once more, she would not be able to tell anyone about this.
At the moment, she was in the kitchen, alongside Inuyasha, Sesshoumaru and Akio. Her mother was somewhere else in the shrine with Grandfather and the white-haired girl, Fuyu. Meanwhile, they could hear Souta and the others in the next room, as they completed a dungeon from one of her brother's video games.
Naturally, Inuyasha was attacking the surface of the kitchen table with his claws, silently glaring daggers at the oldest dog-demon in the room. It did not help. Surprisingly, the more annoyed Inuyasha became, the more wistful Sesshoumaru looked, watching him.
"Inuyasha," she finally announced, "If you don't stop drumming your nails on the table, I'll cut them off."
Wisely, the half-demon decided not to correct her about the fact he had 'claws' not 'nails.' Quickly, he stuffed his hands beneath his arms.
"Perhaps we should leave for a while," suggested Akio, glancing at his uncle. Half-uncle. Whatever. She was too tired to worry about such things, anymore. "You might show me the rest of the shrine?"
"Not leavin' them alone," huffed Inuyasha protectively from where he sat at Kagome's side.
Apparently, the oldest pair of siblings in the room thought her health and safety was some kind of a competition. Her best friend was not going to leave, until his elder brother disappeared. Sesshoumaru was unwilling to say whatever he had to say, in his little brother's presence.
Yes. It was definitely enough to drive her insane. She could sense the mental barriers disintegrating.
"Inuyasha..." she breathed out softly, dangerously. It was the same tone she always took, just before she subdued him. Inuyasha knew it too. He winced.
Generously, Kagome decided not to use the rosary beads against him. "Aren't you happy?" she inquired instead, "This is the first time you've encountered someone else with... such similar ears?"
It was a weak comparison to make. "I'm nothing like that..." her best friend sneered and pointed, "That..."
"Half-demon?" the other boy completed the phrase.
Somehow, it was not a word that Kagome had been expecting. True, Akio looked a tiny bit like Inuyasha, because they had dog-like ears. But this did not necessarily mean that the boy was a half-demon, did it? She had met other half-demons in the past, who did not have deformed ears. For instance, Jinenji had human looking ears. Shiori had possessed normal ears too. Ears alone did not determine anything.
On the other hand, all the full-blooded demons that she ever encountered - they all had pointed, elfin ears. So, perhaps she should have guessed.
Eyes open wide, she blinked at their guests. "Oh," murmured Kagome, "I'm sorry. I guess I should have figured it out sooner, but I didn't. You're only half-blooded?"
Perfectly mirroring the implacable, unruffled expression on his father's face, Akio nodded silently.
At first, Rin popped into the forefront of her mind. But this solution to the problem seemed incorrect. In the past, the human girl was the closest thing that Sesshoumaru had to a daughter. She could not picture an adult Rin, as the mother of Sesshoumaru's children. So, maybe the demon-lord had fallen in love with a human, later in life, like his father did...
But somehow, this solution seemed incorrect too.
After all, they knew her. And Sesshoumaru said that he had missed her. Missed her...
Like ice trickling down her spine, the correct answer enveloped her mind. Kagome tried her best to push it away. No, no. That couldn't be true. They couldn't be hers. Because if so, then she was a bad mother.
The careful way that Fuyu avoided looking at her. The desperate way that Kin hugged her. All of their eyes trailing her around the room, as if she might vanish at any minute.
She felt sick to her stomach, as tears welled up in her eyes. Because the answer had never seemed so obvious. She had died. She was dead, and alive, all at once. What kind of mother died, leaving her husband and children all alone? Tears began to trickle over her cheeks, and her vision blurred.
It wasn't true. She didn't want to be a mother. She had never even been pregnant. It wasn't fair! For days, she had been doing an outstanding job, missing the nonverbal cues she was given. And no wonder! Time-travel sucked. Denial was much better.
Resting her head into her heads, Kagome silently curled into a ball next to the kitchen table. "Nuh-uh!" she heard Inuyasha protest, as another person moved and a scuffle ensued. "Not leavin' them alone!"
A sharp cough, a dragging sound, and then Inuyasha was gone. Kagome did not look up. She couldn't seem to stop crying.
Slowly circling the table, Sesshoumaru knelt beside her, placing one hand on her shoulders. A rasping breath caught in her throat, and she pulled away from his touch.
"How dare you?" she cried. Although she understood the reasoning behind his choice, that did not make her like it. "They're all mine," she sniveled again, "And you told them not to say anything. You forbid them to know me. That's not... the type of knowledge that changes the past."
The anger built very slowly, and perhaps it was not truly anger at all. Perhaps she simply felt betrayed and cheated. Time-travel caused unusual family dynamics. But if they were her children, then she would have wanted to know them, when she was growing up.
Although to be perfectly honest, earlier she had been happy that Sesshoumaru did not intrude upon her childhood. How would she have dealt with it, at age ten? At age five? Not very well.
Still, she was frustrated and willing to take it out on him. It felt better to have someone to blame. "You shouldn't have done that," she continued. "I hate you. I hate you, and so we're never going to have any children, and... I hate you."
He merely rubbed her back in comforting circles. "What makes you think they are yours?"
A fluttering feeling in her heart warned that she had already grown too attached, over the course of a single afternoon. She liked them. Akio was intelligent, and Fuyu took hours to warm up to other people, both reflecting their given names. Kin was hyperactive, and Shizue acted superior to everyone else, just like her father. Only when she did it, no one took her seriously, so it was hilarious.
Still, maybe there was some other woman. In which case, she was fantasizing about nothing. "Akio has my earlobes," she rationalized, frowning seriously. "And Kin has my hair. Slightly curly hair."
"Earlobes?" the dog-demon chuckled helplessly. "I've never heard that one, before."
Without another word, he picked her up. She threw her arms around his neck for support, so she would not strain the stitches in her leg. Then, she glared at him.
Before long, they were sitting outside on the roof of the house. Well, Sesshoumaru was sitting there. Kagome was draped sideways across his lap, feeling incredibly awkward about the entire experience. Her balance was terrible, and she might hurt her leg without him to stabilize her. But still, couldn't the dog-demons in her life pick more convenient locations to relax? Inuyasha always rested on the roof, as well.
Come to think of it, where had Inuyasha gone? Apparently, Akio had learned how to subdue his uncle quickly, and in his own way. "How do I... did I die?" she asked morosely, into the fabric of Sesshoumaru's dress shirt.
"Hn. That sounds like the sort of question I should not answer," he replied blandly. But after a moment, he relented. "Do you believe that I would allow Rin to die of anything other than old age?"
She shook her head. No. Of course not. Not on purpose, her mind answered silently.
"There is your answer, then." Tucking her head beneath his own, Sesshoumaru inhaled deeply. The tension seemed to bleed out of him very, very gradually. He burrowed his nose into her hair, and she did not protest, because his presence made her feel a bit safer too.
Moonlight made the night seem colder than it actually was. It was a gibbous moon, bulging outward on the side, and it would slowly wane over the next few weeks. Until it was the shape of the crescent which was missing from Sesshoumaru's forehead. Until it was a dark, new moon, and Inuyasha had no demonic power at all, for one night.
She opened her mouth to ask why his markings had vanished, and when the various children had their "human" nights, and whether they all suffered the weakness on the same evening. Now that she knew the truth, it seemed like she would never be able to contain her questions. But before she spoke, the dog-demon interrupted her.
"You lived for a very long time indeed," he whispered softly, holding her closer to his chest. A miniscule tremor ran through his frame. She would not have sensed it, if she had not been pressed against him. "More than twice the life-span of other humans. More than a hundred years," he continued, a trace of awe in his tone. "In the end, I thought you might subsist on nothing but pure determination."
All the other questions faded from her mind, when she heard Sesshoumaru's voice. He was sad. And she did not like it. Even if they were completely uninvolved in the past, and this was just a long dream, she would not want one of her friends to be sad. And Sesshoumaru was one of her friends, even in the past, even without anything else that might develop between them.
Suddenly, it did not seem so romantic - the way that Izayoi and Inuyasha's father had fallen in love. She had always considered it an idyllic storyline. A powerful warlord and a beautiful princess, who refused to allow society's perceptions to keep them apart. Their story had always reminded her of Orihime and Hikoboshi, Romeo and Juliet, or other such tragic, romantic tales. Lovers separated by fate.
But maybe that was not correct. She had never factored a human's short life-span into the story. How many years could Izayoi had survived with her hero, anyway? Inuyasha's father had chosen to die, in order to rescue his lover and his son from a fire. In the long run, maybe it was an easier choice than struggling to survive, alone.
She didn't want to cause suffering. Not ever. It was not in her nature. This meant her choice was relatively simple. If Sesshoumaru did not actually love her, then she would have no reason to become involved with him anyway. And if Sesshoumaru did actually love her, then she had an even bigger reason to avoid him. Because he would be sad, when she died.
This seemed like good, solid logic to her mind. She hugged her companion and his torso stiffened beneath her hands. "I don't love you," she said resolutely. "And I don't plan to start."
He began to laugh. "Oh good," Sesshoumaru snickered helplessly, the words escaping between his breaths. "Because... I am not like... my father."
"What?!" she protested, pushing herself off of his chest. Glaring at Sesshoumaru, she realized it was probably a bad sign that she felt so insulted when he implied he could not love a human.
Finally, the laughter faded, although the smile did not. "I am not like my father," he shook his head, "Or my brother. I have always known this to be true. Although the reasons have changed over time."
She rolled her eyes. "You're not like your brother, because you are not half-demon?" she suggested in an exasperated tone.
"No. I am not my brother," he answered calmly, "Because I do not seek replacements."
Kagome fell silent, gazing down at her hands, or the courtyard, or the roof. Basically, anywhere but the demon-lord beside her. It was all too easy to guess what 'replacements' meant, after spending so long with Inuyasha. She had watched him pine for Kikyou, over and over again. In the beginning she had hoped that her friend would finally see past the dead priestess to her, Kagome, if she stood by him firmly enough.
"Okay, sure," she accepted at last, squirming slightly, uncomfortable with the dialogue. "So, why are you not like your father?"
He pondered how to phrase the answer for a while. "If you had asked me years ago," he eventually explained, "Then I would have said it was because I would never love a human. But you have already met Rin. So, you know it is not true. Later, I started to strip away at that reason, to reach the core of truth at its center. 'I am not like my father, because I am unwilling to die for a human' I told myself. Only to learn this was not true either. 'I am not like my father, because I would never have a child with a human.' You have seen how well I succeeded with my next resolution..."
Kagome gasped. "We have accidental babies?" This seemed like the worst possible outcome. She was not going to fall in love with him, Sesshoumaru was not going to want kids, yet they somehow produced four of them? It was a little unbelievable.
"Hush," he chided gently. "I haven't finished. If you ask now, I would say 'I am not my father, because I would never abandon my family.' That is the correct answer. It simply took me a long time to find it."
A new facet of the story suddenly dropped into place, twisting her perception of Izayoi and the Inu-no-Taisho, once more. "Your father abandoned his family?"
"Only half of it," conceded Sesshoumaru.
"Well, you abandoned Inuyasha!"
"Not forever," he countered cheerfully.
Thumping her palm uselessly against his chest, Kagome briefly struggled and then collapsed against him again. Clearly, she was fighting a battle she could not win. If Sesshoumaru wanted to sit on the roof, then evidently they would sit on the apex of the roof. If Sesshoumaru wanted to survive for five hundred years to annoy her in the future, then he would. He had.
In a month, she could have the stitches removed and graduate to a cane. Meanwhile, she supposed, she would simply have to put up with the newcomers in her life. They weren't so bad, really.
And maybe she could weasel some useful information about the past out of her... um... whatever one was supposed to call someone like Sesshoumaru. Her hypothetical lover, in a past that was not going to become the future, because she was stubborn like that.
Then, the task she had forgotten finally sank into her mind. "Oh no!" she gasped, sitting up straight. "I forgot about Kohaku!"
"Calm down," said Sesshoumaru. "The boy is not going anywhere."
"Oh! I bet you think that's funny, don't you?" Kagome growled furiously in reply. "Hah! Not moving, since he's dead." Obviously, if they ever did have a relationship, then it was going to take a lot of work. At the moment, she was not amused. "Put me down!"