A/N: Well, it hasn't been 2 years since the last update! That's progress, right? ;) I'm glad you guys that are reading this are sticking with me. We're not done, but the finish line is beginning to form on the horizon! Once again, I've received a lot of encouraging notes and messages. I know when there's a long gap between updates, it may seem like I'm gone, but I read each and every message I receive on all the sites I submit to. It's a blessing to have such wonderful readers as y'all!
Thanks to Ijin, as per usual, for putting up with my sporadic pleas for beta reading and doing it without complaint, even when she's sick. Feel better!
Beside You in Time
1914: Western Australia, Australia
Her eyes fluttered open at the slide of his fingertips down her bare back. "You let me sleep late," she murmured with a smile. Their two-room cabin was already warming in the morning sun.
"A half-hour will not starve the animals. You were sleeping well."
She turned over to face him. He had a book open, but his eyes weren't moving as his hand continued to skim over her skin. Kagome hummed as she pressed a kiss to his shoulder in gratitude.
The book closed and slid to the side as Sesshoumaru angled his body towards her. His hand swept up her spine and into her hair. She leaned into him, kissing the underside of his jaw.
He let out a puff of air and tightened his hold. "I wish this could continue," he began.
"Tease. The animals have waited already. They can do it for a bit longer," she said, moving her way across his cheek.
He stretched out his hands across her back as her tongue traced the edge of his pointed ear. Her own hands twisted into his silver hair. She tugged, and he acquiesced to her wordless demand, exposing the full length of his throat to her. Her blunt teeth scraped down the slope of his neck.
Kagome's vision swam for a second as he flipped her onto her back, and she shivered as she stared up at him. But she managed an easy smile. "Yes?"
"I am far too easy for you to convince," he said, leaning down and pressing his nose to her throat. He took a deep breath. "I have stood against nations."
"Nations didn't know about that spot behind your ear," she countered, brushing the said spot with her fingertips. She smiled again at the soft groan that escaped him.
"Have I become so predictable?" His claws danced down her side and to the crease of her hip.
She arched her back as his fingertips traveled to the back of her knee and to her inner thigh. "Do I seem bored?"
He did not say a word but still let his tongue answer as he worked his way down her body. She squirmed underneath him as his silky hair followed his path. She breathed out his name.
No, Sesshoumaru definitely did not bore her. Even after seventy years, moments like this – or that, she mentally added with a sigh – never failed to flush her skin with warmth and make her stomach coil with excitement. He had learned her body as thoroughly as she had learned his, but they hadn't tired of each other. Kagome held tightly onto the small hope that they never would.
With a cry, her powers sparked and electrified the air. Sesshoumaru let out a growl from deep within his chest, eliciting another burst of purification. He was over her again. She didn't apologize – he was a demon of tremendous strength, after all, and the prickling pain from her powers flowed so easily into pleasure for him. She felt his heavy breath in her hair.
Kagome pushed at him, turning him to his back. He pulled her along with him, immediately finding his way home and drawing a gasp from her. Sesshoumaru's hands grasped her hips as he tilted his own.
They found a tempo and moved together with practiced ease. Sesshoumaru's hands moved over her as hers dug into his sides. And then, he was sitting up, flush against her, pressing her mouth over her collarbone, and one hand between them. She cried out a moment before he groaned against her shoulder, and they collapsed back onto the bed.
She waited until their skin began to cool and then disentangled herself, only to roll to her side of the bed. She smiled up at the wooden beams above her head. "Well, good morning."
The corner of Sesshoumaru's mouth curled upwards. "Now we must get up and tend to our chores."
"That's not nearly as fun as lounging in bed all day," Kagome said, moving to rest her head on his shoulder. "Isn't that why we're here?"
"You know we cannot," he replied, running his claws through her hair once more before extricating himself from the twisted sheets.
She watched as he pulled on his rough-spun, cotton shirt with the sleeves already rolled up. "Are you hunting all day then?" she asked. He stilled. "Sesshoumaru?"
"It depends on the prey," he replied as he tugged his trousers up. Reaching for his hat and boots, he looked at her, his shirt still open and his feet bare. She could see his magenta stripes. "I will try to be back early."
Kagome rose from the bed, grabbing her faded tunic and apron. "Alright. Do you want me to pack you any food?"
"No." He pulled on his boots and crossed the room to her. His fingers brushed across her collarbone. "I will bring dinner home."
"Sounds good." She reached up and kissed the underside of his jaw. "As long as you're careful."
Sesshoumaru drew back and left the room. Kagome tugged on her mud-stained boots and followed him through the front room and onto the porch. He was staring at the southern horizon with a furrowed brow.
"What is with you this morning?" she asked with a laugh. "Did you knock something loose just now? Did I?"
The cloud cleared from his face as he sent a cool look towards her. The withering stare of the past centuries had diminished into vague frustration these days. Only for her though. "I will return as soon as I can."
"For dinner and an early evening in bed, I hope," she said with an arch of her eyebrow and a curl of her lips.
"That is what I hope as well," he said. "Our plans often go awry, however."
Kagome shook her head. "Not here."
Sesshoumaru took a breath, but she gave him a smile that seemed to stop his words. Trouble seemed to find them, no matter where they were. But this speck of desert had held it all at bay so far. Her old optimism crept into her heart more each day, albeit with a watchful eye on the horizon.
The dust swirled as the taiyoukai launched off to his hunt, sailing towards the south in a flash of silver hair.
She stretched her arms up towards the cloudless sky and let the sun warm her face. Every day here was a variation on the same theme, and she took a moment to revel in it. She whispered her favorite joke, "We're the only monsters here."
Grabbing the pail at the edge of the porch, she walked towards the henhouse to begin her chores. The chickens were already clucking, and she apologized to each one by name as they strutted out into the sunshine. A few chicks darted around her feet as she spread the feed, making her laugh at their tumbling. The rooster preened and gave her contemptuous stares as she foraged for eggs.
She milked the two cows, pouring most of it into the pigs' trough, along with their slop. The horses were fed and brushed down and turned out into their pasture along with the cows. The mares, Flora and Ada, followed Kagome along the edge of the fence and nuzzled her hair as she made sure all the animals had ample water. She walked around the corral, making mental notes of what sections were in need of repair.
The cat made its appearance about an hour before lunch, as Kagome cleaned out the stalls and laid down fresh hay. "You have a late morning too, Prue?" she asked, giving the feline a quick rub of her slate gray ears. The cat was the animal that required the least care – she was a barn cat that made herself fat on mice and took only a few scraps and a filled water dish from her owners. Kagome was thankful for it – Sesshoumaru had been right in warning her about the work demanded by even a dozen animals, especially this far from anyone who could possibly assist.
Still, she was singing quietly as she made her way back to the house. She washed her face and hands in the cool water of the basin before she sat down on the porch with her mending.
Her back ached, although she knew it would soon fade. Her nails were still dirty, although she had scrubbed at them for several minutes. Her hair probably looked a fright after the mares had finished with it. But she continued singing, sparing only half of a thought for her plans for the afternoon's work.
When the sun reached its highest point and the shadows grew small, she put away her sewing. Chewing on the crust of bread, her eyes fell on her rifle, mounted on the wall above the bookshelf. She stripped and cleaned it once a week, a little ritual she had picked up in her days in the prairie lands of America. But she had not used it here, except for occasional target practice. She did not hunt, and she did not fight. Ammunition was expensive anyway – it cost so much to ship. And she had other work to do around the house.
"I shouldn't get rusty though," she said aloud as she took it off the shelf and slung it across her back. She filled a small bag with a rattling box of cartridges and strapped her Colt to her thigh, in case of any close encounters with the many dangerous animals of the outback. Her apron was exchanged for a cowboy hat pulled low over her brow.
Prue yowled when Kagome stepped back out onto the porch. "What's with you?" she asked, giving the cat a quick rub of the ears. Prue let out a plaintive meow and skittered off towards the barn.
Kagome began to follow when she felt his approach. She turned to the southern horizon and saw the shadow. It moved slowly, and its shape was all wrong. The heat rising from the hard-packed earth distorted everything, she reminded herself as her stomach began to twist.
Time ticked by and the shadow became two, distinct figures. One was mounted. Sesshoumaru's hair marked him as the one on foot – he had not cloaked himself in his concealment spell.
She waited, feeling unfocused, chaotic demonic power buffet against her skin across the desert. She tasted ash in her mouth.
She prayed and cursed in one breath as she recognized the flash of burning red under the wide-brimmed hat. The girl was thin and tall – taller than when Kagome had last seen her – and she had a grace on horseback that belied her teenaged face. Kagome was not fooled. Two hundred years was nothing for a demon. The girl was a child – the surly twist to her mouth and faint panic in her eyes was enough to show that.
But the hair. Why did she pick the exact shade of her mother's hair for her concealment spell? Whether it was deliberate or not, she'd won a point in the psychological game. Kagome sighed internally.
"Hello, Adele," she called when their eyes met. "How nice to see you."
She bowed her head. "Good afternoon, Baroness Girard de Chevalier."
An old title but a fresh punch to the stomach. Another cut for Adele. Kagome glanced at Sesshoumaru, whose expression was absolute stone. "Remember I said you didn't have to address me with that mouthful of a name. 'Kagome' is fine."
"Yes, ma'am," she said, dismounting and giving a little bend of the knee as a curtsey.
Kagome pressed her lips together as Sesshoumaru busied himself with untying Adele's luggage from the back of her horse. "Well, you're certainly a surprise visitor. We don't get many out here, but you're welcome, of course." She took a breath. "Is it your first time in Australia?"
"Yes," Adele said. "Mother said only savage criminals live here, so why would we?" Her eyes fell on Kagome's rifle.
She rolled her shoulders, pushing the long gun back. "I wouldn't repeat that to the locals."
"Mother says I'm not to speak with any of the locals. It could compromise my location, and the Order is everywhere."
Kagome shook her head. "Not here, as far as we can tell. How did you get so far without speaking to the locals anyway?" She arched an eyebrow as Sesshoumaru passed by her and mounted the steps. "I know your father couldn't have gone all the way to Esperance to retrieve you."
Adele shifted. "I don't know if I'm permitted to tell you."
Sesshoumaru put the suitcase down, making the wooden porch groan. "Kagome is not a member of the Order. You may tell her the grocer and his wife have a sliver of demon blood in them. Particularly since she already knows." He met her eyes. "The Tuckers were going to bring her to our door. I told them that I would accompany Adele the rest of the way alone."
Kagome tried to suppress a shudder. "Thank goodness."
"Mrs. Tucker was very kind to me," said Adele with a frown.
"She would be to you," murmured Kagome.
Adele bristled. "Mother says we should hold our friends close. We have so few in the middle of so many enemies. We can only depend on one another."
This would be a long visit. Kagome's oasis, far from civilization, suddenly began to look more like a prison. She could only conjure the smallest of smiles. "Well, as long as they treated you well, I have no argument with her." She reached out her hand. "Let me take care of the horse while your father gets you settled into the house."
Adele mounted the steps as Kagome walked into the barn. She shed her rifle and bag with a sigh before beginning to relieve the horse of his tack.
She was still brushing the gelding when Sesshoumaru reappeared. He stood at the stall door and watched her for several long minutes, until she could no longer pretend the horse needed anything else but rest. "You should be catching up with your daughter."
"You require my answers more than she requires my questions."
"And do you have answers?"
Kagome closed the stall door with a snap and looked up at him. "Alright. Do you know why she's here? And without her mother or Brandt?"
"It seems she is here because of you," he replied. "You warned her of the coming war."
She let out a short bark of a laugh. "Yes, I remember telling her about it, violating our rule about not giving anyone foreknowledge about world events. I did it for Adele," she said. "I also remember Gisela brushing me off and saying that anything that killed off more humans was an improvement in her book. What changed her tune?"
"Perhaps she realized the enormity of the conflict." He shook his head. "I do not know, but it is the reason Adele has given to me. The countess and Brandt have remained in Europe to evacuate any other members of the Alliance to South America."
"I never told her Australia was safe though."
"I did." Sesshoumaru met her gaze. "When I wrote to her to inform her of our move here, I told her what you had said to me. I reiterated the danger that Europe held."
Kagome stepped back. "You didn't tell me that."
"I did so for Adele. Just as you did. I did not believe she would heed my warning any more than she had done to yours."
She scoffed. "Come on, Sesshoumaru. She pretends to despise you now, but she still hangs onto your every word. I'm surprised she didn't use it as an excuse to show up herself. Since when did she know anything about boundaries?"
"Since I have told her that her business with me will only concern Adele, and I will not tolerate anything else. She may not respect boundaries, but she knows I have made an oath to you, and that oath will not be broken. The countess has pushed our arrangement to its limits with this incident." He closed the distance between them. "She must have known how displeased I would be over this. She has threatened your sanctuary."
"So you didn't know she was coming?" Kagome asked.
"No. When I felt a demon approach this morning, I did not know who it was." He paused. "Although I had my suspicions."
"You should have told me then."
He nodded. "Yes, I should have. I did not want to worry you unnecessarily. I hoped I was wrong. I even hoped for Shippo," he said. "I apologize."
Kagome gave a soft laugh at that and stepped into him, feeling his arms encircle her. She pressed her nose to his chest and breathed in his scent. "I just have the same pit in my stomach that I did when you suggested we go on the maiden voyage of an unsinkable ship," she murmured. "Except I'm not actually sure if I've stepped onto the deck or not."
"My daughter is not the Titanic," he answered, brushing her hair back from her eyes. "And while the circumstances are not ideal, I believe that if anyone can undo Gisela's damage, it is you."
"Oh? You have a lot of faith in me."
"You have influenced me in ways I never anticipated. And this Sesshoumaru anticipates all."
Kagome smiled up at him. "Right. And you've stood against nations."
He arched an eyebrow. "She is just a girl. A teenager in human years."
She let out a small groan and buried her face in her hands. "You clearly haven't dealt with many teenage girls."
"Where is Father?"
Kagome pushed a sweat-soaked strand of hair out of her eyes. "He went to Esperance for the day. He'll be back tonight, although late."
Adele frowned. "He has taken me everywhere for the past three weeks."
"He's selling some of the pelts you two have gotten, and he's seeing if anyone needs a guide. He has to check periodically since we don't exactly get letters delivered to our door."
"Guide for whom?"
Kagome set aside her mucking fork. "He didn't tell you? Sesshoumaru is paid to guide people across the desert. Some want to cross the Nullarbor Plain to say they did it. Some are investors or prospectors looking for the next productive gold mine. He makes sure they don't die from lack of water or food or get killed by the wildlife while doing it." She shrugged and grabbed her bucket. "They're talking about building a railroad across the country. When that happens, less people will hire him. In the meantime, it pays well enough to feed the animals and keep this place going."
"Why didn't he take me?"
This was the most Adele had said to her in almost a month. "We're not exactly popular in Esperance. You probably already created a lot of gossip when you arrived. He didn't want to stoke the flames. We're supposed to be keeping you safe and out of sight, after all." She tossed the soapy water onto the floor of Ada's stall and took up her broom. "Do you want to help with this?"
Adele wrinkled her nose. "Don't you mean that you are not liked in Esperance? Mrs. Tucker had nothing to say about Father's flaws," she said. "Well, very little anyway."
Kagome paused in her scrubbing, knowing what the one 'flaw' the Tuckers saw in Sesshoumaru. "For the town, it's enough that I'm Japanese. Your father is considered a desirable immigrant, because they think he's European, and I was allowed to come here as his wife. That, and I easily passed their idiotic dictation test in a variety of languages." She gave a tight smile. "So, there's that. The Tuckers just have bonus reasons for hating me."
"Because you're pretending to be Father's wife."
She opened her mouth, then closed it. "I suppose that's true," Kagome said after a minute. "But I don't think it's really about what he calls me."
A cloud passed over Adele's face. "No," she said. "It's about you acting like his wife. Pretending that you're worthy of that."
Kagome took a deep breath. She'd expected this so much sooner. "And the Tuckers don't think that I am. That's fine."
"I don't think you're worthy either," answered Adele, lifting her chin.
"That's fine too. You don't have to agree with it."
"Tell me why then. Why my father?"
Kagome gave her an even look. "Your father's relationship with me isn't really any of your business, Adele, and it's certainly not your mother's. It doesn't matter if you think I'm 'worthy' of him. Sesshoumaru is as happy as someone with his worries can be. Nothing else should matter."
Her lip quivered for a full twenty seconds before she burst. "But it does! You're no one! You're a human, and you've taken one of the greatest demons in the world for your own selfish purposes! He's betrayed his own kind for you! He can't see what is best for us, because of you!" Her demonic energy began to swirl, chaotic and flickering.
"Calm down, Adele."
"No! You've kept him from me all this time! I deserve answers! I deserve to have my father! You have no idea what it's like." Tears began to collect on Adele's lashes. "I don't know him! I know what he does and what he says. But the only thing I truly understand about him is that he loves you. Not my mother. And not me. You!"
Kagome sent a soft wave of purification to buffet against Adele's angry cloud. "That's not true. He loves you. Trust me when I say that he's just not that good about expressing it."
Adele flinched as her power was pushed back against her. "He is with you." She took a shaky breath. "Why does he need a human so much?"
She didn't reply for a long time, letting her purification energy encircle the girl until the demonic power began to dissipate. "Sesshoumaru doesn't need anyone, Adele. We're bound by unique circumstances, and after all this time, that might give me some special treatment. There's nothing that can replace the love he feels for his only child though."
The girl wiped the heel of her hand across her eyes. "I don't believe you."
"Then ask your father. He would never lie to you."
"He barely speaks to me. I tell him things. I ask him questions. He doesn't say anything."
Kagome pressed her lips together. "Your father isn't a big conversationalist. You have to be persistent."
"I don't need advice from you!"
She held up her hands. "Alright. But you think I'm the one person in the world that's close to your father. Doesn't that mean I have the best knowledge of how to get him to talk to you?"
"He would be already if you hadn't been here," Adele said, her voice turning venomous. "You're the reason he's not with me and Mother."
"I know that it must be hard, but your parents' relationship is so much more complicated than that. Again, it's something that you should talk about with Sesshoumaru," she said. "If you want, I can talk to him for you. He might not realize…"
"The only thing I want from you is for you to leave my father alone," interrupted Adele. "You've ruined everything." She turned on her heel and marched back towards the house.
Kagome let out a long breath and picked up the broom again. "Well, that went better than I expected," she muttered.
She put her feet on the floor and tilted her head towards the noise coming from the front room. Adele should be asleep. Sesshoumaru was walking through the desert, as he did most nights.
Kagome put her hand on the door and felt the warmth of the wood. She frowned. Was a fire burning? She could taste copper in her mouth.
It took a moment for her see it after she stepped through the doorway. The girl was in the bed in the corner, on her back. Blood covered the sheets, and her entrails glistened in the firelight. Kagome choked back a scream.
The man at the end of the bed, covered in the girl's blood, turned to look at her. He was still holding the knife. "I cleanse myself as I cleanse the world," he spat.
She tried to run towards the door, but she stumbled. And suddenly, she was next to the bed and looking at the dead girl – her matted, bloodied hair and her gashed throat. Kagome's feet slipped in the blood on the floorboards.
Behind her, the man was moving towards another gasping creature. "Sesshoumaru," she whispered, turning away from the horror in the bed.
He was on the floor, his fingers grasping for the edges of the binding spell over his heart.
Kagome had a part to play, but the man was still there. His wide and wild eyes settled on her.
She turned tail and ran, plowing through the doorway and into the desert.
Trees had grown in the night though. The desert had become a jungle, and Kagome's skin itched with the sudden shift in humidity. Flies began to land on her, walking on her flesh.
The bodies were everywhere – the warriors and the old men and the children. And her own hands were covered in blood. For a moment, she hoped it was from the girl inside the cabin, but she knew the blood had been spilled by her hands alone. She was wearing white, but she was swathed in red. One of the soldiers was at her feet – she'd bludgeoned him with his own weapon.
"I don't care if you're dead," she said to him. "I don't care if I killed you. You deserved it."
She stepped over his body and watched two more soldiers as they died with her bullets in their stomachs. It took them a long time, and she wished they would hurry. The man with the knife would be following her soon. She had to escape the jungle.
The sound of the sea drew her away, and Kagome took in a breath of the fresh, salty air. The breeze wrapped around her, and her heart calmed. Sesshoumaru had to have escaped. He was too strong for a binding spell to stop him. He would meet her here at the docks.
Crowds of men began to press in around her, but she pushed through them. She only had to find The Arrow, she knew. She could see its sails already.
Ice encircled her heart and squeezed at the voice. Then hands laid upon arms and began squeezing her body too. They forced her to turn and face him.
The pirate smiled through his greasy beard. "My little Kate. I've missed you."
"No!" she sobbed. She thrashed and kicked, but his men held fast. The pirate stepped towards her. "Stop coming here! Leave me alone!"
She shot up, awake and covered in sweat and screaming.
Sesshoumaru was sitting beside her, his hand on her shoulder. She could feel his demonic energy rippling through the room, although it took a moment for her to realize her own power sizzled against it. She collapsed against his chest and clutched him to her. "You're home."
He spent long minutes running his fingers through her hair as her tears splashed on his skin. "Which dream?" he asked when her cries began to subside.
"It was all of them," she replied, her voice muffled. Her heart still thumped inside her throat.
"It has been some time since it has been that bad."
"Did I hurt you?"
Sesshoumaru shook his head. "I contained the purification." He pulled back to look at her face, and he rubbed the heel of his hand across her cheek to wipe away her tears. "You have overexerted yourself somehow. That is when this happens."
"No," she lied, leaning back into him. He still smelled of his trip through the desert and of Esperance, but mostly he smelled of Sesshoumaru. She took deep, long breaths. "I don't think it's the sort of thing that will go away overnight."
"We have no shortage of time."
"That's not true. We have to return to the land of the living sometime. You have a…" Her heart stuttered, and she grabbed at him. "Adele. Is she okay? I remember blood on the couch and…"
He captured her hands. "She is fine. That was the dream. She is asleep and safe," he said. "I will wake her, so that you can see."
"No, no. Let her sleep," Kagome murmured, raising her hands to her face. She knew he was lying – there was no way Adele had slept through the screams. She couldn't face the young girl's stares right now. "Of course it was the dream. I just remembered Whitechapel and that woman. Except it was our home Herbert was in. You had that binding spell over your heart, and I didn't help you."
"But you did," Sesshoumaru said. "I allowed fury to overtake me, and I did not see the binding spell. I could not breathe. He easily could have killed me in that moment, and you placed yourself between us."
"I should have shot him immediately. I should have thought for one second before acting. I endangered both of our lives."
"You acted out of compassion," he replied. "I find it one of your more frustrating qualities at times, but I was and still am grateful for your selflessness in that moment."
Kagome shook her head. "It wasn't compassion or selflessness," she said. The words became sticky in her throat. It seemed impossible to explain the fear that had gripped her in that London lodging house. The mutilated corpse had horrified her, but the vision of Sesshoumaru falling and helpless had sent true terror through her. Desperation had moved her feet and hands – she couldn't be left alone. He was a part of her, and if he couldn't breathe, neither could she.
But those words never came, and he stood up. "Do you need me to stay?" he asked, his fingers still entangled with her own.
"Always, but I'll be alright. Go do what you need to."
"Try to sleep. I will take care of the animals this morning."
She fell back on the bed, certain that she would be awake permanently. After all, she didn't need sleep. It was a human affect – a psychological salve.
And yet she found herself waking from an unnoticed and dreamless sleep several hours later, when the sun had risen high in the sky. She could hear someone hammering – perhaps Sesshoumaru was finally fixing those rotten boards in the barn loft.
Kagome slid out of bed and into her dress, although she left her shoes by the chair. The house was silent, but when she padded into the front room, she discovered it was not empty.
Adele looked up from her book.
"Good morning," Kagome said.
"It's afternoon," she replied with a slight frown.
She shrugged. "I suppose it is." Kagome crossed the room and picked up one of the fresh, green apples sitting on the kitchen counter with a smile. Sesshoumaru must have brought them home last night. She set to pulling out the flour and lard for a pie crust. "What're you studying?"
Adele's eyes snapped up to meet hers. "Japanese history," she said, flipping the cover up to show the title.
"'Japan: The Sengoku and Edo Periods'," Kagome read aloud. "Your father's idea?"
She nodded. "He gave it to me this morning. He said he expects me to know where I came from." She hesitated. "But it's in Japanese. And I don't understand his purpose. Father isn't really from this time. He's older than this."
"He met you during this time."
Kagome pressed her lips together for a moment, but Adele did not have the acid in her voice that she did the previous day. "That's true too," she answered. "I think that, perhaps, your father was thinking about the time when he became who he is now. He'd probably admit that his earlier years were spent training, fighting and being single-minded in his ambition. He changed around the time I first met him. We barely knew each other then, but it was evident even to me."
"He's told me about Naraku," Adele said. "You all fought him together."
She couldn't suppress the smile. "Is that what he said? I guess it was true, in the end. He's never gotten along with his brother though, and that caused some detours from defeating Naraku. He was there though. He saved me a few times, to be honest. All of us."
"He didn't want to?"
"Ah, well." She considered her words for a long moment. "Your father was still very ambitious, and Naraku was powerful. Fortunately for the rest of us, Sesshoumaru values honor beyond everything. Once it became clear that Naraku was not to be trusted, our goals were the same. We all had to accept that we were allies eventually. It still annoyed him to have to save us on occasion though."
"Mother says he's changed since she first met him. She says it was because of you."
Kagome shook her head. "Everything started when we fought Naraku. Fighting someone that evil and powerful can make or break you, I think. It's certainly a defining moment of life. It forced him and all of us to look at the world differently. By the end, he came to realize that Inuyasha was a worthy son of their father. And he got to know the rest of us. Humans and demons working together was something new for him. But mostly, it was Rin."
"I saw her. That first time I saw Father. He said she was a little girl that he took in."
"Exactly," Kagome replied. "He grew to care about someone that wasn't himself. And she was this tiny, human, orphaned girl. She could have been a vulnerability. I know some people made the mistake of thinking she was. But he found he didn't have to stand alone to be powerful because of her. In fact, he became stronger because of her. Your father was terrifying when I first met him, but that was nothing in comparison to what he could do by the time Naraku died. He fought Hell itself and won. He could have become a true monster with those abilities, but he didn't. Rin proved he had a heart he couldn't ignore anymore."
"Mother says the males of Father's family all have a weakness for human women."
She shook her head. "That's the point, Adele. It's not a weakness. Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha both became so much more powerful because of the humans they protected. They actually opened their minds to consider a different path than the one of fear and ignorance everyone before them had taken. And they're still forces to be reckoned with. Especially your father. All because of a little, human girl."
Adele frowned down at her book for a few minutes, and Kagome busied herself by mixing the dough for her crust. "Does Rin have the nightmares too?" she asked. "If she traveled with Father during the fight with Naraku, she must. Right?"
"I don't know. I think that if she does have nightmares, they're not about Naraku. Why do you ask?"
"Mother and Brandt have trained me to fight, and I've seen battles," said Adele. "Brandt says I've never been in a real fight though, and I soon will be. I'll be in the middle of a war. If a little girl can do it, I can."
Kagome rolled out the dough. "You can't compare yourself to anyone, Adele. Rin never fought, for one thing. And we all experience things differently. Don't get preoccupied with the idea that something might hurt you, because things will hurt you. People and things and places will terrify you and chew you up, just to spit you back out again. The only choice is to continue. Learn and try your best. Don't let your nightmares control you. Or your fears of nightmares."
"You dream about losing my father," Adele said.
"I dream about losing everything. My friends, my family, my courage. My humanity. And yes, your father. Some of those, I have lost. I'm still standing here though."
"What would you do if you lost Father?"
Kagome put half of the dough in the pie pan and pressed it down. "I'd find him again." She looked up at the girl and smiled. "I know what you mean. Honestly, I don't know what I'd do. Maybe that's why the idea scares me so much. I guess I could only continue to do alone what we've been doing together and fight the Order."
Adele tilted her head. "But this isn't your war. If you didn't fight, maybe you wouldn't have your nightmares."
"It became my war when the Order tried to kill my family. I'd have a whole different set of nightmares if I didn't fight." She pulled out another bowl and a peeler before washing the apples in the basin.
"Mother and Brandt say that being a warrior is in my blood," Adele said. She reached for one of the apples and began peeling it.
"Do you think you are?"
The girl shrugged. "I've been trained as one," she said. "I can fight. I just don't know if I want to. I've seen Mother fight, and I can tell she enjoys it. So does Brandt. And Mother says that Father has 'art in his killing'."
Kagome sliced the peeled apples into the bowl. "He's perfect at it. It's in his name," she replied. "But your parents and their expectations don't define you."
"I can't turn my back on this war any more than you can," Adele said.
"No, not likely. But your obligations don't have to dictate who you become. There are other things in life, thank goodness, than hunting down members of the Order. You have to figure out what's important to you." She took another peeled apple from Adele. "You have plenty of time though. You're young."
"I like telling stories," Adele said, so soft that Kagome almost failed to catch it.
"Do you? That's an important talent."
"Mother says it's silly. But when we find a demon family with children, I tell them stories. They're usually scared, and it makes them feel better."
Kagome nodded. "I did that a lot, once upon a time. What stories do you tell?"
Adele shrugged and lowered her eyes. "Fairy tales to the little ones. I tell the older ones about my travels with Mother and Brandt and about everything we've seen. Sometimes, I tell the stories Father has told to me. Like when he fights the Order. It makes them feel safe."
"That's why it's so important to tell those stories," Kagome said. "Things like that should be remembered, and there are so few of us that know the truth. There's few that even know there's a true story to be told."
The girl kept her head down, slicing the apples. "I know."
Kagome arched an eyebrow but said, "I didn't even realize Sesshoumaru told you about our travels." She pulled out a bowl and a sack of sugar. "I can't imagine he's the most elaborative storyteller."
"No," Adele said. "I've had to learn the right questions to ask. And some things, he won't tell me at all."
"I know that you and Father didn't travel together for awhile before I was born. He doesn't talk about that. He just says if a story is when you were with him or not. He never talks about why you parted. He just says to ask you."
"But you didn't want to."
Adele shook her head. "Father looked so anxious when I asked. I've never seen him look like that. I'm still not sure I want to know."
Kagome sighed. "And I'm not sure I want you to hear it. You're too young. But know that your father didn't do anything wrong. We were so over-confident in our immortality, and we didn't think we had anything to fear without death looming. We were proven incorrect, and your father always put that burden on himself."
"That's what made you leave?"
"No." Kagome put down the spoon and looked at the girl. "It's what kept us apart for a lot longer than we should have been. As strong as we each are apart..."
"You're stronger together," finished Adele.
"I like to think so."
"Will you tell me about it?"
"All of it?" Kagome stirred the sugar and spices into the apple slices.
Adele shrugged. "We have time, don't we?"
"Of course," Kagome replied. "Would your mother approve?"
"Mother says…" She stopped and shook her head. "Mother doesn't have to know."
"Alright. I'll tell you, if you promise to tell the truth when you spin your stories. The truth about all of us."
The girl reddened. "I will. I promise. I know it's important."
"Good." She smoothed out the top layer of crust and pressed it down. "Now, fire demon, bake this for me, and I'll tell you about being a spy during the American Revolution."
Adele slowly returned Kagome's smile and accepted the pie. A hot orb encircled the girl's hands and the pie pan. "A spy? Really?"
"The whole truth, remember? Let's just say you're going to have a lot more stories soon."
"But that's not fair."
"It is safe. That is the reason you are here," Sesshoumaru replied.
Adele crossed her arms and turned her head away. "Mother is busy setting up the new sanctuary. She said so herself! She wouldn't mind if I stayed for a bit longer. I'll just be in the way there."
"I do not agree. Australia is entering this fight soon, and neither your mother nor I want you close to the theatres of war."
"That's not true." She leaned forward and looked at Kagome. "Is it? Australia doesn't have anything to do with this! It's all about some Archduke that got shot all the way in Serbia. Why should Australia get involved?"
Kagome sighed. "It's much more complicated than that, Adele. Austria lost its heir, but it happened in a place that's been a tinderbox for years. Austria has declared war on Serbia, but both countries have powerful friends. Germany is already mobilizing for Austria. Russia wants to protect its interests in Serbia."
"Maybe it'll just be them involved."
"There are pacts and agreements and alliances everywhere in Europe. Once Britain gets dragged into this, Australia goes with it," she said. "We need to get you back to the countess sooner rather than later, because we could get caught in the middle of a naval battle if we don't. Speed is important, or you might have to wait until the war is over until you see your mother again."
Adele sat back. "I miss Mother," she admitted, "but I've never been able to stay this long with you, Father. I don't want to go yet. Can't you tell Mother that we just didn't get her letter soon enough? That the war kept us in Australia? It's safe here too. You told me it was. A few years isn't so long for us."
Sesshoumaru kept his eyes forward. "I would prefer that you stayed."
"Then let me!"
"I will not lie to your mother. I will not keep her child from her willfully, particularly during a global war," he replied, his jaw set.
"Adele, we're not staying in Australia," Kagome murmured. "So it isn't safe for you to remain with us."
Her eyes went to her father. "Where are you going? You're not going to fight, are you? It's not your war!" She got to her feet, tracking red soil onto the blanket they'd been using for a seat.
Sesshoumaru stood too, but it was Kagome that spoke. "It's not that we want to. We've been here for a long time, and we're feeling the pull of our curse. The shape-shifters will too, and they'll come to find us if we don't go to them. Your father has no interest in getting involved in this war. You're right. We have our own war to fight."
"Then let me come with you."
The taiyoukai shook his head. "No. The war is a threat to you. The shape-shifters are death itself. You cannot hurt them, and they will kill you without hesitation. Once again, this is for your safety."
Adele's eyes were filling with tears. "But they can kill you too. I finally got to spend time with you, Father. What if…"
"Kagome and I will be victorious," interrupted Sesshoumaru. "As soon as they are dead, you may stay with us as long as you wish."
"It could take years."
"A few years isn't so long for us," Sesshoumaru said, repeating her earlier words.
"Look, you two!" Kagome cut in. "It's starting."
The sun was beginning to dip below the horizon, and its light stretched across the earth and onto Uluru, the massive rock that jutted out of the flat Australian outback. The bleached look of the stone began to fade, and the hues began to deepen. Shadows stretched, and the air gave its last hot breath.
Adele lowered herself back down on the blanket where they had been waiting for the last couple of hours for this spectacle. "It's really changing colors."
"Would I lie to you?" asked Kagome. They exchanged a small smile which she then turned on Sesshoumaru as she tugged on his hand. "Come on. Sit down."
He sat in his place between them. Adele leaned into him, tucking herself beneath his arm and putting her own around his waist. She let out a long sigh. "What if you get hurt? I know they can kill me, but they're the only ones that can kill you."
The sandstone brightened to a rich terracotta as Sesshoumaru looked down at his daughter's bright red hair. "I will not be defeated," he said.
"You can't promise me that," she replied.
"I can, because there is no other option."
Orange light washed across the landscape, and Adele peeked around her father's body at Kagome. "I thought you needed to stay. Your nightmares."
"I can't hide forever. The truth is that it doesn't matter whether Australia or Germany or any other country is going to go to war. You're already in a warzone, Adele. We can't let it hurt you like its hurt so many others we've known. I know it's not fair, but we realized we need to end this for you more than for us."
"You want to go back and fight so that you can see me again without worrying?" she asked, looking up at her father.
Sesshoumaru took a breath. "Yes."
The girl shut her eyes and squeezed Sesshoumaru against her as the corners of her lips lifted.
"You're going to miss the best part," Kagome cautioned.
Adele opened her eyes again as the dying sunlight set Uluru aflame. It glowed like a red hot coal on the earth. The sky purpled behind the sandstone island, and they watched as the shadow of the falling night began to crawl across the desert.
They stayed until the sun had disappeared beneath the horizon, and the River of Heaven flowed above them with the light of innumerable stars. Every night Kagome saw this velvet sky, and she had yet to tire of it.
On the other end of the blanket, Adele stared too as she remained tucked into Sesshoumaru's side. She broke the silence with a whisper. "I'm so glad I came here."
Kagome smiled. "We are too."
Not a lot of action and yet I managed to write over 17 pages! I hope you guys enjoyed getting to know Adele a bit better. She's definitely her mother's daughter, but there's hope for her yet. She's actually a difficult character to write – a teenager in physical and mental maturation, but not in years or experiences. It was a balancing act, for sure!
A few historical points:
1. Kagome talked about the dictation test she passed. Australia was very prejudiced towards Asians (particularly Chinese) at this point in history and actually passed the Immigration Restriction Act in 1901 to prevent "unwanted" people from coming to the country. One of the deterrents was a dictation test that was supposedly for all immigrants – it didn't have to be in English either! The immigration officer could give dictation in any European language, and of course, they gave the dictation in languages they knew non-Europeans (the only people in practice that were given the test at all) would fail. The government didn't want Asian immigrants to steal good "white" jobs. The dictation test was actually not abolished until 1959, although it'd been subject to a number of controversies that had it fall out of use decades before then.
2. World War I started when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated. Of course, the backstory to why one man's death started a global war is far more complex than what I can fit in here. A lot of historians think that the war was inevitable – the European powers had worked hard to maintain a balance of power, especially in the Balkans, but no one was particularly happy about it. But it was rather remarkable it happened at this moment – on June 28, 1914, a group of assassins failed multiple times in assassinating the Archduke, including a bomb that hit the car behind him. Later on in the day, the driver of the Archduke's car took a wrong turn and coincidentally stopped in front of Gavrilo Princip, one of the assassins, in order to turn around. Princip took the shot and killed the Archduke and his wife, launching a diplomatic crisis that eventually resulted in war.
3. Australia would eventually get pulled into the war as a part of the British Empire. About 60,000 Australians would die in the war and many, many more would be wounded. There was never a draft, so they were all volunteers.
4. Uluru, the site of the last scene, is probably known to all of you by sight, if not by name. It's also called Ayers Rock and is one of the iconic symbols of Australia. It is sacred to the Anangu. It's also in the middle of the country and was extremely hard to reach at this point in time. It didn't become a tourist attraction until the 1930s, and it wasn't really popular until the closest large town (still 280 miles away), Alice Springs began to grow after WW2. Uluru really does glow red at dawn and dusk, and while you can technically climb it, the Anangu request that you don't.