Disclaimer: Sadly I own nothing save my own universe, but there's really not all that much to see here.
Kagome slid back into her sleeping bag as carefully as she could, not wanting to disturb Shippo who was sleeping soundly tucked inside. Letting her eyes dart across the clearing to check on Miroku and Sango to assure herself they were fast asleep and hadn't noticed her absence she gathered Shippo into her arms. Kilala was the only one who had taken note of her departure from camp earlier and her stealthy return, but Kagome knew she the fire neko would keep her secret, she always had before.
Tomorrow they were supposed to meet with Koga and his tribe, Sesshoumaru and his armies, and Kikyo for the final battle. An alliance had been formed some months earlier in secret to ensure that Naraku did not catch wind of their plans. Over the last four years Naraku had grown so powerful that even the mighty DaiYokai Sesshoumaru had recognized the necessity of an alliance in order to take the treacherous hanyou down. He had spoken rarely during the brief negotiations, only nodding his head and affirming, "This Sesshoumaru and his armies will be at the battle and will do our part in ensuring the death of the lowly hanyou. " He'd left after making that assertion, walking out of the barrier that Kagome had erected to conceal their presence without looking back. His declaration had been short, but no one doubted his word. Not even Inuyasha, who despised Sesshoumaru with every fiber of his being.
'Inuyasha,' Kagome thought sadly. 'What a fool I am. Working so hard to be a better priestess, to be a better warrior, a better woman. All so that maybe you would see the living instead of the dead. So that you would see me.' Over the last few years Kagome had trained with Kaede at every opportunity. She had grown tired of playing the damsel in distress and always having to rely on her friends to help her out in a sticky situation. Sure she was helpful to them too of course, but not nearly enough. It had been a hurtful remark from Sesshoumaru that had spurred her into action.
It was nearly two years ago after a particularly gruesome battle. She had been separated from Inuyasha and the others and had been wandering around the woods for nearly an hour in search of them when she came across Sesshoumaru and his band in a clearing. Rin and Jaken had been surprised to see her, little Rin running to her to give her a hug while the little toad raised all hell at "her audacity to disturb the sanctuary of his mighty lord." Kagome was tired and cranky and had been seconds away from kicking the little imp clear across the meadow before a simple, "Jaken, enough," had silenced the retainer immediately. Kagome had then looked to Sesshoumaru and explained her dilemma with an embarrassed blush before apologizing for disturbing them. It had been nearly a year since he had tried to kill her, and he had saved her life a number of times already, so she had been fairly certain he wouldn't strike her down. She knew Sesshoumaru was not surprised by her presence; the powerful Inuyokai had undoubtedly taken in her scent long before she ever got close. The Inuyokai lord had listened to her speech about the battle, being separated and her hour long tour of the forrest before finally settling his golden gaze on her. For long moments he simply let the weight of his stare unnerve her before finally speaking, "Miko, why do you allow yourself to be less than you are? Do you not find shame in this?"
Now that had stumped her. Rin and Jaken had fallen silent, looking back and forth between the two. They knew when their lord spoke it meant their silence, that something important was being said, because Lord Sesshoumaru rarely spoke, and only on important matters. Kagome had met his stare bravely while she thought on his question. At first she wanted to jump up in righteous teenage indignation and wail that she was just as good as him. Yeah, maybe she couldn't slay armies in a single blow, but that didn't make her less. But something tugged at her consciousness, some small part of her telling her that hadn't been his meaning. Finally, after what seemed like ages to Kagome, but had really only been a minute or so she asked, "What is that supposed to mean?"
Sesshoumaru had stared at her for a moment before declaring, "You are the Shikon Miko, there is no denying you are a source of unimaginable power, even if you are a human, and yet you are content to carry out your days as nothing more than Inuyasha's wench, requiring others to work harder and longer for your shortcomings, finding no fault in stumbling around in the dark in search of your comrades, alerting any near to your presence and that of the Shikon Shards you carry since you haven't the skill to move stealthy or to erect a barrier to hide you scent and aura. Skills any priestess could easily learn if they had even half a brain. It puzzles this Sesshoumaru that you would demand respect of those who are your superiors through breeding alone, and yet you make no effort to live up to your full potential as a lowly human priestess."
"I am not a priestess!" she had claimed, her words harsh with emotion. She had been angry at his words, the truth of them ringing in her very soul as they tumbled through her mind.
"Your fear of the past hinders not only your future, but that of those around you. This Sesshoumaru despises fear, it is a weakness, one you should seek to overcome. Until then you are not only a pitiful excuse for a priestess, but a coward as well. Your friends are to the east, follow the stream and they should rescue you soon enough, now be gone from this Sesshoumaru's sight."
She had left, and sure enough Inuyasha had come leaping over the tree line screaming her name as Kilala landed with Sango, Miroku and Shippo. Taking in the worn expressions of her friends, who had survived the battle only to have to waste precious energy searching for her, Kagome had decided Sesshoumaru was right. He didn't have to be such a jerk about it, but he had been right. She was so afraid of being like Kikyo she hadn't attempted to learn to control her powers. She'd been content to do what came natural and not cultivate any skills that might make her seem like a pale copy of the former priestess that held such a hold on her beloved hanyou. From that day on Kagome had insisted on spending as much time with Kaede as possible. With Naraku in hiding, and most of the Shikon shards in his possession, leaving only a meager few in the hands of the good guys, that had been easy.
At first training had been hard, and at the end of each day she was lucky to find the strength to stumble into bed each night, but soon enough she had learned to manage her aura and powers. As she learned to harness the power inside her she found that she was able to do incredible things. She learned to erect barriers that not even Inuyasha's Red Tessaiga could break through. She could channel her energy into weapons and create blasts similar to Sesshoumaru's Dragon Strike, and the best yet, she could heal people through touch. Of course this all sapped her strength very quickly since she was only human and didn't have never ending stores of energy like a hanyou or demon, but she learned enough to not only be an asset to her friends in battle, but a necessity. She had become so good that Kaede made no effort to hide the fact that she had surpassed the capabilities of Kikyo long ago. Kaeda affirmed that her sister had never been even a fraction as powerful as Kagome now found herself to be. Kagome had been pleased with the knowledge, though never showed it.
So she had trained day in and day out. Learning all there was to learn on being a miko from Kaede while taking up sword and combat training from Sango. She had become proficient on the use of a sword, and deadly with a bow as her skill increased. Gone was the foolish school girl who hid behind Inuyasha and hollered directions about the location of a shard before scurrying for safety. In her place was a self assured woman of 19 who knew her worth and her capabilities as a warrior priestess.
She had worked hard to earn herself a place in the feudal era, she had thought she was working towards a future with Inuyasha. Over the past two years, despite Kikyo's lingering presence in this world, they had become much closer. At first Inuyasha had been irritable about her honing her skills as a miko and learning the ways of a demon slayer from Sango, but after she asked him to help in her training he had seemed to open up to the idea. It became normal for them to leave the village each day and spar alone in the woods. Inuyasha, surprisingly enough, was a very good teacher, and she always benefited from his tutelage. After their spar they would sit at the base of the God tree and eat the lunch she would pack for them. It was these moments Kagome loved best.
Out here in the wilderness with no one around but them, Inuyasha would open up to her. They spoke of their pasts, and while she showed no outward sign to spare Inuyasha's pride, inside she wept at the harsh existence her love had endured before they met. She detested the fact that he had been abhorred simply because he was different and people thought his parents shouldn't have fallen in love. It was simply wrong. She had thought Inuyasha had come to feel for her as she did him when one afternoon he had taken her hand on their way back to the village and pulled her up short. When she'd asked him if something was wrong he had looked at her nervously, his eyes showing some inner turmoil, before pulling her into a heated embrace. At first she had been shocked, but then she had wrapped her arms around his neck and tilted her head back to deepen the kiss. When it was over Inuyasha had asked her to become his mate when the final battle was done and she had readily agreed.
Since then things had been good. Inuyasha had sought Kikyo out to tell her of his decision not to go to hell with her, but to remain here and start a family with Kagome. Kagome had stood by his side to offer him her support, and hadn't let the cool gaze of her incarnation bother her as she would when she was younger. Surprisingly enough the undead miko had taken the news rather well. She had been cold and emotionless as she said, "If it is your decision to break the promise you gave to me and leave me to this fate when Naraku is defeated, so be it." She had turned and left, not once looking back. Kagome had comforted Inuyasha when she was gone. Reminding him that it was Naraku who was responsible for Kikyo's death, not him. Broadcasting her love and devotion for the inuhanyou by holding him in her arms as he shed silent tears for the past so he could embrace the future.
Kagome had learned a spell to keep a hold on Miroku's wind tunnel, keeping it from expanding any more, for which both Miroku and Sango were thankful as it allowed them to consummate their relationship without the threat of Miroku's curse leaving Sango a widow should they not defeat Naraku in time. Of course Sango had only allowed the marriage to go through after Kagome brought back several forms of birth control for her to use since neither the demon slayer nor the monk wanted to risk bringing a child in this world before their enemy was defeated. The two had been married in a lovely little ceremony six months back and spent as much time together as possible. Miraculously enough Miroku's roving hand made an immediate departure once his commitment to Sango had been made official through the wedding. Now there was only one behind that was in constant jeopardy of getting groped. Secretly Kagome thought Miroku liked getting slapped, it was the only explanation for his constant attention to Sango's backside in public.
Her relationship with Inuyasha had only grown and blossomed as well. They spent many afternoons together; talking, laughing, and planning for the future. Her hanyou continued to be reserved in public, and his tough guy attitude was still very much a part of his overall demeanor, but when they were alone it brought tears to her eyes how gentle he could be. It had become common for him to take her in his arms and hold her for hours as they talked about their hopes and dreams for the future, for them to spend long moments kissing as they communicated their feelings through touch. She had asked Inuyasha if he wanted to go ahead with their mating since she was on birth control as well, but he had been adamant about waiting until after Naraku was dead. She had thought there had been some trace of fear in his eyes when he said this, but she had brushed it aside. Now she knew the truth; he was already mated, to Kikyo.
Kagome snuggled Shippo closer in her arms, the boy she looked upon as her son, as she thought back to what she had seen tonight. For the last year or so it wasn't unusual for Inuyasha to disappear at night, he liked to go off by himself. Since they had been spending so much time in the village Inuyasha had complained of feeling caged in, of being suffocated. Kagome knew he was used to being up and about and so hadn't minded his need to take off at night and run, or hunt, or do whatever it was he did. She was usually so worn out from training anyways that it didn't bother her. But tonight she had learned the truth of where it was he went, what he was doing, and with whom.
A week ago Kagome had sensed the return of Naraku's aura and thus the call to battle had been sent out. They were due to meet with their allies at the base of Mt. Fugi tomorrow to engage the hated hanyou in their final battle. All knew there could be only one victor, and all were prepared to make whatever sacrifice was required to ensure the evil hanyou did not escape again. Everything had seemed normal as they bedded down for the night, and it hadn't been hard for Kagome and her friends to fall asleep. However, it wasn't long before Kagome awoke as the familiar tug on her soul drew her attention. Whenever Kikyo was near the missing part of her soul cried out to its other half, begging to be reunited. Kagome had not known what the feeling was when Kikyo was first resurrected, but after she began her training and learned the feel of her own aura and power, she never missed the undead priestess's presence when she was near.
Feeling the chill seep into her body, as it always did when she was made all too aware of her missing half, her gaze had traveled up to the tree Inuyasha had claimed for the night. Finding him gone she had risen from her sleeping bag stealthily and immediately cloaked her presence as she followed the feel of her beloved's aura and that of his former love. It was no secret that Kagome didn't trust Kikyo, few besides Inuyasha did, and that was the reason she gave herself for sneaking up on their meeting. She just wanted to make sure that Kikyo had no plans to try and drag Inuyasha to hell again, once she was sure that wasn't going to happen she'd leave them be to discuss whatever it was that drove Kikyo to seek him out before their scheduled meeting tomorrow.
When she had found them at the base of a tree all thoughts had left her mind as her heart shattered in her chest. There on the ground was the life of her life, thrusting into the clay shell of his former love as she panted and moaned his name. And there on her shoulder above her breast was his mating mark. It meant nothing, as did everything to the dead, but it was enough to demolish any hope Kagome had of ever living a life with her hanyou. He had chosen another. He had chosen Kikyo again. His promises to her had been lies. Forcing her tears back she had backed away from the area, never noticing the malevolent smirk plastered on Kikyo's lips as she felt the departure of her reincarnation. Just as Kagome could feel her, so could Kikyo sense the young miko. She might not be able to see her since she had learned to erect barriers, but she could sense her presence nonetheless.
After backing away silently Kagome had wandered down to a nearby stream and cried her heart out, letting all the feelings of pain, anger, betrayal and sadness rush from her body as tears ran unchecked down her face. She had sat staring into the water for some time before finally making up her mind; she couldn't remain in the feudal era once Naraku was defeated and the jewel complete. Once a wish was made to purify the jewel the well would only allow her to pass through one last time and she would be stuck in the future forever. Thus Kagome had said a tearful goodbye to her family. She and Inuyasha had spent five days with them, making enough memories for what she thought would get her through a life in the past without them, but that was no longer to be. She decided that once the battle was done, and she had made the wish she would slip away and make her final journey home. There were a few things she would need to take care of first, but they would of course have to wait until the battle was done. Her decision made Kagome had returned to camp, where she found herself now, cuddling her adopted son as she fought off the soul wrenching sadness that threatened to consume her.