I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi

Autumn Encounter

Sometimes, the mother of Sesshoumaru would wander through the skies, leaving her castle in the air with all its retainers and restrictions behind for a short time, and breathe the unperfumed air and watch the land unfold beneath her. Here, the Inu no Kagaya, feared mistress of the Inu Youkai, became simply Kagaya for a little while, and somehow, in the isolation, she felt less lonely than sitting on her dais surrounded by those who followed her.

Lately, she found herself stopping often by the family shrine on the mountain, where she would clap her hands for the Kami's attention. Once, having appeared in a cloud of youki energy as she touched down just outside the shrine, she frightened one of the villagers who was there, no doubt praying, praying for some necessity or another. The villager turned pale, and dropped his sacred branch at her feet, whispered, "Thank you, Kami," backed up politely with several deep bows and ran.

Another time, she was surrounded by the warm scent of her husband, and felt his light chuckle in her ear.

The scent trails around the mountain were redolent with the scents of her son and the hanyou and their women. Sometimes, while doing her best to stay out of sight, she would wander around the mountain, curious to their lives here at the heart of the land of the Inu Youkai. She knew that soon she would put on an official appearance as the Inu no Kagaya when her grandchild made its first appearance in the world, but until that time, she preferred this form of satisfying her need to know.

Once, she was almost caught by Sesshoumaru as he prowled the mountain heights. As she whooshed herself away, she could feel his youki probing, and she had no doubt that occasionally he picked up the fine traces she left behind, but even so, he made no complaint and she found herself coming back to the mountain.

Today was not much different from any of those other days. She had escaped the constraints of her official life once again, and found herself sitting in a glade above, but not too far away from the complex of houses where her son and the hanyou made their dwelling. It was fully autumn in the mountain heights, and the leaves had begun to turn.

Kagaya spread her skirts gracefully, and sat near a maple, scarlet in its autumn glory, and picked up a single fallen leaf. As she ran a graceful, claw-tipped finger along the dry veins of the leaf, she remembered a day, long, long ago, before the castle had wrenched itself from the grounds on this mountain and moved into the air, when she had walked in this very glade. A silver-haired man dropped out of the trees nearby, smiling at her with honey-warm eyes, laughing at her surprise as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. She recalled how the wind ruffed his bangs, how his cheek stripes had darkened as he swung her around, how his mouth had demanded hers. As she twirled the leaf in her hand, her body ached at the memory, longing for the one something she could never have again.

Suddenly there was a crash in the underbrush, and a small, silvery head popped through a tangle of bushes. A rabbit leaped through the clearing, running for its life between the two of them. The small figure stood up, rabbit forgotten as his amber eyes looked with uncertainty at the woman in front of him.

Kagaya's youki flared for a moment, and she had begun to dissolve into a cloud of white energy when suddenly, she was struck by the eyes looking up at her, and whose eyes they resembled. Curiosity getting the better of her, she released the transformation and sat before him, waiting to see how the boy would react.

He couldn't have been much more than five, she decided. He was dressed in a blue and white boy's kosode and narrow hakama. There were mud stains on his knees, and leaves caught in his fine, silver hair. A triangular ear flicked as she watched him, and he brought a claw-tipped hand towards his face as he chewed on his knuckle. He sniffed her, not really trying to hide it. A small smile touched his lips. She recognized his scent - it ran everywhere near this part of the mountain and on the paths toward the village below. The hanyou's son.

"Come here, boy," she said, not unkindly. There was caution in his scent, but no real fear. Life was treating him better than it had treated his father, obviously. He shuffled his bare feet, considering.

"I was hunting a rabbit, but rabbit got away. Who are you?" he asked.

She thought hard about how to answer him. His eyes echoed into her.

"And why do you look and smell kind of like Uncle?" Curiosity got the better of him, and he began to move forward.

She took a deep breath as he tilted his head looking at her. Even though he was still a small child, the boy moved and looked so much like his grandfather, and it almost took her words away. She made a sudden, impulsive decision. "You may call me Grandmother."

He shook his head and his eyes narrowed a little. "Daddy don't have a mama."

"But your Uncle Sesshoumaru does," she replied.

"You're Uncle's mama?" He digested that piece of information thoughtfully.

She nodded and he drew a little closer. "What's your name, little one?"

"Atae," he replied. "Uncle knows you're here? You want me to go get him?"

"Oh no, little one. You mustn't tell him. I just came to watch the autumn leaves." She reached out, and smoothed his hair, even knowing that his father, and perhaps her son, might catch her scent trace. Perhaps that was a good thing, she thought. Maybe they would realize that although she didn't walk among them, she still was part of their lives.

"Your aunt is going to have a baby soon, right?"she said. "I will be here and come to stay a little while when that happens."

"When?" he asked.

"Soon. Jaken will tell me when it's time. I want to meet your mother and see your father again. I haven't seen him, really, since he was no larger that you."

"That must have been a long, long time ago," Atae observed. "Daddy's big."

"Yes, I know." She looked at the leaf in her hand, and for a moment, her eyes were touched with regret. "I must go now, little one. I will see you soon. Good luck on your rabbit hunt. I think it's hiding over that way." Kagaya pointed in a direction that lead down the way towards his home, then stood up. She tucked the leaf she was still holding in her sleeve. "I'm glad to have met you."

Wrapping her youki around her like a cloak, she was gone.

Atae looked up at the flying youkai woman and said, "Goodbye, Grandma," then went running back to find his rabbit.