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 His senses were slow to come back. 

 

Where he lay he could hear the usual sounds of the forest unobstructed by the walls of their hut which meant he had fallen asleep outside. Strange... had he and Kagome had a fight? It’d been years since they had fought so badly that they spent the night apart. Years of marriage and fighting alongside each other had done wonders for their communication skills and try as he might to remember any particular argument his mind was blank. Had the monk convinced him to indulge a bit too much then and he’d fallen asleep before getting home? That might explain his lack of memory and the splitting headache he had, but no… this didn’t feel like a hangover either… 

 

He slowly opened one eye squinting against the morning sun. A strange sense of deja vu settled uneasily in his gut. Something was wrong. He was in his forest he was sure but it  looked… wrong? The trees around him were much younger looking than he remembered. Maybe he had never been in this part of the forest before. Slowly he sat up opening both of his eyes to gain a better view of his surroundings. He found himself in a clearing lying against a very burnt old tree he didn’t recognize. Tessaiga was a few feet away on his left which surprised him; if it truly had been a night of overindulgence he would have half expected it to be still tucked in his obi digging uncomfortably into his hip not looking like it had been thrown next to his body. Inuyasha stood on legs that felt like jelly and turned to look at the old tree he was laying against more closely. 

 

His sense of deja vu sharpened and a stone had landed in his stomach as he looked it over. The tree looked dead but it had clearly been huge before being burned. The fire had happened a long time ago but he couldn’t remember a tree like this in any of his patrols. He walked around the base and froze as an all too familiar arrow scar stared him in the face. 

 

No. 

 

No… This couldn’t be Goshinboku. Goshinboku had been very much alive the previous day he was SURE of it. This tree had been dead for years there was no way.

 

All at once memories of the previous night flooded Inuyasha’s mind. That damn Root-head had somehow been revived and gone after Kagome again. The forest fire. The girls had been chased into the burning forest and he and Kagome had gone after them. Some strange light and then pain and Kagome screaming and then… nothing. 

 

But that made no sense. What had stopped the fires? How had the trees regrown already? There was no trace of smoke in the air. His head whipped around, sniffing wildly for any lingering traces of his wife and daughter or his nieces but there was nothing. The stone in his stomach sank. This was not good. Kagome would not have left him behind in the forest lightly. Something had happened to her or one of the girls and she hadn’t been able to come back for him. But then why hadn’t Sango or Miroku or Shippou come to get him? All of them had been fighting together.

 His veins turned to ice at the prospect and he shook his head. No he would not think the worst until he had a reason to. Clearly something had gotten the fire under control and had been able to partially restore the forest. There was blessedly no trace of blood or corpses. Kagome had probably been separated from him getting the girls back to safety and had overdone it so she couldn’t come back to fetch his unconscious ass yet. She was probably waiting for him in the village, trying to wrangle an upset Moroha and the twins. Well he would just have to go back to the village and find out the details from her and then worry about what happened to Goshinboku. 

 

Inuyasha turned and leapt towards the village, running full tilt toward home. Their hut was too near the burning forest so Kagome had probably taken the girls back to Kaede’s the previous night. He’d start there.

 

___________________________________________________________________________

 

Inuyasha ignored the frightened shouts and exclamations of the villagers as he sped through town, his mind focused on getting back to his wife and daughter. The only thing he cared about was seeing Kagome’s face as he burst into Kaede’s hut and gathering her and Moroha up in his arms where they’d be safe and then getting them all the hell home. Kagome would grouse about him being overprotective for a bit but he didn’t care; he had no plans on letting either of them out of his sight for a second any time soon. He barely paid any attention to his surroundings as he bounded through the door looking wildly about the hut for his wife but only seeing the very startled hunched over form of Kaede prepping herbs in the corner. 

 

He frowned at the old woman. “Oi Granny where the hell is Kagome? Did she take Moroha back home already?” 

 

Kaede’s one good eye practically bugged out of her head.  “I- Inuyasha?! Can it be? B-but how?” The old priestess stumbled to her feet as quickly as her aging body would allow. Shuffling over to grasp his face, pulling him down to her height and looking over him as if she couldn’t believe he was real. She looked haggard, like she’d aged ten years overnight and his brow creased slightly with concern as the strange sense of dread he felt in the clearing came back full force. Last night must have taken quite a toll on her. Kaede could handle herself but it was clearly getting more difficult for her to bounce back. “Ye haven’t changed at all….” she mumbled under her breath, “But where on earth have ye been Inuyasha?!” 

 

One brow raised incredulously at her. “The hell are you talking about Kaede, are you going senile now? I got knocked out in the forest last night by whatever released that damn root-head and Kagome and I got separated. She must have brought the girls back here right? Did she go home already or what?” 

 

“W-what?! Root-head?” He was shocked at how her face paled at his words. Why was she so surprised at this? A flash of pain in Kaede’s eye sent the ever sinking stone in his stomach straight into the underworld and he found himself starting to fidget uncomfortably. She sighed and released his face to instead stare down at her feet. “Is that the last thing ye remember Inuyasha?” 

 

“I remember some kind of strange light and hearing Kagome yell but yeah… I woke up next to Goshinboku this morning. Speaking of which; how the hell did the damage from the fires get repaired so quickly? And what the fuck happened to Goshinboku?! It never looked like that in Kagome’s world!”

 

Kaede gaped up at him. Her mouth opened and closed several times as she struggled to find the words to answer his questions. Finally she let out a resigned sigh and her whole body sagged into itself making her look even older. She was silent for another moment and her gaze returned to her feet as she slowly started to whisper “Inuyasha… The last time Root-head attacked this village was ten years ago. No one has seen or heard from ye since ye and Kagome ran into the burning forest after Moroha and Sesshomaru’s children.” 

 

Inuyasha’s heart froze in his chest.

 

Ten years?

 

Nonononononononononono.

 

A villager Inuyasha vaguely recognized burst through the door behind him. At the back of his head Inuyasha realized the last time he had seen him, he had been a man in his prime. 

 

Now he was approaching middle age. 

 

“Kaede-sama! Is it true? Has Inuyasha-sama retu- Inuyasha-sama! It is you!” 

 

He realized why he’d been battling the strange sense of Deja vu all morning now. He’d lost a large chunk of time like this before after all. Except this time it was infinitely worse. Because he’d lost something far more precious than his previous fifty year stint. 

 

Kagome. Moroha. 

 

He needed to see them now.  

 

Inuyasha bolted out the door, ignoring Kaede and the man calling after him. ‘Kenta, his name is Kenta.’ his mind supplied as an afterthought. He’d been one of the men who helped Inuyasha build a house for Kagome back when she was stuck beyond the well. He had told Inuyasha that  he wished for Kagome-sama to return soon and how he hoped they would have a long and happy life together in the village as its noble protectors...

 

He flew towards his home. Their home. They had to be there. They had to be there. He’d already lost too much time with them; he wasn’t going to lose another second. The time he would actually get to be with Kagome was finite. She was mortal. He could brush off ten years without a thought. She could not. Despairing, he wondered how much ten years would have changed her… How much grey had snuck into her inky black locks? Had the beginnings of wrinkles settled around her big eyes? And what about Moroha? 

 

Oh Gods Moroha…

 

She’d just turned four that spring. He had just started to show her how to defend herself with her tiny little claws and fangs. Was she still wearing her hair up with Kagome’s old ascot to mimic his ears? She had just been a little girl. Now… Gods now she would be nearly the same age as Kagome when they met. 

 

He wasn’t sure he could handle the thought of her being suddenly a young woman yet. 

 

He froze mid leap as another thought flew through his head: would his daughter even remember him? 

 

When he and Kagome had tentatively started discussing the idea of babies years after she returned he swore any children they had would not have a repeat of his childhood. They would know their father. They would know how much they were loved. They would not be subjected to the lonely existence the first few years of his life had been. Oh he would teach them how to take care of themselves should anything ever happen yes. But he would be damned if he ever let anything actually happen. He had sworn it to Moroha the first time he’d held her tiny little body. Just as he had sworn to protect Kagome with his own life.

 

Had he failed that promise too? 

 

His heart stuttered again at the thought.

 

Well fuck that. If Moroha didn’t remember him he would fucking fix it. He just needed to get home and see them first.

 

In a blur of white and red Inuyasha took off again, not stopping until he reached a familiar hut on the outskirts of the village. He’d half expected to see a figure in white and red digging around in the garden. She had been taking on more and more of the village herb growing needs as it became more difficult for Kaede to spend all day hunched over. She loved being able to spend so much time outside, she said. Every time he had come back from a job with Miroku he had crested the hill to see her standing up from her weeding to greet him. Hands covered in dirt, sweat shining on her brow and her big brown eyes sparkling as she ran up to kiss him.  But there was no one… and the garden looked like no one had been tending to it for a while. He trudged forward anyways, pointedly ignoring the stone that had once again settled in his gut.

 

“Kagome! Moroha! I’m back! Where are you?!” Silence answered him as he stood in the doorway. “Kagome!? KAGOME! ANSWER ME WOMAN WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?!”

Nothing. Maybe they were out. Visiting Miroku and Sango probably or hell, maybe even his brother. Sesshomaru had told him once after his own twins were born and their relationship had ever so slightly mended that he would watch over Kagome and Moroha if anything had ever happened to him. It had been a rare moment of solidarity between them. If he had truly been gone for ten years then he hoped his asshole brother had kept that promise. 

 

Inuyasha took a deep breath and closed his eyes, trying to get a hold of himself so he could look for clues of his family’s whereabouts without panicking. He opened his eyes and took stock of the house, looking for anything that might lead him back to them. The house was cold. The fire pit sat unused and if the leaves and debris blown in from outside gathered inside of it was any indication… it had not been used in a long time. Thick cobwebs and dust covered everything and any and all traces of his wife and daughter’s scents had long since gone. A few of their things were scattered about the hut like Kagome and Moroha had left in a hurry. His eyes zeroed in on a broken tea cup next to the fire pit and his entire body went numb. 

 

____________________________________________________________________________

 

The night root-head had attacked, Kagome had been settling down to drink some tea after putting the girls to bed.

 

 Sesshomaru was in the village to discuss some new powerful enemy that was creeping out of the shadows with Inuyasha and he had brought his family with him. He had been trying to convince Inuyasha that he would need both his and Kagome’s help in order to defeat this mysterious adversary and Inuyasha was having none of it. He was not going to just up and leave his daughter by herself here while he and his wife pranced off into mortal danger like they were teenagers again. Sesshomaru, however, planned to leave his children with Kaede for the time being. The conversation had been tense and long and when it was clear neither Sesshomaru nor Inuyasha were any closer to agreeing Kagome tried to clear the air a bit by offering to let the twins stay for a few days with them instead. Sesshomaru had other information he needed to gather and that would give Inuyasha and her a few days to discuss the best options and give him a solid answer. The youkai stared at her coldly for a solid minute before standing up and leaving; telling them he’d be back in three days before vanishing.

 

 His nieces, seemingly being as used to his sudden departures as Rin had once been, were ecstatic to be spending the next few days with their cousin. They normally didn’t have anyone else but each other to play with and Moroha could keep up with them easily despite only being a quarter youkai. Moroha for her part was thrilled to have someone her own age who she didn’t need to worry about accidentally hurting. The three of them had been running Shippou ragged all afternoon while the adults were talking and all four had fallen asleep in a giant pile of limbs on top of the futon Shippou used when he was visiting. 

 

He had been brooding since his brother had left in front of the fire, poking at it aimlessly. Kagome had padded over to sit next to him with a mug, setting the kettle above the pit to start heating some tea water for herself. They sat in silence for a few minutes before Kagome sighed and softly spoke “Listen Inuya-”

“Don’t even start Wench. I’m not leaving Moroha here alone so either you go or I go and it’s sure as hell not gonna be you.” 

 

“Do you really think I would just leave Moroha here with Kaede or Sango without reason Inuyasha?” she growled, one small hand coming up to pinch the bridge of her nose. 

 

No... he didn’t… not the point though because she was not going

 

He just scoffed instead of answering her. Poking at the fire again to distract himself.   

 

Kagome sighed again and stared down at the mug clasped between her hands. “He wouldn’t have come here… he wouldn’t have asked this of us if there was any other option Inuyasha you know that…”  

 

“He needs Tetsusaiga and a priestess. He never said you absolutely had to be that priestess. Let him find another one if he needs a reiki user so bad.” 

 

Her brow arched as she turned to him “Oh yes because a mysterious entity possibly looking to revive the Shikon no Tama has nothing to do with me whatsoever. Could be any old run of the mill miko. Silly me, of course I’m not required to be there.” she threw back at him sarcastically. 

 

Okay… she had him there. But dammit that wasn’t the point.

 

“Haven’t you given enough up because of that stupid fucking marble? Why does it always have to be you who deals with it huh? Why shouldn’t some other powerful miko deal with it for once? I don’t want my kid possibly growing up an orphan because you were murdered for a glowing ball of bullshit that doesn’t fucking exist now. You took care of it the first fucking time. It shouldn’t be your problem anymore.” He snarled at her. He was aware he was being dramatic. The dig about Moroha being an orphan was absolutely him playing dirty to get her to stay. Because he knew. He knew. 

 

She had to go.

 

 And if she had to go he had to be there to protect her. 

 

And Moroha would have to stay here. Alone. To possibly never see them again. 

 

Fuck. That.

Kagome’s tea water was boiling. She stood and poured the water over the tea leaves in her mug. Setting it next to her to let it steep as she sat again and she let her head fall onto his shoulder. “And what happens if I stay?” she whispered, “Let’s say Sesshomaru finds another miko and you go? If they’re looking to revive the Shikon no Tama then they know I’ve got more of a connection to it than anyone else. They need me for their own purposes just as much as Sesshomaru does. What happens when they come here while you’re off who knows where? Who will protect Moroha and the rest of the village if I get killed and you aren’t here? Miroku doesn’t have the Kazaana anymore, Sango spends all day wrangling children instead of youkai slaying, and Kaede is too old. They’re strong but they aren’t what they were when we fought Naraku and Sango and Miroku have their own family to worry about.” The scent of salt hit his nose as tears began to form in the corners of her eyes while she continued, “I know this could mean one or both of us die either way Inuyasha. I have as little desire to leave our daughter behind here as you do…. Don’t forget you aren’t the only one who knows what it’s like to lose a parent too soon.” 

 

Inuyasha pulled Kagome into his chest, holding her tightly as he buried his nose in her hair and breathed in her wonderful scent. Tears were streaming silently down her face and he felt a lump in his own throat. “Kagome..” his voice was low and raspy as he spoke, slightly muffled by the top of her head. “Shhhh Kagome… I’m sorry…. I’m….. I just… I’m so scared.” He clutched her even tighter to him as if that alone could stop whatever enemy was approaching them. “I’m scared about losing you…. About Moroha losing you. All I can think about is how hard my life got after my mother died and the thought of putting Moroha in a position like that is scarier than the idea of Naraku suddenly showing back up. When I lost you before when the well closed I knew you were safe at least… but this…. If I lost you now it would kill me. Not just because you’d be gone, but because it would mean I knowingly put Moroha in the same boat I was in as a kid. I swore to her I’d never do that… and you know how I get about promises.” A small laugh and a hiccup escaped his wife’s lips and she tilted her head up to kiss his jaw gently. 

 

“I’m a big girl Inu. I’m not the little fifteen-year-old who has no handle on her reiki anymore, you know that.” 

 

“I do. You’re right...” her arms wrapped around his waist and squeezed in response.

 

“I also know that…. That the best chance Moroha has of having both of us there is if I go with you and Sesshomaru. That way they go after me, not the village. Not her. And I’ll have you there to protect me. Not to mention Sesshomaru would also protect me if it came to it. He’s done it before after all.” 

 

“Keh. He’s also tried to kill you multiple times woman.”  

 

She poked his side indignantly and he chuckled into her hair. “Not recently you jerk.” 

 

“Fair enough wench,” he sat there breathing her in as her all but forgotten tea sat cooling next to them. “You gonna drink that or what?” Kagome squeezed him one last time, one hand coming up to tug his forelock and bring his mouth to hers. He was all too happy to comply with her silent demand, planting a searing kiss on her lips as he tried to imprint all of the emotions and fears and words he wanted to say to her. When they pulled away from each other he reached behind her to grab the cup and hand it to her. She took it with a murmur of thanks; the hand previously tugging on his hair falling to wrap their fingers together as she took a sip of the lukewarm tea. Her head falling back on his shoulder as they sat in silence again. It was his turn to sigh as he ran the fingers of his free hand through his bangs in exasperation. “Fine Kagome, we both go... “ he started, “but you have to promise me you will come home to her. I don’t care if it means you leave me behind. You will come home for Moroha. For my sake and hers.” 

 

“...One condition...” 

 

“Wench.” he growled in warning. Gold eyes turning to glare at her in challenge; he would take no argument on this. Never one to back down from him, especially when he was being stubborn, Kagome glared right back.

 

“You promise me you’ll come home for her too. No letting yourself getting honorably killed bullshit, Dogboy. She needs her father too. There’s no replacing you Inuyasha, trust me.” Her fingers gripped him like a vice. Her brown eyes glowing almost as amber as his in the firelight as she stared him down and threw the words he had said to her eons ago back at him. 

 

His own eyes softened, “As long as you’re coming home with me it’s a deal Wench.” He leaned down to kiss her forehead again. One last tear escaped down her cheek and she stood to softly pad over to the sleeping tangle of children. A small sad smile on her face as she listened to their soft snoring. 

 

“They’ll have each other while they wait for us at least. They won’t be alone.”

 

She was right, he realized. Both his own daughter and Sesshomaru’s girls were partial youkai. They would be able to understand each other better than any of his so called ‘cousins’ had understood him when he was a child. Not only that, but Shippou would stay in the village to keep an eye on them while they travelled if they asked and he took his older brother figure duties seriously. Sango and Miroku and their children considered Moroha as much a blood relative as Kohaku. He was sure they’d just as easily accept and love Towa and Setsuna if they didn’t already. And the Old Hag spoiled all three as much as any grandparent would be expected to. 

 

Inuyasha watched his sleeping little family and allowed himself to hope just a little that they’d all make it back… 

 

He should have fucking known better.

 

Sesshomaru reappeared suddenly at the door. His slightly disheveled appearance and hard eyes told Inuyasha far more than the words that followed. “It is here. We must go. Now.” 

 

And then the world shook violently as something exploded out of the fields near the village and roared. 

 

The tea cup fell from Kagome’s hands to smash on the ground next to him. Cold liquid and ceramic shards flying. His wife scrambled to regain her balance and practically dove for the bow and arrows never far out of reach. She sprinted towards the door, only stopping to turn for a second to bark at the dazed Shippou to watch the girls before running off towards the village. 

 

Inuyasha was right behind her. 

 

____________________________________________________________________________

 

He felt himself sinking to his knees in the doorway as he continued to stare at the remains of the cup. The rest of the night replaying vividly through his head again and again.

 

Root-head, some bullshit youkai they’d defeated a mere six months after Kagome’s return, was tearing through the village again. Roaring for his wife’s blood this time instead of Kikyou’s. Sango and Miroku had appeared ready to fight and Sesshomaru had gone ahead after whoever had apparently revived the youkai. 

 

They fought it again but something had given it even more power. If he hadn’t known for a fact that the jewel was gone he would think something had given it a fragment or three of the Shikon no Tama.  

 

They realized too late it had been a distraction for the unseen enemy’s actual plan. 

 

Shippou had frantically run after him screaming that he and the girls had been attacked and something had chased them into the forest after they had been separated. 

 

Kagome had been on his back in a second and they were off before Shippou had even finished speaking. His heart pounding in his ears suddenly froze as the smell of smoke hit his nose and he realized that the forest in front of them had started to glow as it burned. 

 

Kagome and him being attacked in the clearing by Goshinboku. A strange light. Pain. Kagome screaming and then… 

 

And then he woke up ten years later in front of a dead tree with no memory of where the ever living fuck he had been.

 

The cup was mocking him where it had fallen. Taunting him with the promise his wife had made just a few fucking minutes before it had been smashed. 

 

Kagome had promised him she would come home. She had fucking promised him Moroha would have both of her parents

 

But it appeared she hadn’t been able to keep that promise after all. 

 

Was his daughter dead too then? 

 

He stayed there. Numb on the floor. Unable to tear his eyes away from that goddamned cup. 

 

And then he howled. His claws dug into his palms until his hands were covered in blood. Hot tears flowed down his cheeks but he paid them no mind as he roared out his anguish. 

 

He didn’t even hear the figure approaching until they were right behind him. A calloused and wrinkled old hand coming to rest on his shoulder. “I am so sorry Inuyasha.” she whispered, her voice thick with her own sorrow. “We never found her… any of ye… we could only hope since there were no bodies but… after the first year came and went we gave up hope that ye would ever return.” 

 

“Who all is gone?” 

 

“Inuyasha… I do not wish to hurt ye further…” 

 

“Who all is gone Kaede?”

 

“... All of ye. Miroku. Sango. Shippou…. Kagome. No one has seen hide or hair of ye since that night. Even Sesshomaru is gone.”

 

Sesshomaru was dead too? He didn’t think the bastard had it in him to be killed quite frankly. 

 

“We did find one of Sesshomaru’s daughters a few days later. The child had no memory to speak of. Like something had stolen it. She decided to go with Kohaku when he came for Miroku and Sango’s brood.” 

 

“Where are they buried?” 

 

“Buried?”

 

“Where did you bury the bodies, Kaede?” 

 

“Inuyasha... I do not think ye have understood me. There were no bodies. No blood. We found nothing of any of ye except Sango’s hiraikotsu and the monk’s mala beads. It was as if ye all vanished into thin air.” 

 

What? That didn’t make sense. None of this made any fucking sense. 

 

Something Kaede had said… or rather hadn’t said clicked.

 

“You didn’t say Moroha was gone.” Or Towa for that matter. Had the girls escaped after all? His heart fluttered at the prospect but he smashed down the feeble hope trying to claw its way out of his chest. 

 

She hesitated again. “Until a few weeks ago I thought her and Towa lost as well… but they have reappeared….” He closed his eyes and let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. She was alive. His daughter was alive . She was safe. But Kaede didn’t let him process that news any further before she blindsided him with another revelation, “Inuyasha… Towa returned, proclaiming herself to be Higurashi Towa and wearing clothes the like I have never seen before… save one strange child who stumbled into the forest twenty some years ago and released the hanyou my sister sealed to the Goshinboku.”

 

His eyes shot open and he turned to stare wildly at the old priestess. She couldn’t mean… Towa had been with the Higurashi’s?! Was Kagome there too? Stuck on the other side of the damn well again?! Perhaps she had grabbed Towa and Moroha and escaped down the well. His heart was thundering in his ears as he started to speak “Is Kag-”

 

“No.” The sorrow returned to Kaede’s face and his heart sank, “I had hoped as well that she had escaped to the other side of the well again… but Towa claims she was raised by Kagome’s younger brother… Kagome was not there.”

 

The hope died in his chest again. But… Kaede had said something else. Moroha was alive. Some form of determination flickered to life in his heart and his resolve to find her hardened.  He would keep his promise to Kagome even if she wasn’t there with him. He would go to Moroha and be the parent she needed, even if she had no memory of him. Even if she hated him for leaving her as he had resented his own mother for so long. He’d let her hate him all she wanted; she could scream and hit him if she needed to. Hell even if after all that she never wanted to see him again he’d stay out of sight and protect her from the shadows. He would never let her be alone again.

 

“Kaede. Where is my daughter?”