Hanging Tree

Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach, I don't own Inuyasha, and I don't own the wild west theme. I also do not own the song that inspired me, The Hanging Tree by Jenifer Lawrence from the Mockingjay Soundtrack. If you haven't heard it you need to listen to it. I also have a play list made up for this story on youtube under the same name (my youtube name is Forestcatlsc).

That said I must be nuts, Bleach, Inuyasha and the wild west. So hope you enjoy the insanity.

Italics are flashback/past events

Part One

1831 California Sierra Nevada

Six men stood gathered around a tall oak tree, the rope slung over a branch more then a fifteen feet off the ground spoke of their grim purpose. Taking the one man still on a horse, the leader: a man with long wavy brown hair and black eyes smirked up at him. "Any last words Inuyasha?"

"Yeah, fuck you Naraku."

The men around the other two shifted uneasily, but the man called Naraku merely chuckled. "Should have thought things through before killing three men."

The other man spat at him, but his deep blue almost violet eyes revealed his fear as he looked at the faces around them. He almost still was hoping someone would speak up and stop this farce. The noose dropped around his neck, and he shuddered.

Then the men heard the sound of a galloping horse, looking towards town the woods hid whoever was coming. Naraku tilted his head back to look up at Inuyasha. "Now who do you think that is?"

The other man didn't answer, his eyes were staring toward the sound his mouth twisted into a grimace. The moment the rider came into view Inuyasha groaned, a heart wrenching sound. Almost at once he started shouting despite the rider would never hear him over the pounding hooves.

"Kikyo go away, don't come! Leave! Run!"

The rider didn't pay heed or couldn't hear him because they kept coming and skidded to a stop only a few feet from the huddle of men and horses. Her long raven hair gleaming in the morning sun, and her brown eyes flashing, she sneered at the men on the ground. "Let him go. All of you know Naraku did it."

"Actually, I was in the saloon, with ten others. Inuyasha also was careless and left casings from his gun, and we know because he's the only one who etches shell casings." The tone was smooth and almost gib.

"I believe he was careless but only in leaving casings for you to find. And we all know you have a dozen lowlifes ready to do your bidding." Kikyo glared down at the man.

"I doubt very much I would have any reason to kill three fools off to go look for spanish treasure, but Inuyasha quarreled with them just the night before."

"You just want to get rid of your competitor. Allow me to disillusion you. I wouldn't marry you ever. You disgusted me Naraku, and that you would sink this low only speaks for that yellow streak you hide with swagger and threats and guns. What I can't understand is why they are letting you get away with it!"

There was stunned silence before Inuyasha started laughing, the horse under him was slapped and suddenly he was swinging his feet kicking. Kikyo's defiant face fell and tears appeared on her face.


When no one moved she flung herself off her horse and tried to take the knife off someone's belt. Hands grabbed her and stopped her. Caught she stared up at Inuyasha and he stared back even as his face purpled and he kicked for air.

Then he stilled but his eyes didn't look away, bulging as they were. The hands holding her let go and she slumped to the earth a low moan escaping her lips. "Inuyasha."

A hand tilted her chin up and Kikyo stared up at Naraku, a pleased look in his eyes he spoke gently. "He was just a nobody wander, he won't be missed."

Her eyes went wide and she laughed harshly. "Murderer." Looking around at the other men few met her gaze. "Murderers."

Standing she slapped him away from her, climbing back on her horse she looked over the men once more. "Hope you enjoy guilt and slavery, after this there will be no refusing him."

Then looking back at Naraku she let the hate build. "I hope you enjoy disappointment, because all of your life will come to not."

Then she rode away.

Kikyo was back in the dark of night, almost midnight she was sure. With her own rope she climbed the tree and tied it close to Inuyasha's, dropping her own noose over her head she jumped. Swinging she couldn't see or breath but she found Inuyasha's cold hand and held on tight.

1881 August 8th Wyoming

Ichigo sighed, he wasn't sure if it was because he knew his sisters were going to kill him when he got back, or because today was the day. Today he was finally leaving to hunt the son a of bitch that killed his mother and ruined his father's life.

He'd been told so many times by a lot people to let it go, but he couldn't. First the bastard tried to kidnap his mother, and then left her bleeding in his arms as he rode off to where ever he was going. Then his dad, his dad hadn't been the same, drinking had finally killed him near three years back. It had just been Ichigo looking after his sisters and the ranch.

Actually to be fair Chad was with them.

A smirk touched his lips, Chad had always known he'd go after Aizen, but when his friend offered to go with him Ichigo told him the honest to god truth; He needed someone he could trust to look after his sisters. Of course at the time he didn't know his friend had feelings for Karin. But they had been happily married since June and Yuzu had tied the knot with her idiot red head just yesterday. He didn't like Jinta much, he was a hot head but he loved Yuzu and Yuzu wouldn't have any other.

And he'd tried, he'd told her it would be okay if it was Ishida, but why did it have to be Jinta? Her mocking laughter had not been kind and she had sounded a lot scarier then Karin in that moment. He also had to admit finding out Jinta had been saving money since before Yuzu agreed to see him in the hopes they could get married had softened him.

So with Yuzu finally married, and the ranch in a good way, he felt safe. He could go answer his need to get answers and revenge. He had promised himself on his mother's grave Aizen would regret staying at the Kurosakis.

Knowing he'd left some letters explaining things for his sisters, he looked away from the home his father had built and set off for Rock Springs, the last place he knew Aizen had been.

1881 September 21th California

Kagome smiled at Yuka, Eri, and Ayumi, her friends knew her so well, the candy, gloves, and embroidered handkerchief were lovely gifts for her sixteenth birthday. Hojo's gift was- like the boy, simple. A hand made carving of one of her horses, likely he tried to make Sesshomaru but didn't get the details she had memorized right.

Her mother had made a lovely little cake and they were all having a nice time but Kagome missed Sango and Miroku, the two had gotten married a year ago and set out this spring for Colorado. Miroku wanted to find gold enough to buy some real land rather then staying here under, well everyone knew working for the Aizens was like selling your soul and Miroku had been born into it thanks to his drunken father.

At least Miroku had broken the mold and gotten his nerve up to get Sango to marry him properly. He'd taken his sweet time, she was almost four years older then Kagome and he'd waited until she was seventeen to ask her. Some of the other men around town had been paying her attention, before Miroku worked up his nerve.

Even if she missed them she was happy for them.

Kagome looked away from her friends when she heard the sounds of rider coming up to the house. Going to the window she was confused, everyone who was suppose to be here was here, Gramps, Souta, mama, her friends, they had a second cake for the dinner tonight so all the hands would get to have some.

Then a figure she was would never mistake for another came into view as he halted his horse by the hitching rail.

Her hands went clammy and Kagome felt her face twist. Sosuke Aizen. How she hated that man.

Taking a deep breath she stilled her face and brought a smile to her lips, hide it, she must always hide it, no one was to know.

Smoothing her hands on her blue floral dress she walked to the door, opening it she found the man standing in front of the door about to knock. "Mr. Aizen what can I do for you?"

He smiled at her, his eyes gleamed and her skin crawled but her face didn't falter, she had far too much practice. "May I come in Miss Higurashi?"

Against all her instincts she stepped aside and waved him in, the tall man walked past her and took his hat off. Kagome let habit take over, taking the hat she hung it on one of the many hooks, then she lead him into the parlor. Kagome for the hundredth time in her life marveled at the effect the man had on a the room. His father had been terrifying but Sosuke, he was something else, you half wanted to obey and the knowledge of what he had done and could do finished it. Everyone jumped when he said so.

Her friends all froze and her mother trembled, Souta looked annoyed and Gramps might be the only other person who was like her regarding the man, watch him like the snake he is.

Following that thought she turned back around offered him a seat in a comfortable chair.

"Thank you." His inclined head was polite and Kagome felt her nerves start warring with her hatred, he never did anything without reason.

Then he smiled and with a little laugh his eyes hinted to her friends they should look away. At his cue Yuka started chattering to Eri and Ayumi engaged Hojo and Souta. It set her teeth on edge. Aizen's focus turned back to her and his mouth curved upward in a seemingly charming smile. "Miss Higurashi I heard today is your sixteenth birthday and thought to bring you a small token."

Kagome lifted her hands out feeling a bit ill, but he gently handed her the box she almost hadn't noticed he was holding. It was tied shut with a green and blue ribbons, pulling on the ends of the ribbons she noted the beautiful cavings of roses in the four corners of the warm red colored, oak box. Flipping the latch she opened the box and found a complete stationary set, inks, a pen, matching stationary, sealing wax, a rose seal, and a journal.

Beautiful and order only.

He'd spent more money on this then just a token. Suspicious she forced a bright smile on her face and tried to seem impressed. "It's beautiful."

He didn't seem to notice her twitching fingers or blatant lies, she would burn it just because it was from him if she had a chance.

"I hope it's not too presumptuous of me Miss Higurashi but you've really grown up in the last few years and you seem more graceful every time I see you-"

Kagome mentally was doing everything she couldn't, screaming, running and throwing things, he'd better not be saying what she thought he was! She hated him, she'd do anything and everything including murder or suicide before she let him lay one filthy old man hand on her.

"- I would be a very happy man if you would allow me the honor of courting you."

He said it.

He actually said it.

Fiery wrath bubbled in her chest and she wanted; almost more than she had wanted anything else in her life to see his expression if she slapped him. But there was something she wanted more, his death by her hand.

She had sworn he'd pay, and if her grandfather had taught her anything with his Japanese game it was that some times you had to wait. And some times you had to take risks.

Her eyes drifted around the room, her mother and brother had never looked more alike with their mouths hanging open, her grandfather had narrowed his eyes to glare at Aizen. But her friends and her family weren't saying anything. Not even Hojo who had said more then once he wanted to court her, was doing or saying anything.

If she went around with him she would be alone with him for hours and probably there would times where they were completely alone. It would be delicious irony to shoot him in the back one day and claim a robber had done it.

"I accept. It would please me if you would escort me to church this Sunday."

Aizen's eyes lit with feeling and the brown almost took a red tone, it was just the lighting but her skin crawled anyway. Lifting her hand he kissed the back of it.

Bile burned her throat but she prided herself on her calm expression, he would never see it coming.

"Please call me Sosuke Miss Higurashi."

"Please call me Kagome Sosuke." She almost flinched as the words came out but his expression didn't change, so he probably didn't notice.

He nodded once and looked pleased. "I have to get back to work but I couldn't wait any longer to ask you."

Kagome nodded and setting the box and ribbons down she half guided and followed Sosuke to the door. "Thank you for the lovely gift Sosuke, I will be ready and waiting for you to pick me up Sunday."

He nodded once more and then taking his hat, exited the house.

Kagome felt a rush of relief as the door shut behind him, then sickening knowledge of what she had just agreed to sunk in. She couldn't shoot him the first time they went off on their own after all. People would talk, the bad blood between the Higurashis and the Aizens was practically written in the town laws.

She would no doubt have to see him for some time, at least the winter would give her some time off, he wouldn't be able to come visit much with the snow. But still that only meant it would take even longer. But it would give her some time to practice her face, she had almost flinched just now. She would have to do much better. If she let anything show Aizen would get suspicious and if that happened it could cause her problems. He couldn't be allowed to see it coming.

The only time he would realize would be after she shot him.

Her jaw set she returned to the shambles of her birthday party. The tension was choking, her mother had disappeared, likely to the kitchen. Souta had probably stormed off to talk to Jinenji. Gramps was calmly setting up the Go board, he knew her better then anyone.

But her friends were staring at her like they didn't know her.

Ayumi spoke first, almost out of character for her normally shy self, but her compassion was usually what made her forget her fears. "Do you know what you just agreed to Kagome?"

Kagome let the question sink in: To get close, to earn Aizen's trust she was going to have to do things that would turn her stomach. She was going to make enemies and people would be as rude to her as they dared because of the man tied to her name.

It was even possible Aizen would let them because it amused him, and if he didn't she might have to watch him punish people. This would have a very high price, her mother's reaction told her that much but the rage and the hate in her knew it would be worth it if he was dying at her feet shot by her daddy's pistol.

She wanted him dead so much.

Iron and salt coated her tongue and she knew she had bit her inner cheek, but the blood was calming to her blood lust. That was something she had learned long ago. "Yes, I do."

The silence hung in the air, it was like a chasm between her and her friends. She didn't really blame them, none of them knew what she knew, had seen what she had seen. She had always known where they still needed some growing up, she had done it a long time ago.

That day in June so long ago had been life changing.

Yuka shook her head disbelievingly and Hojo looked frightened. Coward. To be fair he was kind but he was such a coward. Admittedly he was just a year older then her and Aizen was older then her father would have been. Eri spoke up next. "You're going to let him court you even after his wives?"

Kagome felt her lips twitch towards a smirk. Odds were good his wives never tried to kill him, and she had no intentions of marrying him ever.

But to be fair he did have bad history with women. Rukia had been older then her by almost ten years but she remember the violet eyed woman, more she remembered the man who had been in love with Rukia; Renji, he'd been the first one to try to teach her to hold a gun. Renji had disappeared, Rukia married Sosuke, then Byakuya died leaving Rukia and Aizen his land. Then a bit later Rukia had died, Aizen said she took ill and then fell down the stairs but whispers went on.

The second wife had been more interesting. Orihime had been only five years older then her when Sosuke came back to town with her. Orihime had been the opposite of Rukia, bright sunset hair where the other had black, gray eyes compared to the violet of the other. Orihime had been tall and Rukia short, and the key difference that Kagome had seen was Orihime was terrified of him, Rukia never had been.

Orihime had come back with Sosuke from his five years of traveling, been seen in town half a dozen times and then she was gone. Sosuke said she took sick and had to be buried quickly. But the anger in his eyes she had noticed made her wonder if Orihime had tried to run for it only to get shot.

Then there had been poor, sweet and stupid Momo. Momo had actually been older then Orihime but younger then Rukia would have been. The girl had her reasons for being blind to Aizen, but it had been pitiful how happy she was when he started courting her just two months after Orihime. True to form Momo looked nothing like the others, Rukia and Orihime had both been beauties, Momo... was sweet and she could be pretty but the only person who thought she was beautiful was Toshiro.

Again true to form Toshiro had 'left town', Momo married Aizen, and that winter died trying to give Aizen a child.

Honestly Kagome was pretty sure she was relatively safe until her last name was Aizen, which was never going to happen. "Yes."

Eri, Yuka and Ayumi all looked like she had just said something incomprehensible but Hojo, the simple fool looked hurt. Like she would have let him court her anyway. She never felt for him what he said he felt for her. She's been eleven when he first said he loved her, she had told him she was too young and there was too much work to be done at home. He seemed to think that just meant he couldn't distract her, not the soft let down she tried to give him.

Kagome felt a wave of exhaustion wash over her, she had just taken her second step to avenging her father. She needed friends who understood, she needed brave friends but her brave friends had left her going to Colorado.

This was one more fight, just one more secret for her and her alone.

Oh how she hated her life, she hated Aizen, and she hated everyone too scared to do something right. "If you're afraid you can leave."

The tired and lonely part of her cried just a bit as all four of them walked to the door and collected their things and left. Only Ayumi said goodbye properly, the others were silent as they joined Hojo in the buggy.

With a sad sigh she cleaned up and took the cups and plates to the kitchen where her mother was hiding with Kaede. Leaving she ran a hand over her face, she would have to give her mother and brother some sort of answer, at least Gramps hadn't said anything. Going back to the parlor, Kagome sat down with her grandfather at the table. At his look she took her first move.

She was taking her fifth turn when Gramps broke his silence. "I have faith Kagome."

Clenching her teeth Kagome fought back tears at the wash of love she felt for him. He was the best person she knew, she wanted to be just like him. No one was better at helping others then him. She had wanted to be like her father when she was little, that was why she had taken to working at training the horses. But as she got older she realized her father had died and brought them so much trouble because he was an idealist, her grandfather was a bit wiser and far better at keeping his own council.

She would be thrilled if she could be half the person they were.

But good people suffered and were targets in this town, so she was afraid she was going to take a darker path. But maybe she could still be a good person at the end of it if her grandfather had faith.


Kagome kept her eyes on her plate, her mother was trying to find the courage to calmly ask her why she said yes and Kagome wasn't entirely sure what to say. The more she thought about it the more reasons she had. It seemed like her guess was right and Souta had gone to Jinenji because he was keeping his eyes down like he already knew what was wrong. Jaken, Hachi, Ana, Vega, Shuhei, and Ashido looked confused.

Honestly the only two eating like normal was Gramps and Kaede.

Maybe it was an old people thing.

Her mother inhaled deeply and Kagome looked up, her mother looked old and tired and a bit hurt. "Kagome why did you say yes?"

Kagome took a deep breath and ignored the other reactions at the table. "Mama what happens when someone says no to Sosuke Aizen?"

The name had those not in the know reacting badly, but her mother cut across them. "You mean you said yes because you were afraid?"

Kagome snorted. "Not for myself but for you and the ranch. He wants me because I am young and pretty in a different way just like Rukia, and Orihime, and even Momo. I am trapped, a man as cruel and powerful as he would do anything to have his way. This way he has to abide by the rules of propriety."

Souta spoke now. "What do you mean? He's still an asshole!"

"Souta not at the table!"

"Sorry mama. But why would he be nice just because you said yes?"

Kagome smiled at her angry and protective baby brother. "Souta lets think about what would have happened had I said no in front of seven other people? He would be angry, and embarrassed and good people act badly when feeling that way, but a man like him?"

Souta's expression showed understanding. "He would want to hurt you. Embarrass you."

Kagome nodded. "The only way I could have turned him down safely was if I had a man I could call my beau, but-"

Kagome felt her cheeks pink and shook her head. "I don't really have anyone. Hojo would be easy to scare off and even if Vega-" the older man glanced at her oddly. "Or Ashido were willing to pretend or even be serious he might try to run them out of town."

Ashido, Jaken, and Hachi were all nodding along with her, Ana was twisting her hands in her lap nervously. Vega was frowning, his expression a bit awkward. "Kagome you know you're like a kid sister right to me right?"

Kagome laughed feeling a bit better now that her mother and brother were calming down. "Yeah, I just figured of the men here you two would seem the most believable to everyone if you were to pretend to court me."

He nodded his expression relaxing.

Shuhei spoke up. "You've said yes, but now you'll be seen with him and- he- courting usually leads to marriage how will you say no then?"

Kagome inwardly twitched, curse that man. Point that out to everyone. She was kill him first of course, but she couldn't say it. All the relief everyone had been showing drained away, Ana had probably seen that problem first judging by her face. Sighing she told the almost truth, "I don't know. One step at time."

Silence hung over the table for a moment before Kagome hit upon a good idea to keep Aizen from rushing her. "I could say I can't get married until Souta is fifteen. That would buy me almost three years."

Everyone nodded or made some sort of agreement but Kagome felt warm because of the concern everyone showed for her. They at least hadn't run away.

1881 September 24th California

Kagome could feel her nerves taking over, she had never been alone with someone who wanted to court her before, something about she had never been courted before. But she was going to ride with Aizen in his buggy to church, her family, Ana and Hachi would be following them, but she would have to shout for them to even come close to hearing anything and with the curves in the road there would minutes where she and Aizen would truly be alone.

What if he attacked her? What if she got mad? She couldn't afford to get mad, no matter what he said. Flexing her fingers she could feel her hands sweating into her gloves. Patting her cheeks she took some deep breaths, she could to do this, she had to. No choice. Not if she was going to protect her brother and mother, not if she was going to avenge her father. And so many others.

Aizen deserved every lie she told, and every ounce of feeling she stored up waiting for the moment she killed him.

Calmer she went down stairs, her hair was done in a beautifully simple bun, she had her hat pinned on, and she was dressed in one of her most fashionable dress. Navy with cream pin stripes, the full cut of the fabric hid her pistol set on her hip over her underwear. The pockets she insisted on in every dress allowed her quick access. Something her mother didn't even know. Kagome patted her hip smoothing the fabric, her bustle and layers allowed her father's gun to be invisible. She also had the gun her mother knowingly allowed her to carry, her little two shot derringer, that was in her hand bag. The only time she was going for her father's pistol was the day Aizen died by her hands.

To her surprise walking downstairs she felt ready. She was ready. She only had to do it now.

Looking out the window Kagome saw Aizen rolling up the road in his buggy. Standing still in the parlor for a moment, Kagome felt her nerves start again. But with a stern thought she cut her worries off. Time to go live that path she had chosen.

Kissing her mother's cheek she gave her family a little smile and walked out to the porch.

Aizen had just climbed down off the buggy, turning towards her, she noted distantly he was wearing a very fashionable suit and matching hat. Taking a very deep breath she smiled as he walked to the porch. "Good morning Sosuke."

Tipping his hat he smiled warmly at her. "Good morning Miss Kagome."

Stepping down the stairs Aizen offered her a steadying hand. Taking it Kagome was almost glad, of all the hateful men in town at least Aizen was good at pretending to be a gentleman. At least half of the men who properly worked for Sosuke Aizen were no good drunks, and the other half were sadists.

"Thank you."

Letting him lead her to the buggy she accepted his help climbing up. Seated she looked around the house to where the buckboard was, she could see her mother getting a hand up from Souta. Hachi was helping his wife up and Gramps was already seated holding the reins.

Smiling to hide her cringe as Aizen settled next to her Kagome felt her hands turn clammy again. Oh how she wanted to just shoot him.

"You look lovely this morning."

I'm probably going to need to burn all my dresses after Aizen's dead. "Thank you, you look rather fine yourself this morning."

"It's a new suit ordered from San Francisco."

Braggart. "That must have been expensive, I thought you were investing more money into the bank."

Kagome saw Aizen's brows furrow for a moment, before he dismissed whatever thought had brought a frown to his face. "True, on both counts. Totosai just finished the improvements I commissioned for the bank security."

Deciding it would best to keep him talking Kagome asked: "What exactly did you have him doing?"

The ride to the small catholic church went on forever as Kagome kept Aizen talking about himself. But it was far easier for him to be talking about himself. Kagome didn't want to bring the focus onto herself, or try his patience, she planned on doing that in small controlled doses. Climbing down with Aizen's help Kagome was careful not to meet anyone's eyes, she could see the whispers starting at they saw her and Aizen together.

Everyone was shocked.

Kagome was a bit surprised she had expected her friends to have spread it far and wide but she guessed three days hadn't given them enough time. Sunday usually was the day everyone shared news anyway. No better way to make the announcement.

Allowing Aizen to mingle with his men Kagome focused on keeping a polite smile on her face, and keeping her chin up. No need to act ashamed of being there. Eyes followed her and so did whispers.

It was a embarrassing to realize to number of people who were talking about this.

She was lucky Kagura and her ladies weren't there, that would have likely turned into a full on confrontation. Kagura was never shy about mocking her brother's women, and add in Kagome knew for a fact Yura had hoped Aizen would marry her next- no it was a good thing the ladies avoided the church.

As it was she was going to get to see Kanna and Hakudoshi, neither of them would approve she was guessing. She could only hope Hakudoshi kept his temper, Aizen did love taunting his older brother so it would be sure to turn into a fight.

Noticing her mother gliding through the crowd Kagome was pleased to see Shako, and his son Kohaku helping shield her mother from people who wanted to gossip about her beau with her mother. It was good to see her parents' friends were more true then hers.

She had seen all four and not one had come to talk to her even as Aizen stayed busy with the half a dozen men who made it. Kagome was pleased when Mayuri's shy daughter was allowed to talk to her.

Kagome had never really spoken with Nemu before, Nemu's father was strict and everyone knew he some times beat his daughter, and back when he had a wife he beat her too.

Then it was time for Mass to start, Aizen lead Kagome in and for the first time ever she sat on the left, normally her family sat on the right, the left was Aizen's side. It felt wrong. Nemu sat on her other side and Kagome was shocked when hidden by her skirts Nemu gave her hand a soft and comforting squeeze.

Her expression stayed the same but Kagome had a feeling she had just made her first true ally.

Exiting the church Kagome felt exhausted, the glances and stares had not stopped with the service and Aizen had seemed amused and pleased with the attention. Her family had taken care like she had asked, not to do anything out of character. As Kagome told them, give Aizen nothing to work with.

"Have lunch with me at Unohana's."

Kagome forced a pleasant smile on her lips, "I would love to accept Sosuke, but my family has already left and they are expecting me for lunch."

Aizen's expression stayed pleasant. "Far be it for me to scare them like that then."

"I appreciate your understanding."

Aizen was taking her to his buggy when as she feared, Hakudoshi walked over. Aizen saw him coming and she caught a glimpse of his eager expression. Aizen loved tormenting his older brother. It was well remembered after their father's death and Aizen got everything, that Hakudoshi had gotten drunk and then tried to kill Aizen. Aizen had beaten him, and then taunted him that next time he should try for real.

Aizen tightened his grip on her arm and Kagome obeyed, standing at his side she wanted to sneer at Hakudoshi for the way he was looking at her. He was a no account scum bag that was bad at at it. He had no room to think she was a gold digger.

"I see you are looking for the right woman again brother."

Aizen smiled in a nastily cheerful way. "I always look for good wife material, she has to know her place in things."

She really wanted to go for her gun. Her place in things, really? Scum, pond scum. But luckily her practicing had paid off, her face didn't even twitch. Her fingers might of but they were unnoticeable. Shuhei and Jaken had really earned the bonus, but getting use to personal insults only worked if she kept her temper. She had known what they were doing and didn't hate them.

The pause made it clear both men expected her to say something and there was some satisfaction to be had in thwarting them.

"Take your insults, look pretty, and not scream too much right?"

Aizen feigned disappointment. "You have nothing better to do then slander me big brother?"

Kagome was glad nothing anyone said would shock her. None of the men realized how well she knew Aizen's habits at Kagura's establishment. She wasn't too high and mighty to talk to whores. She knew perfectly well Aizen had paid for Loly to leave after he scarred her up one night when he was in a foul temper. They also didn't know she was friendly with Rangiku and Gin, something about they thought it funny to see her dressed as a boy and exploring their saloon.

"I just thought the new one should have fair warning, after all they only seem to be getting younger."

Kagome could feel Aizen's arm tensing, for some reason this comment bothered him.

"Consider her warned, now unless you want to be ban from the house again I suggest you leave."

Hakudoshi slowly smirked at Aizen but cautiously turned and left. Aizen stalked across the ground almost making her trip with his speed, keeping up Kagome took note that this had upset him. What exactly about it she didn't know, but something about it hit a nerve.

Seated Kagome didn't say a word as Aizen signaled the matched set of bays into a gallop.

They had been silent for most of twenty minutes when Aizen broke it. "I appreciate a woman who can keep a civil tongue in her head."

Kagome ignored her internal reaction, to keep up the pretense. "I simply didn't see what it had to do with me. I can't be married until my brother is fifteen anyway. I thought it only fair I warn you now. It would have to be a long courtship. If you want children right away you should marry someone who can get married soon."

Kagome could tell this didn't please Aizen but to her surprise he didn't seem that turned off.

"Why exactly is that?"

She scrambled for a moment but then forced her plan back into her head. "I quit schooling to help around at home, Souta stayed until he finished his schooling, but now I need to teach him more about the horses and how father liked to train them. He also needs to get better at picking out details in horses. He can't tell a mustang from a Spanish pony."

"I see how that could be a problem. I admit I had no idea you were so vital to your family's continued success."

Kagome felt her pulse surge at the silky tone in his voice. The bastard was gloating to himself. "I never liked reading much." that was lie. "I followed my father around from the time I could walk, I always wanted to see him work with the horses. So when he died I knew more then my Mother and Grandfather. I had to work with the men who knew most of father's plans and skills but I started giving orders."

"And they took them from an eight year old?"

"Unless I didn't know something then they showed me how to do it different. They're all loyal men, we fed them, and in turn they tightened their belts with us, without Father."

She could feel her legs quivering, they were the only place she could move and do anything to react to her hatred she felt for her driver. He caused that, all of it. He ruined her childhood and he thought it fun to play games with her now.

"I had no idea things were like that for your family. That was well I was traveling."

The mock sincerity ate at her. She was going to enjoy shooting him, she gave her self a minimum of April, that would be the soonest she could shoot him."I remember. Where did you go while traveling?"

Aizen stared off and the smirk that played on his lips was evil. Kagome had a sinking feeling about the things he had passed the time with. A chill of fear crept up her spine and she felt the urge to jump off the buggy and run for it. The town had always talked about how evil Aizen's father was, but Kagome couldn't imagine Aizen was any less evil.

"I went as far up as Daniel Wyoming, made it to St. Louis, and as far down as Pecos Texas, saw a lot of things, and met a lot of people."

And no doubt ruined just as many lives. Kagome found it amazing she was the only one with a plan and taking action to kill this fucker. It sounded like he was so far over do, it was equally amazing he hadn't been arrested for something.

"That is a lot of ground to cover."

Aizen nodded. "Hired myself out as a guard to folks traveling since I'm not bad with a gun, and have eagle eyes. Took the trains other times."

Kagome cast her mind around to something to keep him talking. "See many hostile Indians?"

"I had a brush with a couple of tribes but for the most part no, I was almost robbed by some bandits though, and I helped catch some horse thieves."

As Aizen launched into a story about some heroics he was part of Kagome couldn't help but notice the horses had been sold and he didn't mention getting the horses or money back. So she couldn't help but wonder if he set them up to take the fall and pocked the money himself.

Back home Kagome almost died but manners stated she had to. "Would you care to join us for lunch Sosuke?"

He looked at her and then eyed the house, something nasty drifted through his eyes. "No, thank you for the invitation but I should get back to my ranch. May I have the pleasure of escorting you next Sunday to church and then to Unohana's for lunch?"

"You may."

"Be seeing you miss."

Climbing the porch Kagome watched Aizen climb into his buggy and drive away. It was only when he was out of sight down the road did Kagome let the tension holding her straight and calm fade. Her lips twisted in a snarl and she stomped once. What a loathsome toad of man.

Taking a few deep breaths she pulled her gloves off and went inside. Shutting the door she went up and undressed, her hat and dress were put away appropriately and she stood in her underthings with the pistol on her hip. The leather gun holster looked at odds with her silk under things but it was a boost of confidence.

Aizen didn't know anything and if he thought she didn't like him, he had no clue she was working up to killing him.

In this game she was going to win.

1881 September 29th Texas

Ichigo sighed to himself. Two months, or most of anyway and he found out the man he was hunting was from California. Almost the other way.

He now had good idea just what Sosuke Aizen would or would not do. Rape, murder, robbery, hell he'd hold a gun to a kid's head. He'd thought the man was a low down snake from the moment he'd met him but it was still disgusting to hear just what exactly he had done.

Oddly the man also had gift for getting away with it. Not one of the crimes he'd found out about had a warrant with his name on it. No one would testify, no proof, it went on. Normally it seemed Aizen would make sure he had a scapegoat and even if his goat talked he was gone or no one would listen.

But it seemed it didn't matter, everyone still knew the man had done it, just no way to prove it.

Ichigo really wanted the man dead. He had hated for his mother's death but now he was sure the man should just die to save the world the things he'd do. But that was going to have to wait a bit, he was out of money. Didn't have more then five dollars to his name, and he had an offer for some work. Better to save up some money now rather then when he was desperate.

1881 October 1th California

Once again dressed in her best dress, her gun on her hip under her dress Kagome could feel her nerves acting up again: Today she was going to have to spend more time with Aizen, and possibly his men, last she knew most of his men after church either went to eat Unohana's cooking or to Gin's saloon to relax.

Admittedly only half his hands went to church, either because Aizen wanted people on his ranch or watching the bank, or because they didn't hold with no catholics. Kagome herself half understood, her Grandfather's beliefs that came from the old land spoke to her louder then the masses, and robes of the catholics but it pleased her spanish mother to go to church and even when her father was alive he went along with that so Kagome continued to do so.

Seeing Aizen's buggy pulling up Kagome stopped twisting her hands together and stilled herself. Game face, if she was going to win the war, if she was going to get to put her bullet in him... by god she wouldn't let him see her fear.

"Meet you all at church." Kagome stepped out the door and was waiting on the porch for Aizen. When he spotted her, the smile on his face chilled her more then wind.

"Ready and waiting for me Ms. Kagome?"

"Yes Sosuke, I would have hated to keep you waiting."

Taking her hand he helped her down the steps. "I appreciate it. Not too many women think of things like that."

Kagome felt like he was looking for answer as to why she was different, so she spoke up. "Most of them like the feeling of power that keeping a man waiting has. I see no need to play games like that between us."

Aizen lifted her up to the buggy and Kagome hated to say it but her breath caught at the sheer force pouring off the man touching her. She wanted to flinch, to hide, to react, but she was stunned. No wonder so many men were frightened by him if he looked at them like this.

"That's interesting dear, why don't you feel the need? This is only our second outing. You yourself told me you can't be married for years yet. I can't have won your heart so quickly, nor I believe your trust, so why no games..."

The evil in his voice left her shivering. What a frightful man. He delighted in her implied fear, in the implied hopelessness. She should play to that.

Clearing her throat she spoke. "I lost any chance another man in town would pay attention to me when you took me to church last Sunday. I may have three years before you could marry me but the odds of man who wants to challenge you showing up in that time that I take a fancy to is nonexistence. I am stuck with you unless you tire of me. I may not be fond you but I see no need to make you angry with me. I've seen what happens when you get angry."

Kagome made sure her voice stayed quiet, almost fearful, but with a note of fight. She wasn't giving him everything just because she had no where to go. It worked better then she had hoped.

He was eyeing her a pleasant almost happy gleam in his eyes, a soft almost gentle smirk on his lips. The switch was creepy with the suspicion he had been eyeing her with not a second earlier. The tone he spoke with next was alarmingly warm.

"I have to say Kagome you just might be the smartest woman I ever met."

Clenching her hand into a fist out of sight Kagome smirked at him, time to show a touch of bravery. He would think her a challenge not a threat. She couldn't be dangerous in his mind. He had to trust her.

"I don't have to be a man to know you could kill me and my whole family if I make one wrong move and piss you off. Besides Sosuke, I do have to boss the men around at home. I only hire men I can use, not ones that get ideas about a woman's place."

Now he was grinning with a nasty sense of amusement.

"What about when I get ideas about your place?"

Kagome let her face fall into almost sullen lines. "If my last name and your last name are the same there is not one thing I can do about it. But until then keep the rules of propriety, you do me wrong and I can likely work the town and my men up enough to get you arrested. It's illegal to hit a woman not your wife or a whore, even then hitting whores is normally frowned upon."

Laughter echoed off the hills around them and Kagome felt slimy, she was sinking down into muck to creep closer to this snake. But her day would come and he wouldn't expect the flash of teeth.

After church Kagome ignored the whispers and the hurt at the sight of Hojo and Eri leaving together. Aizen was taking her to lunch with Nemu, her father and two others. She wasn't clear on who. Arriving at Unohana's Kagome was annoyed to realize not only was she sharing a table with Mayuri, a woman hater if there was one in town, but also Tosen and Stark.

Actually Kagome didn't have a bone to pick with Stark except the man he was loyal to. But supposedly Stark and Lilynette were starving and lost, Stark had lost his wife and Aizen swooped in and gave Stark a job and fed Lilynette. It spoke well of Stark he paid his debts, but how his honor stood up to Aizen's misdeeds she had no idea.

Seated at the round table Unohana used for her non boarding guests, between Aizen and Nemu; Kagome listened as Aizen talked business with Tosen, Mayuri, and Stark. Nemu sat still almost frozen while Isane poured everyone their drinks and offered the two main dishes available. Kagome didn't see the point in arguing with Aizen when he ordered for her.

It was annoying, but she didn't really like rabbit stew and roast chicken wasn't her favorite thing. At least not the way Unohana made it.

She did love Unohana's cornbread, but usually Unohana made that for with her rice and beef beans, or with her roast savory pork. Unohana's deer recipes weren't bad, and she every now and then did like her duck or trout but mostly Kagome stuck to her mother's spanish cooking or Kaede's asian.

Growing bored with Aizen's plotting and crowing at the proper turns before the other men Kagome looked to Nemu. She had noticed the new pale pink calico blouse Nemu was wearing the moment Nemu joined her at the pew. But as of yet had not yet had a moment to complement her on it.

Glancing at the men one last time she turned to her companion at the table and half whispered: "That is a lovely blouse Nemu."

The shy stiff statue at her side disappeared for a second, a blushing girl in her place. "Thank you Ms. Kagome, I didn't get to tell you last Sunday your new dress is fetching."

Kagome smiled and accepted the complement. "Where did you get the fabric? I didn't see this bolt in Ukitake's store last time I went. Is it new?"

Nemu glanced nervously at the men, clearly worried about being scolded. After a moment she turned back and answered. "My father ordered it for me out of a catalog a few months ago. It only arrived last week when my father could pick it up."

Kagome spent the next fifteen minutes enjoying the quiet conversation on ladies fashions. Then Isane and Unohana's other help brought food in. That was when Mayuri spoke up noticing for the first time their conversation. "What are you thinking girl?! Woman are suppose to be seen and not heard!"

Nemu went pale and Kagome felt her suppressed temper flare. Bad enough she had to sit next to a monster at a table full of men she disliked for one reason or another but to be told she had to do it silently. That was too much.

Kagome spoke softly trying to remember her manners, if Aizen took offense- she would be in trouble. "Mr. Kurotsuchi don't blame Nemu I simply thought this was suppose to be a civil visit with pleasant conversation. Nemu and I clearly had no opinions of Sosuke's ranch and it's running so I merely thought to distract her with pleasantries."

Aizen's amused smirk said she was entertaining him while Mayuri's face got red and he spoke louder.

"There is the problem right there! A woman should never think! They can't think!"

"I am afraid I have to disillusion you there Mr. Kurotsuchi I think you are behaving in an ill mannered fashion. You are showing you're uncivilized, and have poor taste. I think it is not up to you if we can or can not converse. Would you rather we spoke and added an opinion to which we knew nothing? No it was simply a conversation on the importance of a tucks and darts in a proper fitting blouse."

Stark snorted and laughed into his hand at the outraged man at his side. The red angry face turned an odd shade of purple and he pounded his fists on the table. Aizen looked completely fascinated now.


Kagome smiled in the face of his upset even as she noticed Nemu trembling at her side. Worried she had brought Nemu trouble she set out to get Aizen in a round about way to agree to protect Nemu.

"Yes me. Mr. Kurotsuchi I and Nemu had been speaking beneath your notice for near twenty minutes, we were in no way interrupted the business your men were conducting. A woman always needs another's company for such things. Men have no interest and what else are we going to talk about?"

It startled Kagome when rather than Aizen adding something it was Tosen.

"Calm down Mayuri, you seem a fool. The chit has a point, it is only polite to have all be involved in conversation rather then ignoring them. Your daughter has no other friends and it leads a good air to the whole thing to have her here with Ms. Higurashi and Aizen, all men seems suspicious."

Aizen smiled but something sharp in it implied to Kagome Aizen wanted Mayuri to keep pressuring her. "Too true Kaname, I'm sure Ms. Kurotsuchi has no problem with being with us every luncheon."

Nemu was still pale and Kagome got to see her knuckles turn white as she gripped her napkin while answering. "That is correct Mr. Sosuke."

"Good." Aizen waved the hesitant staff in with the food.

The men started conversation again over the food, but Kagome decided she had stirred the pot enough the only interaction she dared was to return Nemu's favor of the past Sunday by gripping her hand to try and comfort her.

Nemu showed her appreciation with a nod and a half smile. Her paleness didn't change however, and Kagome wished she dared to stand up and shoot Mayuri and Aizen dead. She hated men.

When the meal was over Kagome watched Aizen pay the bill before gathering her things. She felt shaky and nervous, what was Aizen going to do and say when they were alone again.

Letting him lift her up into the buggy Kagome glanced back to Nemu, she was being helped up by her angry father, Kagome could hear him speaking to her but was glad he had calmed at least a bit. Tosen and Aizen's words had done some good.

They had just left main street and were driving past the tree and Kagome felt like she was holding her breath. Aizen seemed to be thinking or possibly drawing it out trying to see if she was nervous. She would keep calm. He wouldn't rattle her. She wasn't scared.

"That was most amusing, but I'm not sure why you riled Mayuri the way you did..."

Kagome felt bile burn her throat but the lie came quick to her lips. "If I marry you, I'll be the boss' wife. I will not let some hired hand dictate to me. This is just laying the foundation."

"What if I say he's in charge of you?"

The sly tone spoke of his twisted mind, what kind of man would say that to his beau? An evil one.

Kagome took on a sly tone of her own. "It depends is my husband asking him to protect me from marauders and nasty folks, or is he just suppose to whore me out to his friends? Because he might come back and be down a few hands."

"Ho, oh. That a threat?"

Kagome took a more submissive tone. "I would be your wife, and I'm not like your other dolls. I have grown up with these men and the gossip, I have always promised myself I would only submit so far. You I have to submit to, but your men, I can fight. I will fight."

Aizen took one of his hands off the reins and gently touched her cheek, he brushed it down her cheek and her throat Kagome felt chilled and ill but her face stayed serene.

"Such spirit. If you feel so badly about me and my loyal hands why haven't you hired someone... you no doubt have- currency."

Kagome knew what he meant when he said that but she had a ready answer for this one because it was true. "I wouldn't hire someone because I wouldn't risk them screwing up."

Aizen chuckled. "Very wise my dear."

Kagome felt like she had passed some test, she hoped her line between sadistic, hateful and afraid was believable. She hadn't lied, she was going to be the one to shoot him, not some hired killer.

The rest of the ride passed in silence reaching the house Kagome thought she could breath a sigh of relief. So she was startled when Aizen squeezed her hand painfully tight while handing her out.

"Kagome sweetling, I must warn you if you ever take proper action against me you'll have no where to hide."

Forcing a laugh she let it tremble to hide the hateful impulse to shoot him in the belly that very moment. "Define that, I will mock your men and make it clear I have more power than them, I will likely happily hire men who dislike you- but." Kagome let the word fade to a whisper. "If you mean take direct personal action I think you're safe."

He squeezed tighter and Kagome let her face twist in pain. Then he let go with a gentle smile and Kagome found she wanted with every bone in her body to slap him, but she let it pass. "See you next Sunday Sosuke."

"Until then darling."

Climbing the porch she then watched him drive off.

More tired then she had ever been Kagome drifted inside, all she wanted was a nap. That had to be the most stressful day of her life, test after test. The way Tosen came through for her maybe he wasn't as bad as she had thought.

Undressing she climbed on her bed, her last thoughts were smug. He might keep testing her but she would wait until he trusted her and then he was dead. For everyone and everything he'd ever harmed she would kill him.