A/N: This story takes place post-manga/anime and stays mostly canon except that Kagome can still travel through the well. I was never completely clear on whether or not the well stopped working altogether (my guess is that it did), but for the purposes of this little bit of nonsense, it's still functional.
In the pressing heat of midday, soldier number one tried and failed to contain a jaw-splitting yawn as the general marched down the line, inspecting the troops. There were fourteen in their little rag-tag band and the general made eye contact with every single one of them before giving a decisive nod of approval. The ranks noticeably straightened, every eye forward as their leader came to a halt, arms crossed, preparing to address them at last.
"Today will be a day to remember!" said the general gruffly. "Today we march into battle and every man –"
"And woman!" soldier number three shouted indignantly from the front row.
"And woman," agreed the general, "will have the opportunity to bring great honor to our name! I know you are courageous, and I have faith that every one of you will do your duty without fail!"
A minor scuffle broke out in the back row as soldier number eleven invaded soldier number twelve's personal space and was heartily repelled. A single look from the general brought them back to attention.
"Now," said the general, "is everyone armed?"
Fourteen hands held up fourteen brightly-colored weapons.
"Good," said the general, looking very satisfied indeed, "you all know what to do –"
"I wanna be on Shippou's team!" said soldier number three with a hint of a whine in her voice.
There was a chorus of "me too" from the rest of the small regiment, and soldier number one preened slightly, looking rather flattered.
"Dissension in the ranks!" barked the general.
"But Kagome oba-chan," wailed soldier number two, "the teams aren't fair! Shippou always wins your games!"
Another murmur of agreement rumbled through all those present.
"Well," said Kagome, flummoxed at this sudden uprising in her troops, "you can't all be on Shippou's team. Who will you fight against if you're all on the same team?" She pouted a little, pretending to be hurt. "Doesn't anyone want to be on my team?"
Silence met this question as everyone studiously avoided her gaze.
"I play wif K'gome oba-chan," said soldier number fourteen, breaking rank to come wrap his pudgy little arms around Kagome's leg.
"Thank you, sweetheart," said Kagome, bending down to plant a kiss on the forehead of her youngest troop.
"I still wanna be on Shippou's team," said soldier number three mutinously.
Kagome sighed. "Okay, if we aren't going to have even teams, then how do you guys want to play?"
"Maybe we don't need even teams," said Shippou, a crafty grin spreading across his face. "Maybe we just need a big, scary, powerful enemy."
Kagome raised her eyebrows. "And this big, scary enemy is...?"
"An evil dark priestess!" shouted soldier number nine.
"She must be defeated!" yelled soldier number seven.
Cheers went up and several soldiers jumped up and down in excitement.
"Ah," Kagome grinned in understanding. "All right, I see how it is. How come I'm always the bad guy?"
"Because you're so good at it, Kagome!" said Shippou.
Kagome snorted. "I think you guys just like ganging up on me." She threw up her arms. "Well fine," she said in a mock long-suffering tone," I'll be the evil dark priestess and you can be the heroes that storm the walls of my fortress in a valiant attempt to end my reign of terror over these blighted lands!"
Another cheer rose up and the small band of would-be warriors began preparations for battle.
It was a sweltering day in August and any self-respecting youngster should have been waiting out the hottest hours of the day napping in the shade or taking a dip in the river, but Kagome had promised them a game, and nobody knew as many good games as Kagome. Even on a day like today – a day so blisteringly hot that lost souls were considering letting themselves being sucked into hell just to escape the heat – the kids in the village knew that any suffering due to the weather would be repaid double in fun.
So far, things were looking promising.
Kagome was fairly pleased with the turn out. Fourteen was a good number without having to spread the ammo too thin. She'd been wracking her brains for two weeks trying to come up with something fun that wasn't just the same old trip down to the river for a swim. Water pistols or super soakers had been her first thought, but on her last trip through the well to visit her family, Souta had come up with an idea she liked even better – water balloons. It was perfect. Water balloons would be great fun for all ages, and the soft projectiles were unlikely to cause bodily harm or property damage, because if Kagome's games had one fault, it was that they often were the cause of property damage. Well, not the games so much as the players, or player, rather. Inuyasha, as in many things, tended to get a bit over enthusiastic when he joined in.
But Inuyasha was gone today. He and Miroku were at a neighboring settlement investigating claims that the headman's house was haunted. Kagome had doubts about the authenticity of that particular rumor, but it had gotten Inuyasha out of the village for the afternoon, leaving her free for once to conduct her game without fear of having to explain to anyone's parents how they had managed to collapse the family shed. Again.
Since there was no such thing as a hose or faucet on this side of the well, Kagome and Souta had spent four hours the evening before, standing at the tap in the Higurashi's kitchen, filling a ridiculous amount of water balloons. They loaded them into several large, cloth laundry bags, and Inuyasha had to make eleven trips through the well to retrieve them all, which he did with a surprisingly small amount of grumbling considering he wasn't going to be around when the fun was taking place. Although, he had complained loudly when he'd tripped over one of the bulging laundry bags as he got up to relieve himself in the middle of the night.
That had resulted in Inuyasha being soaked from head to toe and Kagome and the rest of the village being treated to a loud demonstration of his impressive collection of swear words. Kagome just shook her head and laughed, marveling at how she could be married to someone for three years and still not have heard his entire repertoire. Eventually, Inuyasha had remembered why he'd woken up in the first place, taken care of it, and then come back to bed and taken care of her. The rest of the bags had made it to morning untouched, though Kagome, much to their mutual satisfaction, couldn't say the same.
Kagome could barely lift one of the bags and they were much too heavy for little arms, so Kagome and Inuyasha's hut became a temporary armory and everyone was supplied with smaller sacks that would allow them to carry a manageable amount of the water bombs. The plan had been to divide up into even teams with each side taking half the stash of balloons, the idea being that whichever team ran out of balloons first would concede defeat, but Shippou's suggestion had completely changed the game. He was now in charge of the little brigade, and had been given possession of Kagome's wristwatch and instructions to keep everyone inside the armory hut for ten minutes to allow Kagome time to settle herself.
Rin, who had politely declined a more active role the afternoon's play, was temporarily conscripted so she could help the "evil priestess" haul a small supply of the water balloons to an undisclosed location. There Kagome would wait, armed and ready, for the band of small soldiers to find and storm her secret fortress – which was actually an ox cart sitting in the middle of town, currently disused due to a broken wheel. Not the grandest of strongholds to be sure, but the position would allow her to see the enemy regardless of what side they attacked from, and the high sides would afford her some protection from opposing water weaponry. Bidding Kagome good luck, Rin left her to guard the ox cart by herself, heading back to Kaede's hut to take advantage of the lazy afternoon by drying medicinal teas.
Two minutes later, Kagome heard Shippou's cry of "CHARGE!" as it carried through the village, and she squatted down, water balloons in hand as she peeked over the side, looking for invaders. She didn't have to wait long. Soldiers number seven and nine, brothers aged the same as their numbers, came sneaking around the corner of a nearby hut. They didn't spot Kagome right away, and she waited patiently for them to get closer. When the boys had reached a distance of perhaps five feet from the ox cart turned fortress, Kagome jumped up with a yell, a water balloon in each hand.
"How dare you trespass on my lands!" she shouted and lobbed a water balloon on each of them.
Delighted shrieks filled the air and Kagome ducked as the boys fired back, giggling madly as the balloons missed and burst against the side of the ox cart instead. As the boys reached into their bags to reload, Kagome stood back up.
"I am evil priestess Kagome, and you shall never defeat me!" she yelled, planting her hands on her hips. "I will have you all as my slaves!" She threw her head back and let loose a melodramatic laugh that would have made any villain jealous. Then she ducked, cover blown, as five more balloons came hurtling at her from all sides.
At this point, several villagers looked out their doors to see exactly what all the shouting was about, took a good look at Kagome laughing manically from the broken ox cart, and retreated back into their huts, shaking their heads. That Kagome girl had always been a bit strange and there was no changing it now.
The battle raged furiously for a good twenty minutes before they had their first casualty. Soldier number fourteen, who more commonly went by the name of Akihiko, took an accidental water balloon to the face and plunked himself down on the muddy ground, wailing. His mother, who like most parents, had a sixth sense regarding her children and trouble, and at any rate would have heard him three villages over with the racket he was making, arrived on the scene less than sixty seconds later – which was impressive given her state of extreme pregnancy. A quick examination of the sobbing three-year-old revealed no actual injury, but his enjoyment of the game had soured.
"Oh, he's fine," Sango said, laboriously lifting him into her arms and waving off Kagome's apologies. "I'll take him back home for a nap."
With soldier number fourteen's body removed from the battlefield, the skirmish was soon back underway. Kagome was holding out fairly well against the oncoming throng. The only real threats to her territory were Akihiko's older, identical twin sisters, Kayo and Kiyomi, who were smarter and more cunning than any five-year-olds had a right to be, and Shippou, who had all of his kitsune magic to aid him in the assault. Kagome took one balloon to the stomach and another to the rear end as Shippou burst into a handful of doppelgangers and she misjudged which one was the real item.
"Nyah, nyah, you can't get me!" singsonged the Shippous, all of them pulling distorted faces at her.
An hour went by and both sides were running out of ammo. Kayo and Kiyomi threw their last balloons, neither hitting Kagome directly, but both splashing her copiously as they burst next to her feet. Shippou had one left and seemed to be waiting for an opportune moment. Kagome had three, and she faced off with the kitsune, both of them throwing good natured taunts at the other and grinning like idiots.
"You can't hit me, you can't hit me!" Shippou said. With a poof, he shifted into his big, pink, floating balloon form and blew her a raspberry.
Squinting in concentration, Kagome took aim and chucked one of her three precious balloons, quickly reaching for the last two in case she missed. Shippou, who seemed to realize that his current shape was a lot larger and easier to hit than his normal one, shifted back to normal with a loud pop. The balloon missed its target and sailed through the air, bursting instead against the chest of a tall figure that had appeared suddenly on the battlefield.
All action immediately died – well, not so much died as ran screaming off a cliff and landed with a horrible crunchy thud at the bottom. Kagome froze, eyes wide in horror, one arm still held high over her head in preparation to throw. From his perch on the roof of a nearby hut, Shippou made a funny choking noise that was echoed by a small imp youkai on the ground. The rest of the soldiers scattered in the face of an adversary they dared not challenge.
Twenty feet from the broken ox cart, Sesshoumaru looked down at the water soaking into the top of his kimono and dripping down his breastplate. A tiny bit of garish lime green balloon clung to his armor and he gingerly lifted it with two claws, bringing it up to his blank face for a perfunctory sniff before flicking it away. Then he looked up at Kagome. For a moment, they stared at each other while Shippou and Jaken continued to make strangled choking noises. Kagome really wished she could put her arm down, but her body seemed to have stopped obeying her commands.
They were motionless for perhaps another thirty seconds, and then so quickly she hardly had time to blink, Sesshoumaru lifted his arm and called forth his dakkaso whip. Kagome barely had time to squeak in terror before he whirled it around and lashed out. The very tip of it hit the middle of the water balloon still suspended above her head and she gasped as water soaked the top of her head, dripping down her face and into her eyes and ears.
If you'd asked Kagome later why she did what she did next, she wouldn't have had an answer for you. She simply didn't know. Maybe it was the deeply disapproving and superior look that Jaken gave her. Maybe it was the fact that she had one water balloon left and why waste it? Or maybe it was the barest hint of a smirk that crossed Sesshoumaru's face before he turned his back on her. There are some mysteries that will never be solved. All Kagome knew is that as Sesshoumaru turned away, moving in the direction of Kaede and Rin's shared hut, her limbs finally unfroze, and before she realized what she was doing, before she had time to really consider the consequences, before she even had time to take aim, Kagome had flung her final water balloon.
It hit Sesshoumaru squarely in the back of the head. He went rigid, back still to her so Kagome couldn't see his face. Jaken and Shippou, however, could see his face and the imp youkai fainted on the spot.
Shippou yelled, "Kagome, RUN!"
Her missing sense of self preservation returning full force, Kagome allowed her fight or flight response to take over as she whirled around and took a flying leap off the ox cart. Her feet never hit the ground. Something grabbed her from behind as she jumped, catching her up under the arms and propelling her straight up into the air at blinding speed. She shrieked at an earsplitting decibel all the way up.
"Let me go, let me go, let me go!" she screamed, twisting futilely in Sesshoumaru's steel grip.
"You wish this Sesshoumaru to let you go?" he asked stopping suddenly in mid-air.
Kagome took a short break from screaming to look down. They were perhaps two hundred feet above the village.
She opened her mouth again to shout that "NO!" she most certainly did not want him to let her go, but he spoke first.
"As you wish, Miko," he said and retracted his arms.
She screamed all the way back down, stopping only because Sesshoumaru jolted her hard enough to take her breath away when he caught her under the arms again ten feet above the ground. Kagome had time for a single glance at Shippou as he danced and flailed in full-blown panic before she was lifted back up to a height of fifty feet or so.
When Kagome had accidentally hit Sesshoumaru the first time, most of the village had thought the ensuing silence meant that whatever game the odd miko had devised this time was over and settled down for a nice nap or a good "when I was that age you wouldn't have caught me acting like a..." sort of conversation. When Kagome had hit Sesshoumaru on purpose with the second water balloon, most of the village mistook the following scream to mean they were being set upon by a horde of rampaging youkai that had started slaughtering people in the streets. In reality, it was just one youkai and he wasn't really on a rampage. He was just very intent on exacting retribution from a single, extremely disrespectful, and currently very unhappy miko.
"Put me down!" Kagome shouted, trying and failing to kick her abductor. She briefly considered trying to purify Sesshoumaru, but decided that fifty feet was still an awfully long way to fall and she very much doubted he'd catch her again if she blasted him with spiritual power.
He ignored her and flew on. Kagome continued to yell half-hearted demands as they passed over the rooftops of the village, and when that failed to draw any sort of reaction from Sesshoumaru, she moved straight on into a long litany of some of Inuyasha's most creative foul language. The villagers watched the unlikely pair's progress as the daiyoukai carried the screaming, kicking, and now cursing miko away from the village and out of sight.
That Kagome was a strange girl all right, make no mistake.
Eventually, Kagome realized she had no idea where Sesshoumaru was taking her, and stopped shrieking and struggling long enough to take a good look her surroundings. He wasn't moving all that quickly, but he was moving purposefully. Obviously he had a destination in mind. Wherever they were going, Kagome hoped they got there sooner rather than later because her arms were starting to go numb from the tightness of Sesshoumaru's grip.
After a mile or two of rice paddies and pastures, they began to descend and up ahead, growing ever closer, Kagome saw the sun reflecting off a small body of water. It was a small pond, shallow, muddy and covered in a thick film of sickly green algae. A few cows roamed close by, and Kagome thought it was a good bet that they both drank and bathed in the nasty water. It was in a word, disgusting. It was also, much to Kagome's growing horror, where they were headed.
"Oh, no!" she said, starting to twist ineffectually again. "Damn it, Sesshoumaru! You put me down right now!" They were getting very close now. "You had better not be thinking you're going to drop me in there!"
It was, in fact, exactly what Sesshoumaru was thinking, and he made his intentions very plain as he came to a stop, hovering above the middle of the pond with Kagome dangling over the scummy water.
"Nonononononoaaaaaaaaaah!" Kagome shrieked loudly as Sesshoumaru released her.
Out of reflex, she made a grab for anything that could possibly stay her descent into the smelly water, her hands automatically grasping the first thing they came in contact with, which unfortunately for Sesshoumaru, happened to be the trailing end of his Mokomoko. Several things occurred next, all in near simultaneous succession.
First, Kagome hit the water and sank to the shallow bottom, which she was thoroughly disgusted to note was covered in eight inches of something slimy, mushy, and probably consisting of two-thirds cow dung. Second, the Mokomoko pulled taught. Third, Sesshoumaru, realizing about a tenth of a second too late what was happening, was introduced to the laws of physics, which up until this point, he had spent most of his life blissfully ignoring.
Kagome was at that particular moment fully submerged and since there was no one in the surrounding fields, no one saw a thoroughly surprised Sesshoumaru suddenly being yanked out of mid-air to crash into a muddy cow pond. But that was probably for the best. Bearing witness to the humiliation of a daiyoukai was not something that one normally came out of alive. Even the cows, who had only the barest sense of what was going on, had started moving swiftly away.
Wet, outraged, and covered in muck, Kagome finally got her footing in the sludge at the bottom of the pond and stood up in the chest high water. Grumbling audibly, she wiped pond water out of her eyes and pushed up her sodden bangs with one hand. Her other hand seemed to still be gripping something soft and soggy, and she gazed at it confusedly for moment. Then she realized what it was and forgot how to breath. Slowing, reluctantly, unwillingly, Kagome followed the length of the Mokomoko with her eyes until they came to rest on the other end, which was still wrapped snugly around a very wet, very dirty, very angry Sesshoumaru.
Kagome let go of the Mokomoko.
Sesshoumaru towered over her, completely soaked through, tinges of green algae clinging to his once white kimono. His normally pristine hair hung around him in lank, greenish-silver chunks as he glowered ominously at her, beads of dirty water dripping from his chin and off the end of his nose. Even in his disheveled state, he was a terrifying sight, and Kagome probably would have been properly petrified if she hadn't looked up at the top of his head and caught sight of the large, very bemused frog sitting in a good-sized pile of dark green algae.
The frog, who had until about ninety seconds ago, been lazily swimming about, catching the odd fly and getting on with whatever it is frogs normally do on hot August afternoons, had suddenly found himself in a storm of thrashing water and had latched onto the only solid thing in the vicinity. Strangely enough, that happened to be the top of Sesshoumaru's head. This was not ideal, however; the frog was too far away from the water and the bountiful food supply contained therein, and now that things seemed to have settled down, he took the opportunity to return himself to a more familiar setting.
He hopped down, landed on Sesshoumaru's shoulder, let out a loud croak to voice his displeasure at having had his normal routine disrupted, and hopped again, disappearing into the the water with a small ripple. Kagome bit her lip, fighting the wild urge to laugh, and Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed. Then the clump of algae that the frog had been sitting in slid down the side of his head, caught briefly on his pointed ear, and fell with a soft splat onto this left shoulder.
Kagome lost it.
What had been a lurking giggle in the back of her throat, erupted into a long and loud belly laugh. She couldn't help it, bending double and positively howling until tears streamed down her face to mix with the pond water. After several minutes in which she was in imminent danger of slipping back under the water and drowning, Kagome's control finally asserted itself and she straightened up again, hiccuping slightly.
Sesshoumaru, who had remained motionless throughout the whole display, growled slightly. Against her better judgement, Kagome glanced at him again and her control promptly handed in its resignation: effective immediately. She floundered backward until she felt the bank of the pond at her back and scooted up onto dry ground, still absolutely screaming with mirth and showing what Sesshoumaru thought was an appalling lack of fear for her own life considering the situation.
Gathering the tattered remains of his pride, Sesshoumaru lifted out of the water and floated to the bank, landing next to Kagome and looking as stern as it was possible to look while wearing water-logged boots covered in gods knew what. He was a spectacular mess and the sight of him continued to send Kagome into fits of giggles until her stomach cramped. Finally she stood face to face with him, one hand pressed over her mouth to suppress the odd chuckle that seemed to keep bubbling up with no warning.
"I'm sorry," she said, not sounding very sorry at all, and reached up to brush the slimy clump of algae off his left shoulder. "Serves you right for throwing me into a cow pond though."
"Hmfph," said Sesshoumaru irritably.
An unnatural breeze swirled around him, lifting his hair and whipping his clothes back and forth as he used his youki to return to his usual immaculate appearance.
"Cheater," Kagome muttered darkly as smelly pond water continued to stream from her soggy clothes and hair.
He fixed her with a glare that had, to Sesshoumaru's continual dismay, failed to illicit the correct response from her for some years now. Clearly, being mated to his idiot half-brother had done her no favors.
She raised an eyebrow unconcernedly and asked with sincere curiosity, "Does it bother you that I'm not afraid of you anymore?"
"The feelings of one insignificant human female mean nothing to this Sesshoumaru," he said.
Kagome rolled her eyes. "You could've just said no."
He hmfphed again.
"Well," she said shifting slightly so her shoes made squelchy noises. "Thanks for the swim, big brother."
It was a nickname that never failed to annoy him. Unwilling to spend another minute in her infuriating presence, Sesshoumaru walked past her, feet leaving the ground as he prepared to fly back to the village. Rin would know by now that he had been there and would wonder why he had gone without seeing her. Also, his sensitive nose and ears had told him that they were about to be joined by a third individual that he had no particular desire to see on the best of days and certainly not after taking a forced dip in a muddy cow pond.
"Hey!" Kagome said indignantly. "Where are you going?"
"I would think that was obvious, Miko," he said, not bothering to turn around. "Enjoy your walk back to the village. If I am fortunate, I will have completed my business there before you make it back."
"You ass, Sesshoumaru!" she shouted after him, stamping one foot and nearly slipping on the wet grass for her trouble.
Fuming, Kagome started stomping in the direction Sesshoumaru had flown. There were at least two miles between the cow pond and the outskirts of Kaede's village, and she had best get started. Sighing heavily, Kagome reasoned that at least the scorching heat would dry her out quickly. She picked her way out of the long grass of the pasture and onto the dirt road, all the while muttering dark suppositions about Sesshoumaru's karma. After ten minutes, during which Kagome predicted that the daiyoukai would be reincarnated as a cockroach, she was distracted by the arrival of a much better option than walking.
A figure in red, moving in swift bounds and yelling her name at the top of his lungs, came into view and Kagome lifted a hand to her forehead, shielding her eyes and smiling as she watched her husband approach.
"Kagome!" he shouted as he skidded to a halt next to her. "What in seven hells happened? We got back to find Shippou hollerin' about you being kidnapped by Sesshoumaru, and I saw the bastard flying towards the village but he wouldn't tell me a damn thing about where you were."
For a moment, Kagome was ready to tell him the whole story, but the image of Sesshoumaru standing in the middle of the pond with a large frog on his head flashed through her mind and she decided that she wanted to keep this one to herself for a little while longer. Besides, she thought evilly, it would be nice to have something to hold over her arrogant brother-in-law's head.
"Hey!" Inuyasha waved a hand in front of her face, looking concerned. "You all right, Kagome?"
"Huh? What? Oh!" Kagome came back to present reality. "I'm fine, Inuyasha. Sesshoumaru didn't kidnap me."
"Then what the hell are you doing way the fuck out here?" Inuyasha demanded. "And why do you look like you went swimming with your clothes on?"
"Uh," Kagome thought hard, "I, uh... wanted to gather herbs for Kaede baa-chan!"
"Gather herbs for Kaede?" Inuyasha crossed his arms disbelievingly. "In this heat?"
"Yes!" Kagome said a bit defensively. "I wanted to gather herbs and because it was so hot, I asked Sesshoumaru to bring me out here so I wouldn't have to walk." She cringed inwardly. That sounded stupid even to her own ears.
Inuyasha seemed to have trouble swallowing it as well. "Sesshoumaru agreed to fly you out here?" he asked incredulously. "Why would he do that?"
"Because I asked nicely?" Kagome lied through her teeth.
"That still don't explain why you're all wet."
"I fell in the pond," said Kagome quickly. "I was trying to reach one of the water plants and I slipped."
"Okay..." Inuyasha glanced at the pond in the pasture and then back at her. "Then why did my asshole of a brother leave you out here all by yourself?"
"I asked him to," said Kagome. "I'm all gross and I didn't want to get his kimono all dirty. I told him I'd walk back."
The look on Inuyasha's face told her he still wasn't buying it.
"I'm fine!" Kagome reiterated. "Really, look." She held her arms out. "See, no damage."
"Ugh!" Inuyasha backed away a step, covering his nose with one billowing sleeve as her current stench wafted over him. "You smell like pond scum and cow shi –"
"Inuyasha..." Kagome said in a warning tone.
His ears flattened and he cringed, giving her what Kagome still thought of as his about-to-be-sat look even though the rosary beads that could have done it were long gone. She leaned close, putting her lips right next to one of his furry ears.
"Inuyasha," she said, "if I smell so terrible, why don't you take me to that nice shady spot by the river that you showed me last week?"
His eyes widened at the implications of that suggestion.
"Then I could get out of these clothes an – eep!" her sentence ended in a squeak as Inuyasha suddenly grabbed her and slung her unceremoniously onto his back. "Aren't you worried about your clothes?" she asked, giggling.
"Nah," said Inuyasha, turning his head enough so she could see his eyebrows waggle. "I'll just have to take mine off too."
And Kagome threw her head back and laughed as they bounded off towards the river.