You asked, pleaded, even sent one offer of a first born child, so I relented. (Also, please do not send me your children. Or beloved pets. Brownies and wine are acceptable.) Okay, it was less of a relenting and more that I was working on it anyway, but still, here it is. An epilogue for Second Alliance, but I swear this is the last post for that story. Seriously.
Epilogue: Choices Design Fate
“It’s sealed,” Kagome said quietly.
Sesshomaru pulled her back to lean against his chest, breathing in her scent. She smelled of sadness. The camphor stung his nose but the salt of her tears was light. She was not in danger of sobbing. More vibrant was the scent of freshly cut cherry wood and magnolia blossoms, barely open and heavy with dew. She sighed and allowed her weight to sag against him.
Overhead, stars shone brightly against a dark backdrop. The breeze was slight and cool, the weather unseasonably warm. Spring would come early this year – so Bokuseno had told him. The sap was stirring, the world ready to breath deep and begin to repair the wound left by Ryukostokken. Nearly a month had passed since the battle, and Sesshomaru was tired of the endless meetings and ceremonies. They were worth his time, however. Each night since they had returned to the Western Palace, he excused himself when the sun set. Regardless of the state of the discussion or the importance of his guests, he returned to his private quarters before the last glow of orange had left the sky.
There Kagome was always waiting for him. The pups would be finishing supper, and implore him to eat with them. And she would smile and offer to fill his bowl. Or they would be preparing for bed, and Kagome would watch as he patted heads and left the mark of his youki upon them. Or, as the days grew a bit longer, she would be reading quietly, and set down her scroll or book when he came in, offering tea. And then, he took her to their rooms, and showed her how much he cared for her. Never had Sesshomaru felt so at peace.
Their mating, the official ceremony, was to take place on the next full moon. Sesshomaru knew she was missing her family, thinking of the human ceremony that would have been theirs if time was not an obstacle. He had nearly had to force her to come to the well, on the first new moon after the battle. She insisted that she wouldn’t try it, even if the magic was still active, but he wanted her to have the opportunity. He thought she should go see her family, even if the well would not accept him, and let them know that she was safe, and that he would protect her. Until she could be together with them again.
“That’s it then?” Inuyasha asked abruptly. He perched on the edge of the well, his dark hair falling over the ancient wood. His pose was not encumbered by the loss of a limb, which he refused to allow Kagome to heal. The hanyou bluffed that she would burn him, which was most likely untrue, but Sesshomaru was thankful for the reprieve. His miko had been pushing herself hard since the war to deal with injuries and youkai seeking assistance to conceive.
“Is that it? Idiot! Try to be a little more sensitive!” Kagome slapped at his half-brother’s arm, and the hanyou scowled.
“Ow, hey that hurts when I’m human!” He rubbed his arm, but his face softened. Sesshomaru had begun to notice that Inuyasha was far more open and emotional when his youki was suppressed. “Sorry, Kagome. Me and my big mouth. I wasn’t thinking.”
“It’s okay,” she sighed. “I’ll just miss them. I should feel grateful.” She turned her head up to stare at him, and he was lost for a moment in the sparkle of stars in her blue eyes, “and I am, so much.” Her voice was soft and her scent full of the sweet smell of carnations and warm gardenias. She turned back to Inuyasha, “But knowing that I might live to see them again doesn’t make the distance any easier.”
“I miss ‘em too,” Inuyasha said gruffly. “’Specially your mom. And her cooking.”
“Inuyasha!” Kagome began to laugh, and Sesshomaru relaxed. She would be all right, and she would meet her family again, he swore that to himself.
“I don’t see why I have to be here for this. It’s sappy – and gross to think about Kagome and the ice pr – ah, Sesshomaru,” Inuyasha grumbled, blushing. He shifted his weight against the wooden staff that helped him to walk since he had lost his foot.
Kimi smirked and reached out to straighten the collar of his formal robes. He looked spectacular, and she could not help but see Toga’s face for a moment, peering out through those golden eyes. She blinked, and Inuyasha’s scowl was back in focus. The mating ceremony was far more private than the announcement of their intentions had been, but it was tradition for the packs of the two soon-to-be-mates to listen to their pledges and offer blessings. Inuyasha was part of Sesshomaru’s pack, officially, and also, she supposed, part of Kagome’s pack – rather more unofficially.
“Sappy,” she drew the word out, just to draw attention to it and watch the hanyou flounder, “this is another word from Kagome’s village, yes? Why is it that their language is so strange, and yet so like our own, do you think?”
Predictably, Inuyasha glanced around like a cornered rabbit and blurted out the first thing he could think of. “Ah, so it takes a long time to decorate for these things. Looks great, I mean, you did a great job. Or I mean – your servants, or, er…people, with…things.”
Kimi laughed, delighted. “Thank you, son-of-my mate. Aina helped with the decorations, as did the children. I think they look quite lovely as well.” She paused to consider the twinkling green stars that Shippo had produced and stuck into all of the bare trees in the garden. Rin had designed a large bower and covered it with the last of the winter greens and a few early spring flowers. The light from the full moon reflected off of the floor which Aina had charmed to appear like water. “Although, you should be careful. I believe young Shippo has concocted several rather mischievous ideas for your own mating ceremony, when the time comes.”
“Keh,” Inuyasha shrugged thoughtlessly, “doubt that’ll be an issue. Not likely to mate, being hanyou.”
“Do not take such a dour view of your own future, Inuyasha-san. Your Lord has already received an offer to see you well mated.” Kimi had to pinch the flesh of her hands to keep from laughing at the outrage on Inuyasha’s face.
“One of the human lords has an eligible daughter. The alliance would be most advantageous. And she is quite pretty, I am told, for a human.”
“Fucker,” Inuyasha muttered with vehemence.
“Hn,” Kimi’s eyes sparkled with mirth. “But you do not even know her.” After a few tense moments while her double entrende sank in, the hanyou’s face, predictably, turned as red as his haori.
Kagome remembered very little about the mating ceremony. Inuyasha and Kimi were there, with the children. Rin had cried; Shippo had behaved himself. Emi fell asleep on Kimi’s shoulder before it even began. Sango and Miroku stood to one side, the slayer’s belly just beginning to show a small bulge. They both glowed with happiness. Aki and Kento had bowed when she came into the courtyard. Hisao had shushed Nankae after his loud exclamation of, “Whoa, ‘Gome!” Kaede had made the long journey on Kirara to bless the couple, and stood on the dais near Sesshomaru.
He took her breath away. It was good that she knew the order of the ceremony – had been to many, many Shinto weddings at her family shrine – and Kimi and Kento had lectured her on the youkai aspects until she had them memorized. She must have responded correctly, bowed and nodded, spoken and remained silent when she was supposed to, but it was her intended, her fiancée, that stood out in her mind. He wore a gold kimono. No decorations disturbed the rich color, but the sleeves and collar exposed a red under-kimono, and another layer of black below that. His obi was wide and purple, the material intricately embroidered with red and gold chrysanthemums overlaid with a hexagonal pattern. Four crests were detailed in black, signifying the House of the Crescent Moon, the Tashio family, the West, and Japan.
The color emphasized the pure white of his skin and hair, and the gold of his eyes. As always in public, his expression remained calm, but when her eyes met his she could see the warmth there, the crinkling at the corners that indicated a smile. His youki wrapped around her, warming her in the brisk night air and making her feel safe and loved. She barely felt the press of the ceremonial tanto against her skin as she made a shallow cut on her palm. Sesshomaru spoke, vowed that he would heal all wounds and hold her to him for the remainder of his life. He cupped the back of her hand in his and raised it to his mouth. His breath was warm and his tongue both soothing and sensual as he licked the wound. His saliva began to work quickly to seal it, the small pain disappearing almost instantly. Then he tucked her hand into his elbow and took the knife, quickly slicing his own flesh. Kagome repeated the words. She had been hesitant, before the ceremony, to taste his blood, but with his eyes on her, his youki around her, it did not seem anything but natural. Her reiki rose to her lips, healing him as he had her.
Kaede poured the sake. Sesshomaru drank first, and Kagome imagined she could taste his lips on the bowl when he offered it to her. The old miko gave a blessing. Then they bowed to one another and embraced in front of everyone, whispering their own promises to each other.
“I will always love you, Sesshomaru,” Kagome said. The scent of cloves was faint and tantalizing. “I will be the strongest, the wisest, the most compassionate I am capable of – for you. And for myself. I will share your burdens and responsibilities. Your joys. Everything that I am, I offer to you. My mind. My body. My heart.” She brushed her nose along his jaw and Sesshomaru mirrored the action, bending even lower so that he could speak in her ear.
“As you are mine. I am yours. No power, no enemy, no time shall separate us. Everything that I am already belongs to you. My wealth. My power. My strength.” He rumbled something else, in the language of the inu, then finished, “My thoughts. My body. My heart. My eternity and the next shall be yours.” What happened after that was a blur of congratulations and blessings. Sips of sake and bites of sweet fruit and rich meat. Kagome remembered nothing specific except the pull of Sesshomaru’s youki on her reiki and the echo of his words deep in her chest, making her pulse beat erratically and her thoughts glaze. My heart. Sesshomaru loved her. He loved her. Her own love for him swelled and heated at the knowledge. He was hers, as she was his.
Hours later, or perhaps only a few minutes after the obligatory meal with their pack, Sesshomaru escorted her to their room. The children had been temporarily relocated to another portion of the shiro, where Inuyasha would read bedtime stories before he had to leave for duties in the East. Kimi had agreed to oversee the West for the traditional honeymoon period – which for youkai was an actual moon cycle. Although Kagome had been tantalized by the idea, and Sesshomaru had suggested uses for the time that had made her blush vividly, they had both agreed that in the aftermath of the war they should forego such a long period of seclusion. Three days was all they had afforded themselves, and they intended to make the most of that time.
Sesshomaru closed the screens quietly behind them, and his barrier rose. Stillness settled in the room and Kagome felt her breath hitch. Although it would not be the first time they had sex – far from it, Kagome thought and heat gathered between her legs – she still felt a flutter of anxiety, or perhaps anticipation. Maybe both. She waited, biting her lower lip to try to contain a ridiculous blush, while he stared at her. The passion in his gaze was searing.
“Allow me to assist you,” he said. The deep rumble of his voice sent a shiver down her spine. Definitely anticipation.
Sesshomaru had to force himself to concentrate on the congratulations and blessings of his pack, on consuming the correct amount of sake and meat to show his appreciation for the ceremony – for the bounty that would come from his mating. It was an effort in futility. She was beautiful, but Kagome was always beautiful. There were other females that could surpass her under a clinical assessment of their features, but under the light of the full moon she outshined them all. His miko, his mate, glowed from within. Even after the visible sign of her reiki had faded, she still appeared lit with emotion. Some combination of moonlight and power and the happiness that he could smell wafting from her skin gave her a luminosity that was nearly blinding.
Blinding, but he could not stop his gaze from returning to her over and over again. The taste of her blood was still faintly present in his mouth. Her power tingled under his skin. Her scent was drugging.
As soon as was acceptable, or perhaps a bit before that, Sesshomaru led Kagome away from the courtyard and back to their private rooms. His instincts were predatory and watchful, waiting for the moment when he could claim her, leave his mark upon her and have hers on him. As he closed the screens to their room behind him, she turned, the soft whisper of silk on wood an enticement to his senses. Her gold kimono was heavily decorated on the long sleeves and at the hem with full, red flowers and new, pink buds. The precisely folded obi was the green of fresh spring and the golden symbols of his house and hers, and the West, were carefully worked into the scene on the silk. Aki had outdone herself. Gold mountains fell into rich, shadowed purple valleys. Tiny trees dotted the landscape, rivers flowed across it and past a miniature shrine. Hidden in the stitches of foliage, too small for human eyes to see, were miniscule creatures. An upturned nose peeked out from one side of a trunk; two mischievous tails emerged from the other. Within a meadow of purple and red flowers, the shoulder of an orange kimono and a windblown black knot of hair were buried. At the edge of the shrine, two figures were entwined in the shadow of a silver boomerang. High in the tallest pine, an outline in red, with silver hair flowing in an unseen breeze. And at the center, sheltered by a magnolia tree studded with tiny flowers, the spider youkai had created two figures. Red and white clothing stood out against the green background while silver and black hair twined together.
He allowed his eyes to follow the story told by her clothing while he took in her scent. Cherry wood, freshly cut. White blossoms, heavy with dew. Sweet Carnations. Spicy Cinnamon. Satsuma oranges. He wanted her, but it was far more than lust for her body. Though that is no small part, he acknowledged silently. He wanted to be with her, to watch as she continued to grow in strength and skill. To see her raise Rin and Shippo, watch her with their unborn pups, help her to teach them to survive, to live, to thrive. He wanted to see if she would ever learn how to properly tie obi. He wanted to catch her every time she tripped over her own feet. He wanted to know her thoughts – even when her speech seemed incessant and inconsequential. Even when he was torn between kissing her or muzzling her simply for peace, he still wanted to be with her. He wanted to share in her burdens, to ease them and soothe her pains. Even those of her heart.
Four months previous, he had sought her out to heal his child. At the time, he had found her to be intelligent and powerful, tolerable above any other female he was not related to, and some he was – even if she spent too much time with his half-brother. But he could not have conceived of what she would become to him. Of how he would come to know her and want – need – her beside him. She was his match. Not his opposite, but his equal. His miko. His Lady. His Kagome.
Sesshomaru let his eyes linger on the soft skin of her neck, just above her collar, before he traced the plump bow of her mouth – the bottom lip nearly punctured by blunt white teeth. The sight sent another pulse of heat through him. Youki throbbed without thought and reiki responded. The scent of an ocean breeze was accompanied by a spike of her passionate spice. Sesshomaru found his clothing was suddenly too restricting, as was hers. It was his right, his duty, as her mate to see to her comfort, her needs. He looked forward to centuries of the responsibility. He caught her blue gaze.
“Allow me to assist you,” he said. He held out his hand, and her fingers were cool as they slid across his palm, the faint callouses from her bow sending a delicious rasp across his skin.
“I don’t know why I’m nervous,” she confessed with a self-deprecating smile. It fell away, her lips barely parted, as he drew her closer to him. “I’ve been thinking about this all day,” she whispered.
“Only that long?” he murmured, dipping his head to hers. Then his mouth touched her lips and she sighed against him. The faint traces of her anxiety all but disappeared as she leaned into him. The layers of her kimono separated them, frustrating his desire to touch her, taste her, feel all of her against him. He knew he should move slowly. Despite their more frequent nights tangled together since the battle of Inawashiro, Kagome was still not fully prepared for the untampered lust of an inudaiyoukai. They had days ahead of them, he knew he should pace himself. Coax her, tease her, prime her for his need which had been growing since he claimed her in front of his pack. Her tongue darted out to lick at his lips, and for a moment Sesshomaru forgot his resolve. He crushed her to him, bending over her and delving into her mouth. He tasted her deeply and even as it satisfied one urge it spurred another, more primal, more insistent craving.
“Sesshomaru,” she moaned his name as he allowed her a moment to breathe. He did not bother with air for himself, but seamlessly moved his mouth to her jaw, down to her neck, to the joint with her shoulder, just under her clothing. The taste of her was exquisite, the feel of her smooth, cool skin a taunt to his most instinctual drive. His fangs felt large in his mouth. Saliva pooled in his cheeks even as blood pooled in his core. Youki surged from his hand to hers, from the palm that had cupped her bottom to slide under her skin and into the core of her. She was delicious, outside and in, and each press of flesh and shared inhalation and intimate sweep of power drove his hunger higher.
“Sesshomaru!” Her hands fluttered at his shoulders, skimmed down his back as far as she could reach and up into his hair, wandering and seeking. Even through the heavy layers of formal clothing, he could pick out the rising salty musk of her need. His cock hardened painfully in response and he had to rip himself away from her before his desire overcame him. Her eyes fluttered open in confusion, still clouded with want.
“Come,” he said, tugging lightly on her hand. Kagome’s blue irises darkened, the centers growing as he uttered that simple word. He had not intended any meaning beyond her following him, but he had to swallow a groan at her reaction. Soon, he promised himself. Often. “Let me assist you,” he repeated roughly. She followed him on stumbling feet to the kimono stand. He removed her clothing carefully, reverently, taking the time to breathe her in and center himself as he went through practiced and functional motions. Each successive layer revealed more of her figure, more of her scent. She was trembling when he finally knelt before her to remove her socks. Only a short, translucent yukata remained between her skin and his. He found his face only inches from her as he took her ankle carefully into his hands and stripped first one foot, then the other. She had braced her hands on him – one against his shoulder, the other resting lightly on his hair. He wanted her to know, without any doubt, the depth of his feeling for her. To know what she was to him.
“I have waited for you, Kagome,” he said quietly, pressing a kiss to the thin skin just under her ankle. She sucked in air and her nails scraped against his scalp. The words were for her, but his actions were almost entirely for his own selfish pleasure. He ran his nose along the curve of her calf, rubbing his scent against her, until he reached her knee. Gently, he pulled her leg to the side, his grip firm but careful. The movement released a burst of salt and musk, and he rested his forehead against her leg for a moment, re-centering himself. His lips found the soft skin behind her knee and he kissed her there, then nipped lightly, drawing a shocked, short giggle from his mate. The sound was pleasant, the smell of her happiness and excitement stirring and gratifying at the same time.
“Seven centuries,” he continued, his voice deeper. His tongue wrote hidden messages across her inner thigh, the wet trails drawing a shiver from her. When he reached the hem of her yukata, he stopped, only to press his open mouth where fine silk ended just inches past the juncture of her legs. The scent of her was overwhelming him. Lush, thick spice and citrus flooded his nose and swirled into his lungs. The flavor of her desire coated his tongue and urged him to find more – not just her emotions but the taste of her body as well. “I did not know that I was missing you, until I found you.”
A drop of liquid, the thin honey of her need, slid down her skin. He followed its progress with his nose and ears, unavoidable to imagine the sight as the intimate whisper of her readiness called to him. He was waiting at the hem of her garment, and caught it on his tongue as soon as it appeared. Salt and musk, the faint iron of her blood, the sweet fullness of her flavor exploded in his mouth. A rumble of pleasure passed from him to her leg, and her fingers tightened in his hair.
“Sess-sesshomaru,” she gasped. Where the first drop had forged a path, others followed, a river of Kagome’s lust made for him alone. He growled and glanced up at her. Red lips, wet from her tongue and still stained with balm. Eyes blown wide and dark, outlined with kohl. Cheeks flushed pink, the color bleeding down her neck and onto her chest. For him. Because of him. He hooked her knee over his shoulder, freeing his hands to reach for the tie to her garment.
“I will wait no longer,” he promised her, promised himself, as the loose belt fell away and silk parted over skin. One half of her remained immodestly concealed behind the transparent fabric – caught on her upraised thigh and the rigid peak of her breast. The other he pushed aside, smoothing across her belly and around her waist, forcing the cloth to slip off her shoulder. The gleam of lantern light on her flesh was mesmerizing, the shadow below one full globe intriguing. His claws brushed against the heavy weight of her breast, seeking and finding the eager pink nipple that she thrust into his hand. “No longer,” he repeated, holding her gaze even as his tongue moved back to her skin, seeking her desire. “You are mine,” he vowed.
“Yes,” she whispered, “yours and you-oh!”
He found the crease between her leg and the most intimate part of her and pressed his cheek against her body. She bucked, involuntarily, grinding her mound against him. The brush of soft hair on his skin and the fresh burst of her scent drove him to the brink. The hand on her breast tightened reflexively, drawing another gasp from her, while his other fingers slid from her leg, down and around to find the cleft of her body. With careful claws he parted her, running the smooth backs of his deadly nails along her moist folds. When he reached her opening, he nearly slipped in the wealth of heat and liquid she made for him. A rumble of satisfaction started in his chest; he did not deny himself. Sesshomaru turned his mouth toward her, cupping her bottom and tilting her hips to give him full access to all she offered. The first long, slow lick against her was torture. The second heaven. By the third she was panting his name. He delved inside her, lapping up her juices and satisfying his own thirst. It was the work of only a moment to clip the claws of his first two fingers. He used them to replace his tongue and free his mouth to seek out the tender, swollen berry just above her entrance. Sesshomaru pulled it into his mouth to the sound of her indrawn breath. He pumped his fingers gently to the grasping of her hand on his shoulder. He sucked and swirled and she cried out. His control was slipping, his body hard and tense, but he demanded her pleasure first. He pinched her nipple and thrust with more force inside her. She went rigid. He flicked his tongue and curled his fingers and she flew apart.
“Sess-” He had to move quickly to catch her as her knees gave out, but mokomoko curled against her back and eased her to the floor. Her chest was heaving, her eyes struggling to open. Sesshomaru’s blood was pounding, his very nature demanding he find completion inside her. Still, he held himself back, taking in her flushed skin and the lips she had abused with her own teeth. He loved her. There was nothing else that could compare, that could wholly ensnare him, that could crush his heart from the inside out with the fullness it had for her. Her breathing slowed and her eyes fully opened, a soft smile curling her mouth. “My turn,” she murmured. Sesshomaru growled.
Kagome undressed her daiyoukai as slowly as she dared, draping his clothes carefully over the kimono stand. She caressed and kissed every inch of skin as it was revealed and basked in the sounds he made as she did so. She would have taken him in her mouth – was eager to taste him again, to make him lose control with her – but he halted her actions with a snarling string of inu and carried her into the bath.
It had been prepared before they left the ceremony, and although Kagome loved hot water more than almost anything, she was frustrated by his denial of her. Until he seated himself, helpfully offering her a dish to rinse him with. She could not help but grin. Happiness and laughter pushed up alongside the love and lust to burst out into a chuckle. “Enjoyed that the first time, did you?”
“Hn.” His response made her laugh again, but then he pushed her down to her knees, between his spread legs, and the humor faded quickly. He was magnificent. Beautiful. Perfect. The long, lean muscles of his legs flexed as she poured water over him. The markings at his hips and collarbones grew darker and jagged as his breath became uneven. She washed him thoroughly – everywhere but his hair – and stirred herself up just as much as him. Kagome saved what she wanted most for last. Warm water first, that made him bare his teeth. His cock twitched under the onslaught. Her mouth watered. She soaped her hands, leaving the bar on the floor and cupping him. Suds made her hands slippery, and she watched, fascinated just as she had been the first time, as he slid between her palms. The soft, white hair at the base of him was short and framed skin tight, full, and heavy for her. Kagome kept one hand on hime while she rinsed away the soap. She felt powerful and feminine, secure in the knowledge that his body was waiting for her. Ready for her. Her fingers slid around the silky skin of his shaft; the hard heat of him nearly burning her. Her thumb and second finger could not quite meet, and so she twisted slowly as she stroked toward the head.
“I am yours, Sesshomaru,” she said, determined to finish what she had started to say before he had buried his face against her. Her gaze flicked up to meet his, and found the gold dark and narrow behind lowered lids. His jaw was hard, the muscles flexing, straining against the restrictions he had placed on himself. Fangs, sharp and white and deadly, hung over his lip, pricking the flesh. He looked like a demon on the edge. I can do better, she thought wickedly. Her hand reached the end of him, and she smoothed her thumb over the head of his cock, dragging the pad through his precum. “And you, Sesshomaru,” she whispered, leaning close and holding eye contact. She began the journey back to his base, twisting again as she pulled the foreskin back. He bared his teeth and sucked in a breath as cool air hit his sensitive flesh. Firmly, she squeezed his balls, rolling a little as she leaned forward to let her words brush across his cock. “You are mine.” He growled, and his hands left the abused wooden shelf behind him in an attempt to seize her, but Kagome had seen it coming. Her lips were already open and over him, her tongue dancing across the hole, catching up salty liquid, before he could touch her.
“Ka-go-me,” he ground out. That was the last word he spoke that she understood. The rest was growls and rumbles, purrs and moans. His reaction was enough for her, and she would not have made sense of anything he wanted to say if he had spoken plainly. She was far to entranced by the taste and feel of him, by the convulsive clench of his muscles when she swirled her tongue just right. The ripple of his abdomen when she tugged lightly on his sac. The prickle of claws thrust into her hair as she found the hypersensitive tendon on the back of his swollen head and stroked. She ignored the first ache of her jaw because his hand tightened painfully against her scalp, causing pins to fly out and ping against the floor. She moved her hands in tandem with the swirl-swirl-stroke-suck of her mouth and it was only moments before he came with a shout and an explosion of youki that exhilarated her. She caught the first mouthful, but had to let him go to swallow. The rest landed on her chest, but Kagome kept ahold of her prize even as he finished. She watched him, a sense of pride and possessive ownership overcoming her, as his eyes slowly opened again. A drop of blood on his mouth, from where his own fang had punctured a lip, welled up and rolled down his chin to drip onto his sternum.
“As I was saying,” she smirked, “all mine.”
“Hn,” he leaned forward suddenly, tipping her head back with the fingers still tangled in her hair and wrapping his other arm around her back to pull her out of her seiza and up to meet his face. Mokomoko twined around her legs, the tickling slide of silky fur a deliciously sinful thing. “I intended to take you first,” he stated and she felt a surge of arrogance that she had ruined his plans so easily, “your antipodal behavior-”
“Antipodal?” She could not help but repeat him, slightly affronted and more than a little amused. She saw it coming in the quirk of his brow even before he spoke.
“I know what it means, Sesshomaru.” She rolled her eyes. It was strange, and becoming familiar, to feel irritation even while she was aching for his touch. “I am not obstin-”
He nipped at her mouth, cutting her words off. “Do not interrupt your alpha.” She would have retorted, but the sparkle of humor in his eyes combined with the quirk of his lips and the stroke of soft fur on her thigh to shut her up. “Your contrary nature is beneficial, this time. I now have the control to make you cry out my name until your voice is no more.” He pressed closer, his lips brushing hers as he spoke and Kagome could feel the increasing hardness of his length against her belly and the rush of moisture between her legs. “Then, my miko, only then I will fill you.” Her lips fell open, her eyes wide but unable to focus on him – so close they were together. Her heart was beating fast, and although she could still taste a faint trace of him on her tongue, still felt the excruciatingly wonderful ache of her own flesh, she wanted him. Now. “Are you ready, Kagome?” She nodded, screw dignity, and he kissed her. She was breathless and eager for more when he stood, bringing her with him. “Not yet,” he whispered.
He washed her. Coated her body with soap that cleansed her scent of everything but her, and then covered her skin with his hands and his mouth to drench her in his musk. Carefully he wet a cloth and wiped the smudged traces of cosmetics from her face. He untangled her hair and gently scrubbed it with the last of her concoction from the future. Grooming her was as satisfying as it was stimulating. Caring for his mate even as he pushed her need. Readied her for him.
She was begging by the time he was done and his own body was demanding a second release. He took his time, however, carrying her to their futon and kissing her again. Mapping her mouth and the sharp angle of her collarbone. Tracing the slope of her breast and the curve of her waist. Tasting the hollow at the back of her knee and the ticklish spot in the arch of her foot. He was drowning in the sensation of her when he finally pressed her legs apart. She immediately hooked her free foot behind him, digging into his backside with her heel and demanding his compliance with action and fiery looks. He denied her, continuing to sample her ankle with his lips before allowing it to rest on his shoulder. Her eyes widened, and he knew she was surprised at the position. She was open before him as she had never been before. He sat back on his heels, letting his eyes rove what belonged to him, just as she had done with what was hers.
“Beautiful,” he growled. And she was. Glowing with passion and misted from exertion. The salt of her light sweat made him thirst. Her lips as red and swollen from his attention as the peaks of her breasts. The pale skin across her belly jumped under his claws as he caressed her. He splayed the fingers of one hand around her hip to press into the generous swell of her bottom, repositioning her slightly and tilting her up for him. With the other he gripped her thigh, pulling her leg away from his hip to part her further. The neat, dark triangle of hair beckoned him, dripping with moisture and unable to hide the responsive little morsel of flesh engorged from his attention or the parted lips, flushed with blood and waiting for penetration. Youki surged under his skin, escaping his control and flooding the room with a green light that washed across her features and caught in the liquid that dripped from her opening. Her power responded, the ocean breeze of reiki blowing back his hair and cooling his overheated skin.
“You too,” she gasped, as their energy continued to grow and build. Her hands fisted in the bedclothes, her hair splayed in damp tendrils across his fur. Holy power skated across his skin, caressing, sliding into him and urging him forward – into her. The first press of his skin against hers was exquisite anguish. Wet, warm sex slipping across his burning head and coating him in her honey. “Ah-oh!” She cried out, attempting to lift her hips up to him. He forcefully held her in place. Waiting. Open. Hungry.
“Look at me, Kagome.” Her eyes had fallen closed but snapped open at his rough words. He wasn’t sure if he was speaking, or commanding in his own language, but she understood, her passion-darkened gaze meeting his. He sank into her, clenching his jaw against the almost undeniable urge to thrust hard, to take her in one motion and bury himself in her softness. With each inch, her body embraced him, pulling him deeper and adjusting around his intrusion. The noises she made – tiny mewls of need, moans of pleasure, sharp inhalations of want – they seized his control and shook him to his very core. When at last he was seated to the hilt, he broke from her gaze to glance down at her body where it parted for him. He could feel sweat on the back of his neck – tension from the effort to hold himself still in her, to make the moment last as long as possible. To make the act one not only of claiming and passion, but of commitment and love. He rocked his hips, twisting slightly, and watched with approval as the muscles of her stomach and thighs clenched and she cried out his name.
He turned his face back, only to find her eyes closed again as she panted with need. “Look at me,” he demanded. He waited until he had her attention to speak again, “I love you, Kagome.” Her scent blossomed around him, making him heady with the sweet spice that thickened the air. Her eyes widened, and then inexplicably filled with tears. He froze, uncertain for a moment if he had miscalculated. He had wanted her to know, to hear him say what was in his heart. He had needed to say it plainly for her. Tears were not expected.
“I love you, too,” she rasped. “Sessho-maru,” her voice broke on his name, but the smell of camphor sadness was absent. She smiled, tremulous and beaming with joy. “So much, Sesshomaru. You don’t have to say it. I just, I mean, I-”
“Cease speaking,” he grumbled, pleased and relieved that he had taken the correct course of action. The human that had changed his mind, thawed his heart, cradled his body, was still attempting to have a conversation, her lips moving but the words stilted and unintelligible around broad smiles and sniffs. Sesshomaru was mildly insulted that her attention could be diverted so long as he was inside her. He withdrew, slowly, and thrust back in with more force – bringing an end to any words that were not ‘yes’, ‘please’, ‘more’, and his name. It was not long – too long, not long enough – before he felt pressure building at the base of his spine. Youki and reiki swirled in the room pressing against each other and seeping under their skins.
“Please, please, please,” she whispered, the column of her throat arching up as she tried to urge him faster, harder. Sesshomaru reached between their bodies, finding the bundle of sensation that would take her over the edge. As he withdrew, he dipped his fingers in their combined moisture and then circled the nub of flesh, drawing a soundless scream from his mate. He thrust back in, once, twice, gritting his teeth against the luscious grip of her, and pressed down –pinching her lightly. She screamed in earnest then, her back flying off of the bedding and her breasts thrust toward him. He caught one in his mouth, sucking and nipping as she shuddered through her climax. His need continued to build, his energy flooding the room as he feasted on her flesh. He lay her back down, pressing one of her knees flat to the ground and placing her own hand on top of it to hold it there. He removed her other leg from his shoulder, gripping her behind her thigh and forcing her as open as possible.
Her body was young and strong, prepared by all they had done together in the last month and she accommodated him as he found a new angle, a new depth. She gasped, then moaned, each of his thrusts bringing them both closer to a shared end. He slid his free hand under her shoulders, gripping her and holding her tight to meet him as he increased his force. He caressed her cheek with his own, leaning down to speak into her ear. Mine. Mate. Yours.
All of him was in the room with her, the massive beast that he was condensed to pure energy, and she matched it, called to him. Took him eagerly. Her power rose as well, surging in harmony with him, accepting him. The building tension in his spine reached a breaking point, his seed compressed and ready to burst. Sesshomaru took the juncture of her neck and shoulder between his teeth and bit – as gently as he could. The room around them exploded and all he could hear was his howl drowning out Kagome’s muffled scream. His nose knew only the scent of their bodies joined together. The sensation of her blunt teeth on his chest, the near-strangulating grasp of her body milking him as he found release. His tongue tasted her skin and a drop of her blood. He could see only the white light of their power searing around them, surrounded by a halo of darkness as he collapsed against her.
Some time later, he became aware of the insistent tap of her fingers against her shoulder. She was speaking – again, but it was muffled even to his ears. Sesshomaru sighed against her hair, his languid contentment not disturbed in the least by the peppery irritation that floated over the thick layers of spent power and sex that clouded the room. He rolled her with him, keeping them joined as he was unwilling to leave her body even though he knew she should rest before they repeated the act. She pushed against him, struggling to sit up and managing only to press her elbow into his ribs and brush a wild tangle of hair out of her face.
“You’re too heavy,” she complained softly before relaxing against his chest.
“Hn,” he acknowledged her. In truth, he would never have allowed her to support his weight if he had not lost consciousness for a few moments. It was both disconcerting and a stroke to his ego that their mating – the full joining of their power – had such an effect on him. He assumed she had been equally overcome. Sesshomaru tucked one arm under his head and eyed her critically. Her eyes were heavy lidded and still glazed with pleasure. Her lips were dark and swollen, the hair around her face damp with sweat. Her neck was exposed, and he the sight of the small puncture there, already beginning to heal from his saliva, was fulfilling like nothing he had known before. He could sense his youki in her, stemming from the places they had been joined, and circulating throughout her body. A part of him would always be with her. He found an equal measure of reiki in himself, and the caress of her power inside him stirred his blood. Humans need rest, he reminded himself. “I will not be so affected next time, so you will not be uncomfortable.”
His claws trailed down her spine to dance along the upper curve of her bottom. She shifted slightly, her muscles tightening around him and drawing a sharp breath of nearly painful pleasure from him. “You think so?” Her voice sounded amused, but her expression was forced into a contradictory frown. “I’ll have to really apply myself then. To make sure you are completely affected.” He let loose a rumble to reprimand her, even as he began to grow harder.
“If you are any more diligent, you may kill me.”
One of her hands held her chin, her elbow pressing sharply into his sternum. Her other hand trailed down his side, working under him to grip his thigh and pull up. He allowed the movement, and was surprised by the sudden shift of her weight, dropping her legs between his and pressing his swiftly growing erection more deeply into her. “Mmm – Hn,” she moaned then agreed, a mischievous, sultry sparkle in her eyes, “Just to be safe, maybe I should be on top.”
Sesshomaru reflected, much, much later that night, that he had indeed chosen his mate well. She matched him in every capacity. Repeatedly.
“Push, Sango,” Kagome smiled encouragingly at her friend. Kaede sat by Kagome’s side, her vast experience with delivering babies a relief for the younger miko. Kagome had received training in the future, and knew vastly more about techniques and potential illness, but it seemed unimportant once the screaming and cursing had started. Aina had come with her, to help occupy the children while they waited to meet their little cousin, and Sango had allowed the demon into the hut. Kagome was grateful for that too. Aina and Sango had become friends, and it was better that Sango turn her warrior’s grip on a demon hand than a human one.
“I. AM. Pushing.” Sango glared daggers at Kagome, but her expression of anger quickly melted into one of pained acceptance. Her grimace grew as the contraction took longer than any of the others, and ended with a short scream of defiance.
“Almost there, child,” Kaede murmured.
Sango panted. “Get out, already!” Her furious gaze was back, now directed at her belly. “I blame your father for this! Patience isn’t always a virtuuuue!”
“I can see the head!” Kagome was equally excited and fearful. Two more hard pushes and the baby was out. Kaede took over cleaning it while Kagome worked through another contraction with her friend.
“Why isn’t it over?!” Sango moaned. Sweat ran in rivulets down her temples, soaking her hair and yukata.
“We talked about this, Sango,” Kagome said, running her hand over the slayer’s belly to check for issues. “Twins mean twice as much pushing, but twice as much love.”
“Good,” Sango panted. “Because I am never having sex agaiiin!” Her wail was louder than even before, and a commotion outside the hut alerted Kagome that Miroku had probably heard his wife’s declaration. In minutes, there was another tiny infant. Kaede began to clean that one, who screamed as soon as she took a deep breath. Kagome took over with the first child, a boy. He was quiet, and already blinking sleepily. “Are they okay?” Sango’s exhaustion was pushed aside with the anxiety that had plagued her pregnancy – sure that she would miscarry, sure that she would die in childbirth, sure that the children would be born too weak to survive. Kaede encourage her through the last few necessary pushes to deal with the afterbirth while Kagome carefully listened to the heart and lungs, looked in the eyes, nose and mouth. Checked the ears and reflexes. Took his temperature.
“Perfect,” she whispered, smiling through the tears blurring her vision. She wrapped him in a thin cloth and turned back to the worried mother. “He’s perfect, Sango.” After putting the boy in his mother’s arms, she took the wailing girl from Kaede.
“Takes after her mother,” the older priestess murmured with a smirk. Kagome smiled back and performed the same check on the second baby. She had just as much thick, black hair as her brother – but apparently twice the lung capacity.
“Sh-shh,” she crooned, carrying her to Sango as well. Aina stepped out of the way, watching the proceedings with interest. Mother and babies were quickly settled with bedding to support them, and Kagome bent down to kiss her friend’s sweaty forehead. “They are both beautiful, Sango-shimai.” Sango was crying too, and both women laughed with tired joy. The miko washed her hands and face before stepping outside to meet those who were waiting.
“Is she okay?” Miroku’s face was strained with tension, and pale with fear. His hair had come completely free of his ponytail – no doubt from running his hands through it many times. In the early morning light, Kagome could just make out the figure of Inuyasha in a nearby tree. She guessed he had been trying to save his ears and nose from the situation in the hut while still looking out for Shippo and Rin. Emi had stayed in the West with Kimi.
“She’s fine,” Kagome assured him. “Sango and both babies are doing well, you can go on in.” Miroku was already through the doorway before she could finish speaking, and Kagome watched after him with a laugh. Aina took her arm, and she leaned on the kitsune as they walked towards the one room hut that Miroku had built just for their visits.
“Are all human females so…aggressive during childbirth?”
Kagome laughed at the kitsune’s question. “I suppose that depends on the woman.”
“Damn, Kagome,” Inuyasha dropped down beside him as they neared his tree, the ever-present staff that helped him keep balance on one leg clutched in his hand. His face was pale, whether from fear for his friend or the previous hour of piercing screams, Kagome wasn’t sure. “Why would anyone want to do that? Miroku better get used to being slapped again. I doubt Sango is going to let him get close for years.”
“The best rewards often come from the greatest labors,” Aina said quietly. Kagome could hear the sadness in her voice, and her heart clenched for the kitsune. It had been a difficult few months for the demoness since the war had ended. Although she had taken Ryukostokken’s potion willingly, she had chosen the target for the spell out of real feelings. Anything that might have once blossomed between the irascible captain and the vivacious fox had come to a complete stall. Aina was feeling unsure of her actions while under the magical influence, and Hisao stank of guilt and remorse whenever they were in the same room. Kagome had never asked what had happened before the potion wore off, she figured one of them would tell her if they wanted advice, but it was clear that Aina was rather hopelessly infatuated with the inu warrior. If he would ever be able to return her feelings was another matter entirely.
“It is easy to forget something like that, I guess,” Kagome said to draw attention away from Aina’s sad frown. “Scientifically speaking, a woman’s body produces all sorts of chemicals after birth that kind of help her to focus on the miracle of the baby and forget the pain. Besides,” she elbowed Inuyasha in the ribs to get his attention, “making them can be pretty fun.” Her teasing had the desired effect, and he leaped back into the trees, blushing and muttering until he was out of earshot.
Kagome laughed. It was more obvious, in just the last few months, how much younger, both emotionally and mentally, Inuyasha was than her. He had matured, certainly. Sesshomaru had told her that Inuyasha was considered an adult, after his transformation and the new balance and control he had over his youki. Still, it was a bit like teasing her brother Souta. That brought a little bit of wistfulness to her thoughts, and her steps slowed as they approached the hut. Eiji and Eiichi stood sentinel outside the door. Eiichi’s face still bore an angry scar along the hairline from a poisoned dragon blade. Despite Kagome’s almost immediate application of reiki, it hadn’t completely healed.
“Will you wake the children now?” Aina asked softly.
“No,” she decided, “let them sleep. Sango needs a rest too, and the babies, before two excited kids rush in there.”
“Go,” the kitsune instructed, “you should also sleep. I will keep watch.”
Kagome nodded, hiding a yawn behind her hand, “Thanks. Let me know when Sesshomaru arrives. He thought he would be able to get away from the Council sometime this morning.”
“Of course. I will notify the guards as well.” Aina grinned, her smile resembling the bright, mischievous smirk from before the war. “Those rock demons will be grateful to know that the screaming is finished.” Kagome nodded and entered the hut quietly, finding her futon by touch so as not to wake Shippo and Rin. As she relaxed her aching muscles, she ran one hand over her own belly, smiling up at the ceiling.
Aki was clearly distressed, and Kagome was quickly beginning to realize why. Sesshomaru and Kimi had both explained to her, in turns exciting and mortifying, that inu usually had twins just as often as either triplets or single babies. Spider demons, apparently, were more likely to have three or four at a time than one or two. She cast about for something encouraging to say.
“It is more than we ever could have hoped for,” Kento beat her to it, laying one hand over Aki’s where she was rubbing her stomach. “Thank you, Kagome-sama.” He bowed and Kagome removed the stethoscope from her ears. A single heart beat strongly in Aki’s distended belly. There was not much else the miko could tell about the pregnancy without modern equipment, but the child – pup, hatchling, she reminded herself – was growing as expected, according to the few youkai medical scrolls she found on reproduction. As long as the heart sounded good and Aki was feeling well, there was no reason to think the pregnancy would be anything but a success.
Aki blushed, “I am ashamed of myself, Lady Kagome. Of course I am grateful for all that you have done for us. Thank you, so much. Thank you.”
“I am happy to do anything I can for you. For both of you.” Kagome smiled at the couple, but they were already lost in each other and something she couldn’t sense. Perhaps they were listening to the baby’s heartbeat, without the need for a stethoscope like the human priestess. Feeling as though she might be interrupting something, Kagome cleared her throat, “I would like to check its youki, if that is alright?”
“Yes, please do,” Aki’s attention snapped back to Kagome. Her worry was clearly in evidence once again.
Gently, slowly, as softly as possible, Kagome placed her hands an inch above the exposed skin of Aki’s stomach. A small smile twitched at her mouth, wondering what Kento would have done if he had to solicit an examination from one of the youkai healers that worked in the palace. They were all male – a terrible combination with a disrobed, pregnant mate and a protective inu father-to-be. She closed her eyes, and imagined the pink glow of her power, hovering over Aki’s skin, waiting for permission. Her dark blue youki surged to the surface protectively, then calmed when Kagome did nothing. The spider demoness must have held herself back, or her power recognized the miko that had healed her, as she relented, thinning the barrier that surrounded the unborn life.
Kagome was nervous. She had helped Sango through pregnancy and checked on her twins in a similar way, but human children did not have the instincts and energy of young youkai. A thin ribbon of reiki, as soft as Kagome could make it, reached towards the fetus. For a moment, nothing happened, and Kagome held her breath, waiting. Then, like a fern uncurling towards the sun, lavender light bloomed open, inviting the miko to know the little creature still growing. Distantly, Kagome was aware of Aki’s startled noise, but she was too entranced with what she learned to pay attention. The baby would be ready soon, on the fourth day after the new moon, or perhaps the day after. It was still sleepy from a long nap, but was starting to feel hungry. Its lungs were strong and its silks produced a mild anesthesia.
Kagome blinked, jarred by the sudden brightness in Aki’s home and the tingling withdrawal of the baby’s youki. Aki was biting her lip, her face already preparing for the worst. Kento was absolutely still. “It’s a girl,” Kagome blurted out. The expecting parents sagged with relief, and Kagome smiled, telling them the approximate due date. “And you might want to prepare for her webbing, I believe it will cause drowsiness in lesser youkai or humans.”
“Oh,” Aki gasped, excited, “I had an aunt with that ability!”
Not too long afterward, Kagome left Kento and his mate still murmuring together, heads bent, discussing names and covering their child with their own youki protectively. Kimi was waiting for her outside.
“All is well?” One fine white eyebrow lifted in question. Kagome slipped her arm through her mother-in-law’s and they began a measured stroll through the village, nodding as demons bowed to them in greeting. Eiji and Eiichi fell into step behind them, ever watchful. Kagome found their guard a bit unnecessary, given her own defensive capabilities and growing skill with the bo staff – which she utilized as a walking stick most of the time. And then there was Kimi. Any attack would by highly inadvisable. And suicidal.
“Yes, although-” Kagome paused, unsure what she should share. She felt like she was Aki’s doctor, despite not having a license, or even a quarter of the necessary schooling, and that would necessitate privacy. But the feudal era was different, both in rules regarding the confidentiality of healers and the rights of the dowager Western Lady. Aki and Kento should also get to reveal the sex, if they want to, she thought. “I am eager for Hirimoto’s physician to return. I need to learn a lot more about youkai mating and reproduction if we are going to make progress on a large scale.”
“This One,” Kimi reminded absently.
“This One,” Kagome repeated with a sigh. She still wasn’t used to the formal language, doubted she ever would be, but she tried to remember when they were out in public or in front of the Council. “This Kagome needs a teacher. Badly.”
“Yes, This Kimi may have a solution to that, if the Saidai Mao can be persuaded.” Her eyes twinkled mischievously. Kagome wasn’t sure whether to laugh or groan. She was sure that in Kimi’s mind, persuading Sesshomaru would be up to his mate. “The healer who was in the castle for the last royal birth is still present, if insults can be borne, his knowledge would be most enlightening.”
Kagome did groan then, and stopped to look through some sweets being offered at a nearby stall. She did not believe there was anything she could say to convince Sesshomaru to let her question the disgraced Gekien about his skills and experience. The youkai had been let out of the dungeon, but was only allowed to work in the infirmary under guard. There was also the matter of his hand, and how Sesshomaru had melted it for Gekien’s attempt to strike her. It would be nice, however, to get started on her youkai medical education while she waited for the one year mourning period to finish in the South. There was only six months left. How bad could six months be with an instructor who thought she was the downfall of Sesshomaru, the West, and all youkai?
“I’ll – This One,” she corrected herself, “will think about it.”
“Hn.” Kimi nodded, and the spent the rest of the walk to the castle greeting youkai and a few humans that had taken up residence after the war, admiring goods, and even purchasing a few small items – which Kagome had to argue and cajole for as everyone wanted to simply gift things to the new Western Lady. They made their way to Kimi’s private garden for tea and a few more minutes of peace until Aina would bring the children in from their lessons.
“Hirimoto will send his physician soon. Have you given more thought to Sesshomaru’s suggestion for a school?”
“Some,” Kagome admitted. “I’m just not sure I am ready to teach other miko or healers how to deal with this infertility thing until I have a good handle on it myself.”
“One of the four females you have seen since we returned to the West is already pregnant, and from what the servants say about the mate’s stamina, another will be soon.” Kimi did not draw attention to Kagome’s blush, so the miko ignored it.
“It would help if Sesshomaru didn’t make such a big deal out of me examining the males. I’m certain we could have a better rate of success if only-”
“That is not a battle I would recommend, Kagome,” Kimi chuckled. “An inu male is possessive of his mate. As Hirimoto’s physician will be able to address the male half of these issues, there is no need for you to prod the dog where he is already sensitive.” Kagome nodded, understanding the wisdom of not starting arguments that weren’t necessary, but still chafing at the restrictions of youkai and feudal society. At least one would grow less conservative, she knew.
Kimi poured the tea, one sky blue sleeve held back with a slender hand. “Aina cares quite deeply for Nankae,” she noted, changing topics.
“Yeah,” Kagome sighed. “She must love him, or she wouldn’t look after him like she does. It is obviously painful for her to be around Hisao. I wish there was something I could do for them. I feel like I owe it to her.”
“Tsk, always trying to help where you are not needed.” Kimi lessened the admonishment with a smile and offered Kagome a cup of tea. “Let time work. There is little that cannot be mended in a century or two.”
“Century!” Kagome bit her bottom lip. “If they have to wait that long, Nankae will grow up an only child!”
“And what of young Shippo and my grandpup? Do they not need younger siblings?”
Kagome’s face burned under golden scrutiny. It was both teasing, and serious, and the miko was conscious of the weight of expectation on her shoulders. Or rather, her womb. Women, even in modern Japan, were expected to have children. Only one or two, in contrast to the multitudes demanded of feudal women, but the expectation was still there. Even a successful career did not always stop the guilt, even if it was self-inflicted, for not having children. As the mate of the Saidai Mao, the pressure was exponentially increased. She was supposed to further the line, create heirs for the West. It didn’t help her anxiety that she also knew how badly Sesshomaru wanted children. He had not spoken of it since the day, so long ago it seemed, that he had found her birth control, but she knew he was eager for it. Her prescription had run out three months ago, and since then he had taken to practically secluding her in their rooms when she was ovulating. Not that she was complaining. That would be hard to do after being satisfied into exhaustion.
It was the sniffing that was bothering her. Two to three days of marathon sex was followed by a week of running his nose across her neck and his hand over her belly as soon as he woke up. He didn’t say, but she knew he was looking for traces of pregnancy. Under normal circumstances, what the hell is normal for a time-travelling miko, Kagome wouldn’t have minded waiting to have a baby, but neither did she dislike the idea of it happening right away. What she did mind, was the growing stress of not having begun the royal family that everyone was eagerly awaiting. The growth of Sesshomaru’s pack would be taken as a sign that the West, and all youkai and humans allied with Sesshomaru, were blessed with prosperity. More importantly to Kagome, it was also a sign that maybe she had changed the future. If she could have a baby – a hanyou baby – then there would be one more youkai that she knew would make it to her time.
“I thought, last month, when I went to help Sango, but…it wasn’t…” Kagome’s voice drifted off, and she could feel her shoulders tensing. She had already tried to examine herself, just to see if there might be something that was making her infertile, with mixed results. It was harder to use her reiki to check her own body than she had thought it might be. She hadn’t even bothered suggesting to Sesshomaru that Hirimoto’s physician should examine her, or, holy hell, that he might have an issue. She would wait a few years in the hope that blow to his ego never had to come. He would sulk for days.
“Time, my daughter, give it time.” Kimi sipped her tea and Kagome tried to let the steam ease her own burdens. If Kimi wasn’t pressuring her, she shouldn’t pressure herself. A thought occurred to her as she sipped, the sound of swiftly approaching children giving her the perfect opportunity for a passing shot.
“Perhaps, you could try instead. I believe there is at least one youkai that would be eager to help you further the House of the Crescent Moon.” She held her cup up to her lips to hide her grin, and watched with satisfaction as Kimi’s mouth opened, then closed. A tiny, faint pint flushed across her cheekbones. Score: Kimi – too many to keep track; Kagome – one. It was a satisfying point.
Sesshomaru considered the slatted wooden outer door that covered the entrance to the guest quarters at the shrine. He had never been in such a position before. After nearly one hundred years of living with Kagome, three adopted children, two frightening and joyous pregnancies, this was the first time he had been barred from her bed. He lifted Chiasa higher on his back, her warm breath blowing against mokomoko, and glanced around the yard in puzzlement.
Much had changed at the shrine since Sango had followed Miroku in death. Their children and grandchildren had laid out pavers near the gate. A new, larger shrine building was under construction just above the steps that led down towards the village. A building had been built around the well, and a new fence separated the public shrine area from the collection of well-maintained huts and structures that made up the homes for the shrine family. The guest hut, where Kagome had sealed herself with their youngest pup, had been enlarged and improved as well. It was still tucked back against the forest, to give more privacy to visiting youkai, like himself. Inuyasha had given input on the design, to ensure that it would look as it did in the future. The soft sound of a breeze rustling though fabric alerted him to his brother’s approach. His gait was even, his leg having regenerated after only eighty-two years.
“What did you do?” The hanyou asked without ceremony.
“She did not tell you,” Sesshomaru responded coolly. In truth, he was eager to hear anything Kagome might have shared with her friend. It might shed some light on his situation. Chiasa mumbled in her sleep and Inuyasha reached out and smoothed his hand over her head. She calmed under her uncle’s touch.
“Keh,” Inuyasha snorted, “so you don’t know then.”
Sesshomaru hesitated for a moment, still feeling the long-harbored instinct to keep any lack of knowledge to himself rather than give an opponent an advantage. He was able to relax and overcome the reflex much easier after a few decades of working closely with his brother without either of them attacking the other. “Do you?” he finally asked.
“Nah.” The easy reply set Sesshomaru’s teeth on edge. If the hanyou had no information, then his presence was unnecessary. “But that’s pretty normal for me. I usually just apologize and let her yell a lot. She’ll forgive you once she gets it out of her system.”
“There has not been any yelling,” Sesshomaru noted. His gaze returned to the door, wondering idly if he sent his youki inside to check on her if she would finally speak to him. Three days previous, he had gone to their rooms after he finished working and discovered she had absconded with Emi and little Masahiko, leaving only a note saying she would return when he had fixed the situation. He had not been aware there was a situation. And he was most displeased to be separated from his mate and their pup who had not yet learned to crawl.
“Silent treatment?” Inuyasha raised his brows. “Man, that’s bad. What did you do?”
“Nothing I can conceive of.” The words surprised even the daiyoukai as they left his mouth. One of Sango’s granddaughters, carrying a toddler on one hip and a basket of weapons on the other, rolled her eyes as she walked past. When he caught her gaze, she gulped.
“S-sorry, Sesshomaru-sama.” She dipped her head into the best bow possible, given her burdens. Sesshomaru continued to stare, hoping his expression had not lost potency after so many years of smiling with Kagome. He also supposed that carrying a child who appeared only five years of age might also lessen his perceived ferocity. “Er,” the young woman said, “I heard that there might be an announcement soon. Regarding the new slayer school?” She gulped and threw a glance at Inuyasha.
“And?” The hanyou prompted. Ground had been cleared for construction on the far side of Edo, to complement the training grounds Inuyasha and Kouga had spent years arguing over and redesigning high in the mountains.
“And, uh, I guess I might have heard Aunt Kagome say something about you, and Shippo-san, and maybe a trip to, ah,” she paused and pronounced carefully, “yur-up?”
Inuyasha snorted and turned on Sesshomaru, waving the woman away. “You told her? Are you crazy?” The hanyou reached down to scratch at the still-sensitive skin of his new foot.
“We discussed the matter calmly. There was no problem,” Sesshomaru replied. There is no problem, he assured to himself. Kagome had long been encouraging him to establish some method of controlling violent youkai – in order to better conceal the existence of demons and ensure that they survived into the future. Although the treatments Kagome and her school of miko and healers offered had significantly increased the rate of births among demons, it was not a given matter than it would be enough. Reducing combat and promoting blending with human society was also necessary. The obvious recourse had been some sort of military unit. It was Inuyasha who had suggested a police force. He had explained the modern concept quite thoroughly. Kagome’s own books had alerted Sesshomaru to the potential dangers of the larger world, and how ignorance of it could become a threat. It was only natural that he determined to meet those threats.
Inuyasha would take Shippo with him on a world tour, meeting and arranging for diplomatic talks. Eventually, Sesshomaru would have to visit them as well, but by the time the two travelers returned, they would have amassed knowledge regarding the temperament and capabilities of demon and human societies around the world, and Sesshomaru would have secured domestic matters so that Kimi and Inuyasha could manage in his absence. Masahiko would be old enough that he and Chiasa could accompany Kagome and himself. It was all extremely reasonable.
“You decided to send her little boy on a secret mission to meet potentially dangerous demons and humans two oceans away – and you didn’t think she would have a problem?” Inuyasha’s incredulity made Sesshomaru’s fur stand on end. It is a reasonable plan. Logical, he told himself.
“Shippo is a two-tail and very near to adulthood. And you would not let any harm come to him,” Sesshomaru pointed out. He was swiftly realizing that he might not be able to calmly argue his way out of the matter. Inuyasha reached out and took his niece as the female began to make sounds indicating her nap was over.
“She just had a baby, Sesshomaru. Women are always a little weird after that, and Kagome’s a little weird even when she hasn’t recently given birth.” He hefted Sesshomaru’s daughter onto his shoulder where she grabbed a fistful of hair and snuggled her own furry ear against her uncle’s. “Get comfortable, idiot. You’re gonna be here a while.”
“She will see reason,” Sesshomaru stated, although he was aware that his voice had lost some of its customary confidence.
Inuyasha shook his head and began to walk away, “I don’t think there are enough flowers or chocolates in Japan for you to get out of this with your dignity. How the hell have you stayed mated so long?” Sesshomaru turned back to the closed door again, wondering the same thing, given the communication difficulties between himself and Kagome. He sighed, stepping backward to lean against the Goshinboku and slide to the ground. It seemed he would have to wait. At least it would give him time to think of a new strategy.
“How do you feel?” Kagome reached out a hand to smooth over Rin’s obi, then snatched it back. One and a half centuries of life, and she still couldn’t manage a formal kimono. Better to leave Aki’s work alone, she thought with chagrin. Rin still looked only eighteen or nineteen – about the age she had been when Sesshomaru first began giving her youki.
“Good. Fine. Great.” Rin swallowed, and her delicately kohl-lined eyes found Kagome’s. “I think I’m going to throw up.”
Kagome grinned and bit back a laugh, “The engagement ceremony is easy, you remember mine, and you are so much better at protocol now than I ever could be. And you look gorgeous.”
“Mama,” Rin asked in a small voice. Kagome reigned in her humor. Her daughter, her first daughter, needed her. “Do you think Makoto is a good choice?”
“I think you love him, and he loves you,” Kagome answered. Rin nodded, and seemed to lose a little of her anxiety. “And your father is so grateful that you gave up on Inuyasha that he barely flinched when you brought up a mating with the House of the Ebbing Wave. You could have told him you wanted to permanently live in the South, and he might have considered it.” Kagome offered Rin a wink and a smile, “Take advantage of his weakness here. Ask for the moon.” Rin grinned, and the moment became more boisterous as the screens slid open to admit the other females of their pack.
“No takesies-backsies,” Emi sing-songed, obviously having overheard part of the conversation. Her half-joking, half-serious tone made Rin and Kagome share a look and both women burst out laughing. After Rin had gotten over her childhood infatuation, it wasn’t too long before Emi had started to take an interest in males. One male in particular. The inu girl had grown a bit taller than Kagome, and her black hair and blue eyes made them appear blood-related. It was clear, however, that she had taken more after Kimi, personality-wise. “You promised me a party, so pay up, or face the wrath of the great and powerful Emi-sama!” Yes, definitely melodramatic, Kagome thought.
“I am certain that will not be an issue, pup,” Kimi added in. Her long white hair was beautifully styled in twin pigtails, each with a simple golden cuff ornament that emphasized the silky smoothness of the daiyoukai’s locks. Chiasa followed her grandmother in, looking decidedly less elegant.
“Chiasa!” Kagome said, horrified over the state of her daughter, “What on earth have you been doing?” A beautifully embroidered kimono had been reduced to a collection of unidentifiable stains and rips.
“Cousin Miro said that there was no way I could withstand a holy sutra, and Shippo-chan laughed, and I just know I can, mama – you know I did with your reiki! And-”
“Stop.” Kagome pinched the bridge of her nose. A representative from the Higurashi shrine had come to give blessings to the intended couple, and had brought her small family. Her boy, Miro, might as well have been Miroku incarnate, as devious and wily as was. In the three days they had been at the castle, he had instigated a six-child strong raid on the sweets prepared for the ceremony, convinced an aged youkai that there was an evil spirit in his hut, and stolen a kiss from not one, not two, but three of the maids in the shiro. All that, from a boy of ten. Definitely Miroku’s spawn, she thought with a wistful smile. “Did he force you to do this?” Kagome gestured at Chiasa’s clothes.
“Were you unaware that your kimono is a very expensive piece of art that took Aki-san weeks to create – in the pattern that you specifically requested?”
“Were you unaware that today is your sister’s day? And we are here to support her and help make it go smoothly. To show her how much we respect and love her.”
“No, mama,” Chiasa’s voice had grown quiet, a sure sign that she was over her temper-induced argument. Her blue eyes fell to the floor. “Sorry, Rin.”
“That’s alright, Chiasa-chan,” Rin said sweetly. She bent over to give her sister a hug, then stopped, realizing how the mud would affect her own garments. She settled for patting the pup’s white hair. “I know how awful boys can be.”
“Then why are you mating one? Egh!” Chiasa made a face, as only a pre-adolescent girl can, and everyone else laughed.
“Aki is on her way with a replacement kimono,” Kimi said quietly to Kagome, who was already turning to the private bath off of her and Sesshomaru’s room to heat water and clean up her daughter. Behind her, she could hear the young women continuing to talk.
“-ink was everywhere!” Rin said.
Emi chimed in, “Ooo, I remember that, Rin! Poor Sesshomaru-papa looked terrible! All covered in feathers!”
Chiasa’s voice was filled with equal parts awe and terror, “How did Shippo live?”
Kimi nodded, and took another sip of her tea. Really, youth is so easily distracted from important issues, she thought. The treaty ending the war with the Russians had been signed, in Japan’s favor of course, in no small part to her own negotiating skills. She had anticipated at least some congratulations from her only son. Very well, she admitted more than a little miffed, not expected, but a nod of gratitude would have been nice. Generally, Kagome would have made up for her mate’s lack of expression by exuberantly cheering Kimi’s success. Her return to the Western shiro was anything but celebratory. The dowager Western Lady felt put out.
“The future, that’s, that’s where I’m from,” Kagome repeated.
Kimi struggled not to roll her eyes, then went ahead and gave in to the impulse. There was only Kagome, Sesshomaru, and herself present, no need to keep up formalities. “Yes, dear. I heard you the first time. I haven’t grown so old that my ears no longer work.”
“Oh! I didn’t-” The miko began in apology.
Sesshomaru cut her off, “Please take this seriously, mother.”
“Your mate,” Kimi gestured with a languorous hand, “was born five hundred years before she arrived at the Western palace.” Kimi named the date specifically. Kagome’s eyes widened in shock, Sesshomaru’s narrowed in suspicion. “You didn’t honestly think I didn’t already know?” Kimi raised one brow, and with it her spirits. Bating her son very nearly made up for the praise that she should have received. No matter how much he had relaxed, at least in private, in the almost four centuries since the plague war against Ryukostokken, he still responded poorly to insinuations that he didn’t know something. It was terribly amusing.
She hadn’t always known, but she would have been disappointed if Sesshomaru had expected her to leave a mystery as delicious as Kagome’s origin alone. It had taken more than two centuries, but she had discovered the particulars of from where, and how, Kagome managed to arrive to save them all. The miko was the key to changing fate. Destiny. Time itself. When she discovered the truth, it was all rather anti-climactic. Obviously she bent time to her will. No individual without that kind of strength, that control over the flow of nature, could have succeeded in the tasks set before Kagome. Really, she was a perfect complement to the power already in the House of the Crescent Moon.
“Then, then you believe us?” Kagome asked cautiously.
“I have never know either you or Sesshomaru to be prone to lying, daughter.” Kimi sighed, giving up on any chance that she would get the greeting she deserved. “Is there some event we must be aware of, something else we must avoid or change?” They had already changed the future as Kagome knew it, of that Kimi was certain. It was clear through the determined, almost desperate, way that the miko pursued her studies to assist youkai in bearing children that she was trying to fix what she believed to be a great wrong. Kimi had known, through her own record-keeping, that demons were dying out. It was the success of Kagome’s methods, which she had passed on to many students, which allowed youkai to survive as long as they had. Although births had never returned to the numbers of Kimi’s youth, almost any demon couple, with assistance, could have one or two offspring. Those that mated with humans had less difficulty – and hanyou seemed to need no assistance at all. While litters, clutches, and broods appeared to be a thing of the past, youkai were no longer in danger of fading out of existence.
Sesshomaru opened his mouth, but Kagome glared until he shut it. Her story to tell, then, Kimi thought smugly. “There will be another war,” she began.
“There always is,” Kimi agreed, pleased to see her interruption irritated Sesshomaru. His youki began snaking around the room with agitation.
“Two actually.” The miko took a deep breath, and the sweet and often innocent child that Kimi had come to love as her own fell away – revealing the strong leader that had been born of war and matured by centuries of responsibility. “I studied them as World Wars – wars to end all others, historians thought. You need to leave Japan, Kimi. You cannot stay in Nagasaki.”
Kimi adored her little castle on the island of Kyushu. It was the perfect place to get away when Hirimoto had been an idiot or Sesshomaru was riled about some little thing. Emi lived most of the year there with her, and the gardeners were just finishing a new space for her. “Do not worry about me, little one, I-”
“You will die,” Kagome said bluntly. Kimi was taken aback, not only by the rude language and interruption, but by the uncompromising knowing in Kagome’s blue gaze. “Your entire section of the city will be destroyed – completely leveled.” The miko talked about a weapon, about death and disease and injuries that sounded too gruesome to be real. Humans will do this, she thought, overwhelmed, to each other. It had not been so long ago that youkai had routinely committed even greater savagery, but never had they created technology to cause evil on such a scale. To end evil, Kagome said they claimed. Americans, Kimi thought sourly – and, she knew, a little unfairly, never satisfied with the small. Always bigger, always more, always absolute. Kagome said it was an event that could not be changed, that too much in Japan’s future – too many wonderful and unimaginable things – would come after the rebuilding. It would save millions of lives of American soldiers and Japanese civilians that would die if there was an invasion.
But tens of thousands would die.
“We – we should-” Kimi found herself at a loss for words. It was the first time since Toga had died that she was incapable of planning action.
“You will go, with Emi, to New York.” Kagome said decisively. “You’ll be safe from the camps there. Take up an Americanized name, throw money at charities. Make friends, Kimi.”
“Inuyasha will go with you. We’ll need strong ties with the American demons when this is over.” Sesshomaru added.
“My staff,” Kimi started, but Kagome overrode her concerns.
“They will stay in Nagasaki or go, as they see fit.” Even in her own shock, Kimi could hear Kagome’s heart. The steady beat that had been in time with her son’s for nearly four hundred years stuttered, paused, then beat hard. Kimi sucked in a breath. This woman before her was the Western Lady, the mate of the Saidai Mao and a leader of nations in her own right. She was taking responsibility for youkai and humans, for her country, for deaths that were horrific and necessary. Higurashi Kagome, of the House of the Shikon, the Miko no Mao, bore her responsibilities well even though her heart was bleeding for it. “We cannot save them all, Kimi. We can only prepare to build a new and better place, after this is done.”
After a long moment, Kimi sniffed. “Hn. I will expect you to make certain everything is cleaned up and construction begun before I return, Sesshomaru. I particularly love the view from my tea room.” It wasn’t just about her private palace, her son and daughter-in-law recognized that and so it did not need to be said. Kimi’s tea room looked out over the sizable city that had grown up around her castle as well as a bustling port. She promised to herself that she would not let the opportunity Kagome’s knowledge had provided her languish. She would plan to rebuild her adopted city, and make it a center of trade for Japan.
“Are you sure you can spare Inuyasha,” Kagome asked her mate quietly. “I know he never officially took the title, but Emperor Hirohito depends on him to act as the Eastern Lord. The government will need guidance, and a reminder that youkai are neither legends nor soldiers for their exploitation.”
“We will take up residence in Edo for a while. Rin, with Makoto’s assistance, is prepared to watch over the West in our absence.”
“How long will this exile last, Saidai Mao?” Kimi asked. Sesshomaru dourly named a year, and Kimi forced a smile. “Ah, then while I am gone, we shall make a wager.” She could see, from the relaxing of Kagome’s shoulders and the twitch at the corner of her mouth that the human was aware of what she would propose. “If I return without a date for Inuyasha’s Courting Ceremony, you will pay to have one of those,” she glanced at Kagome, who helpfully mouthed the words, “baseball teams started in Japan for me. The Americans may win this war, as you say, but I will see them defeated at their own game.”
To his credit, Sesshomaru did not flicker an eyelid at her pronouncement. “And if you are unsuccessful?” he asked dryly.
Kimi flicked her hair over one shoulder dismissively, “As if that were even a possibility.”
The younger children had wide eyes and open mouths as they listened to Gramps tell the story of how the Saidai Mao and the Shikon Miko – Kagome was always the Shikon Miko in Gramps’ stories – saved Japan from the cowardly pox-demon. As usual, many of the more graphic details had been left out. When Miroku had first written down the tale, he had left out the particulars of Ryukostokken’s deeds, simply referring to him as a blackguard, villain, and evil demon.
Specifics beyond that were better left to the youkai court records. And so Miroku’s children had passed the information down through the generations, with some minor embellishments. It was that scroll, when Miroku presented it to her the year after the war, which had made her realize that Miroku and Sango were the first Higurashis. It was the same scroll that her Grandfather kept carefully locked up in a glass box in his office. The scroll that had been handed down through generations of her family.
The revelation was so right. Kagome had always felt a particular kinship with Sango, and had not thought twice about agreeing that they should build their house near the well. Miroku’s decision to train new monks and priestesses at a school of the Shikon made sense too – as she had always known that her family’s shrine was so large because it had been a school before the second world war. Inuyasha, as usual, had nearly ruined it. When she told him about the connection, he had laughed, and promptly reminded her about all of the times great-great-great-etc.-grandfather Miroku had pinched her bottom. It wasn’t anything like being her own grandpa, but she still tried not to think about it.
The anniversary of the end of the plague war was a tradition that those close friends who had fought together always celebrated when world events allowed. Since Kagome had caught up with her own time, the shrine closed to the public on that day and instead had hosted dozens of youkai, hanyou, and humans.
“And then, the spy looked at the evil pox demon with cold eyes and said, ‘I am no traitor to the North…’” Gramps paused dramatically, and Kagome nearly rolled her eyes at his theatrics, “…Father.”
“I knew it the whole time.” That was said scoffing from Inuyasha’s son. His arms crossed over his chest and his eyes half-closed, feigning disinterest. He had declared that story time was for babies, but still managed to sit close enough to listen in. His little white ears twitched in his hair as Gramps wrapped up the tale, ending with the extremely fanciful mating ceremony of the Shikon Miko and the Saidai Mao. Kagome noted with amusement that this year the embellishments included an ever-blooming tree which dropped petals on the couple and shining golden crowns placed on their heads. She was pretty sure the old man had been watching Disney movies again. There were also several not-too-subtle hints that the bride was devastated that her family was not present, particularly her beloved, wise, extremely good-looking grandfather.
“But what happened to the foul-mouthed hanyou?” Asked Kazue, his shimmering, iridescent eyes reminding Kagome of his grandmother, Aki. “Did his leg really grow back? Can a hanyou really change forms?” Kagome leaned forward from her place on the bench under Goshinboku, ready to soothe any troubled feelings. Aki, her daughter, and human son-in-law were at fashion week and wouldn’t be back until the next day, and Kagome knew how sensitive little Kazue was about his heritage.
“Foul-mouthed!” The outraged interruption turned all eyes to the shrine gate. Standing in dark slacks and a white shirt, his jacket thrown over one shoulder, was Inuyasha. His youki was carefully controlled, concealing his ears and claws. “I thought I told you last year to change that, old man!” Gramps smirked, but was saved from the hanyou’s ire by several high-pitched cries of, “Inuyasha-sama!”, “Uncle!” and “Dad!”. He picked up and tossed his little girl, Niji, into the air and pinned his golden gaze on Kazue.
As soon as Niji had stopped squealing, he said, “Of course it grew back.” He shook out his left leg, making his pants ride up and expose long polka dotted red socks. “What do you think this is, a peg?”
The children all laughed, just as he had intended. Kagome leaned forward to whisper in Kazue’s ear, well aware that although Inuyasha’s dog ears were hidden, he would still hear her, “It takes very strong youki, but it can be done. Ask him after dinner to show you, and I bet he’ll take you into the woods tonight, before they hunt. Don’t ask to pet him though,” she winked at the little boy and smiled at Inuyasha, “he gets grumpy.” She couldn’t help but tease her friend; it was an old habit of theirs that had survived the years and his task to keep the future intact. It had been a tremendous burden to place on Inuyasha’s shoulders, but he had risen to the occasion beyond either hers or Sesshomaru’s wildest expectations. He was the liaison with the human government in Toyko, and, more importantly, he had organized and enforced the temporary relocation of a hundred thousand youkai and hanyou in the capital city. The forced movement was essential to ensuring that neither Kagome nor the young Inuyasha ever sensed demons – before the time was right. When the date of her last trip through the well had come and gone, they all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Perhaps none, however, as great as Inuyasha’s, whose decades-long vigil over time finally ended. He had celebrated by inviting himself to the shrine for Gen Higarashi’s excellent food. Kagome owed him so much; reflecting on it made her heart swell with love and pride.
The children gradually pulled Inuyasha towards their group, and once the gate was clear, Sesshomaru and Kimi followed him into the courtyard. Kagome smiled at her mate, her heart just as painfully full as it had been five hundred years before. His white hair was shorter, although still well past his shoulders, and the ponytail made women at his office – and in the grocery, and at preschool, and on the street – swoon with jealousy. It was better than the tide of lust that followed him whenever they went to the beach. He had not removed his jacket or tie, and the suit with its dark blue vest looked marvelous on him. He raised an eyebrow and made a silent production of flaring his nostrils. Kagome stuck out her tongue. There was certainly something to be said for being so in love after so many years. That Sesshomaru’s interest in her body hadn’t waned was also a positive aspect.
“How did the meeting go?” She asked quietly as he claimed a seat next to her.
He pressed a kiss to her cheek and waited to answer as a dark-haired little boy climbed into his lap.
Once Saburou had settled in with his thumb in his mouth to listen to the questions the older children pressed on Gramps, Sesshomaru responded, “As well as could be expected. The global treaty will be signed in May. They mentioned festivities.” He said the last bit with a forced frown that Kagome knew well. Sesshomaru wanted her to think he was not happy about the idea of a party, but she knew he was always pleased to see her in a new gown – and for the opportunity to dance with her.
“Spring in Paris?” She asked with mock dismay, “Surely you told them we couldn’t possibly?”
He leaned close to her, so that she couldn’t see anything but the mischief in his gold eyes, and spoke in a cool, deep voice, “I told them we require our own apartment.” His voice dipped lower, and his gaze fell to her mouth, then somewhere below her neck, “With soundproofing.”
“Sesshomaru!” She couldn’t help but blush and laugh. Her daiyoukai’s chest rumbled as well, and Saburou growled a little as his pillow moved.
A kitsune child, her little red tail snapping side to side in consternation, raised her hand politely.
“Yes, Yua?” Gramps waited for her question.
“What happened to the sword?” There were several blank stares sent her way, and Yua sighed as if she was exhausted with having to explain herself to such a slow audience, “The pox-demon’s sword. It sounded really dangerous, what happened to it?”
“Shianma?” Gramps looked surprised, but quickly covered his fumble with a cough, “Well, I suppose, it…”
“The rightful owner took it back, of course.” Kimi bent low in front of Yua, who immediately scrambled into a seiza and gave an adorable little bow. The other children were a few beats behind, with mumbles of ‘Kimi-sama’ and ‘Grandmother’. Saburou waved a sleepy hand at his youkai grandmother. “It belonged to my grandfather, you see. So I took it, and I keep it somewhere safe so no one bad can ever find it.”
“But, Kimi-sama, why did your Grandpop make such a bad sword?” Yua’s confusion was evident. Kagome sent a small prayer up at that moment, so happy that her children, and those of her friends, never had to know what it was like in those times. Never had to know the instability of the childhoods that Kimi, Sesshomaru, and Inuyasha had known.
“May I tell you a secret, Yua-chan?” The little girl practically vibrated with excitement and nodded. Kimi glanced at Kagome and gave the miko a wink. It was an odd sight, to see a woman with a regal French twist in her white hair, a tight-skirted business suit, and tasteful diamond earrings that cost more than most cars, kneeling in the grass and speaking seriously to a child not quite old enough for school. “My grandfather was not a very good swordsman. Actually, he was,” she held up perfectly manicured nails with about an inch between them, “a teensey bit crazy. That’s why Shianma turned out like it did. Probably that’s why Sesshomaru-sama is so crazy too.”
As one, five little pairs of eyes turned to look at Sesshomaru. In his pristine suit and shoes, with his calm expression and a little boy curled against his chest, it was hard to believe he might be crazy. Yua clearly was having trouble with the image, but would never say so to the dowager Western Lady. “Thank you for explaining, Kimi-sama.”
Yua and her cousin Kazue took the only human child from the group with them and followed Gramps and Kimi into the house for snack after that, while Saburou fell asleep on Sesshomaru. Niji stubbornly refused to let her father put her down, and so Inuyasha found a seat on the ground near his son. The hanyou flopped back onto the grass, shaking his head and letting his ears and claws return with a gentle exhale of youki. Niji squealed again, making the appendages twitch, which was just what she wanted. She petted them carefully, then demanded the same treatment for her own little ears. Inuyasha tilted his face toward the house and inhaled as he set to work soothing his daughter before naptime.
“Is Emi not back yet?”
“No,” Kagome answered, toeing off her shoes to pull her legs up beside her. “She was still at the hospital when I left, but she didn’t have any procedures scheduled. Just wanted to take care of some paperwork before the long weekend, I think.”
“How were things at the hospital?” Sesshomaru asked her quietly, careful not to disturb the tiny snores of his son.
“Good,” Kagome smiled. “I know you want to say ‘I told you so’ but you were right. I was too stubborn about leaving in the sixties, but we needed to get out of Tokyo before Mama and Daddy were born, and the hospital ran fine without me.”
“So no desire to go back?” Inuyasha asked casually.
Kagome smiled, his wife, Emi, had things well in hand and she loved working at the youkai hospital that Kagome had founded. “No, I have my clinic in the West, and a new research project I am working on. Emi is safe from any hostile takeovers.”
“She has half of the old guest wing layered in cables and server cabinets,” A new voice chimed in from the top of the stairs. “Who knew sequencing genomes required so many hard drives?”
“Rin.” Sessshomaru’s warm greeting was met with a wide grin and a little bow.
“Papa-sama,” she answered playfully. “Makoto just dropped me off. The baby fell asleep on the way from the airport, and you know how he likes car rides.” Thankfully, both for Inuyasha’s discomfort and Sesshomaru’s stellar record of never having committed fratricide, Rin had gotten over her infatuation with Inuyasha in her youth and fallen deeply in love with the son of the Southern Lord. Hirimoto had lamented that it took the young bear almost a year to get a human girl to say yes, but they had mated happily and had one child. Rin stepped lightly over to the grass and kicked off her shoes, dropping her purse as she sat down. “If Tomomi weren’t stuck at the University today, she would have taken care of her own son, but you know your granddaughter. Can’t pass up an opportunity to make her students suffer.”
Kagome smiled at the thought, and then pulled a little face, “Rin, we’ve talked about this. No mention of how I am now a great-grandmother. It makes me feel old.”
“Technically, I said grand, not great grand, so I think I adhered to the edict, Mama.”
“Hah, birthday worries again, Kagome?” Inuyasha chuckled. “You don’t look a day over three hundred.”
“Oh shut, er, it. You. You.” She floundered, aware of Inuyasha’s son listening avidly. That child knew too many curse words already. “Friend. You friend,” she finished lamely.
“Yeah,” Inuyasha laughed, then immediately lowered his voice when his sleepy daughter started to fuss, “you sure told me.”
“And where is Hirimoto?” Kagome asked to deflect her embarrassment, “I had expected to see him arrive right behind Kimi.”
Rin lowered her voice to something just above a whisper, glancing around comically, “I think they had another fight.”
Sesshomaru nodded, finally deigning to join the conversation, “He requested to court her.”
“Again?” Kagome raised her brows, but she wasn’t really surprised. The Southern Lord took it upon himself every fifty or seventy years to ask Sesshomaru for permission to court Kimi. Sesshomaru usually deferred, Kimi went a little crazy and stopped speaking to the bear for a few years, and then everything settled back down until the next time. Of course, Kagome, and most of the occupants of the Western and Southern palaces, was well aware of the sleeping arrangements between the two daiyoukai. Quite cozy for the last few centuries. She was beginning to think that Kimi only said no so that she could have some excitement. “Maybe we should get your mother a trip. Has she ever tried arctic scuba diving?”
“Kagome,” Sesshomaru said with a longsuffering sigh. Which meant he breathed out heavily. “Do recall the incident where you purchased her dune buggy lessons.”
“I thought it went really well,” Kagome insisted. Kimi had been incredibly cheered up by the exercise. She had started talking to Hirimoto again after only six months that time.
“Didn’t you guys have to buy out the whole course?” Inuyasha asked, “Like, half of Nevada or something?”
“Stay out of this,” Kagome sing-songed. Inuyasha threw up his hands in mock surrender. After a long-companionable silence in which Inuyasha’s son got bored and started to climb Goshinboku, Kagome spoke up again, “I saw Ko this morning.”
“Oh,” Rin smiled, “how is she?”
“Well, she just finished a shoot for the Discovery Channel in Brazil. I invited her to come to the shiro once the celebration is over.” Sesshomaru acknowledged her with a nod. “I know she won’t ever stay long, she’s just not that kind of person, but it is always so good to see her.”
“She will most likely be late tonight,” Sesshomaru offered, “Arashi mentioned during the meeting that he intended to speak with her before he left for the North.” Kagome frowned, and tried not to worry for her friend. Arashi had put Ko in charge of a sizable foundation. She could spend the money however she wished, but Ko funded mostly domestic abuse shelters and advocacy for victims of violence. It had been just one of many gifts that Arashi gave the wind demoness, but he never made any advances toward her, and she never acknowledged them as anything other than a business deal. Either reparations for Ryukostokken or public relations for the North, which had finally recovered its standing in the youkai community after centuries of sanctions by the Cardinal Lords.
The afternoon was beginning to grow late, and Kagome was thinking of waking the children so that they could play before dinner when more guests arrived. Hisao and Aina entered the yard with Kento and his grown son. The kitsune greeted them and immediately went inside in search of her daughter. Kento and his son payed their respects to Sesshomaru, and left in search of a beer after a long flight. Hisao stayed behind a moment, his pink eye sparkling once his concealment fell.
“Sesshomaru-sama, Kagome-sama,” he turned to Inuyasha and frowned, “Hanyou.”
“Hey!” A little voice called out, dropping from the highest branches of Goshinboku. Kagome’s breath caught for a moment in fear as a tiny body flew toward the ground. Hisao already had his arms out and easily caught the pup. “You can’t call my dad that!”
“Why not?” Hisao asked, amused, “Is that not what he is?”
“Well, yeah, but-”
“Settle down, squirt,” Inuyasha said mildly, getting to his feet. He pushed Niji up on his shoulder and clasped hands with Hisao. “This old dog doesn’t mean it in a bad way. In fact,” he leaned over and stage whispered out of the corner of his mouth, “it is a title of respect. Since I’m the only one to ever beat him down.”
“Really?” The boy’s eyes were wide, and Hisao rolled his own.
“One time, Inuyasha. One time I let you beat me.”
“Let me!” Inuyasha barked out a laugh, “I don’t think so!” The two turned to the house and continued arguing and boasting good-naturedly, a short, attentive inu on their heels.
“The eye still has not faded,” Sesshomaru noted as he began to gently wake his son.
“I said I didn’t know for sure if it would,” Kagome pointed out. “Is it really so bad, do you think? Hisao never admitted anything to me.”
“Not bad,” Sesshomaru stated. “But it has been difficult for a youkai to always carry a trace of purity. And to see another’s aura is a gift that many miko and monks train years for. When it was thrust upon him, my captain did not have such an advantage.”
“I think it makes him look debonair,” said a voice from right beside her ear.
“Ack!” Kagome shrieked and jumped, turning to face a tall, red-haired man. His green eyes sparkled with mirth, his short-trimmed beard caught the afternoon sun. Casual slacks and an open-necked button-up shirt gave him the air of a graduate student. “Shippo, don’t do that!” She smacked him on the arm, and then leaned in for a hug. “You’ve been gone too long,” she whispered. Despite the tantrum she had thrown when Sesshomaru first proposed the idea, Shippo had become one of the first members of his youkai police. With his skills as a kitsune, he spent much of his time undercover, dashing around the globe to carry out Sesshomaru’s vast interests. He often compared himself to James Bond. Kagome had the feeling it was all of the danger with much less fun. Certainly she hoped there was less gambling, drinking, and sleeping with loose women.
Sesshomaru nodded a greeting to Nankae, who was coming through the gate with his luggage and several other people’s, from the looks of him. “Shippo,” he said without looking at the kitsune. There was an underlying vibration in that one word that made the kitsune straighten and the toddler Saburou fling his eyes wide open. “Do not frighten your mother.”
“Oh, right, ah, sorry, Kagome.” Shippo pulled away and bowed politely. His fangs, claws, and tails emerged from the concealment he usually kept them under, and Kagome admired the four fluffy appendages with pride. From one of his pockets, he pulled a long box of chocolates that shouldn’t have fit inside. She wondered how many more adjustment he had made to his clothing with magic. “Chocolates for my favorite girl?”
Kagome wanted to give in, all her children knew she was a sucker for a smiled apology and gifts. However, she wasn’t about to let him off that easily. “While you’re here, I can shave that thing off your face for you.”
“This?” He stroked his beard and posed with one brow raised, “It makes me look dashing.”
“Dangerous is more like it.” Kagome snorted, “Pirate Shippo.”
“That’s the point, Mama,” he sent her a wink with the title. “Danger and intrigue always get the ladies.” He gave his adoptive father a sly grin, “Right Sesshomaru-sama?” Sesshomaru wisely stayed out of the argument, standing to take Saburou into the house.
Kagome took Shippo’s offered hand and stood as well. “Girls who are looking for danger are not girls who settle down and have kits,” she admonished.
“I don’t know about that, Kagome. You couldn’t stay away from dangerous males, and Saburou is your fifth!” Kagome sputtered and blushed while Shippo laughed. The kitsune, fully grown and handsome in both his human and demon forms, bent to hug his mother and whispered in her ear, “I won’t settle for anything less than the best, so when I’m ready to bring one home, she’ll be a lot like you.”
Kagome had trouble keeping her tears at bay as she entered the house, which was bursting at the seams with guests for the celebration. Her oldest daughter, Chiasa, was talking on her phone and carrying food outside to grill. Her first born son, Masahiko, was reading a story to his only child. Junichi was trying to corner his girlfriend under the stairs, to much laughter from both the girlfriend and Rin’s daughter, who had finally arrived. Mayu, who looked exactly like Sesshomaru, was playing a video game with Souta and Inuyasha’s son. Somewhere upstairs, children were shrieking with laughter. On the back patio, Kimi’s chuckle mixed with that of Kagome’s mother and several other youkai and hanyou. Kagome leaned into Sesshomaru with a sigh.
“This might be the best anniversary of the peace treaty yet.”
The doorbell rang then, and as the only adult whose hands were not occupied, Kagome took it upon herself to answer. Standing on the front step was Eri, her usual black clothes accented with a pink scarf. Her long, cinnamon colored hair was pulled into a casual tail. Kagome squealed, and pulled her in for a hug. It had been another wonderful surprise, as the years passed and she traced the family lines of all of the friends she had lost, that one branch of Sango and Miroku’s family had resulted in Eri. The same branch that continued to train as demon slayers and holy people. Although, it turned out most of them worked for Sesshomaru in his youkai police force. Which meant that when it came time for someone to be assigned to stay close to young Kagome and keep her safe until the well opened, Eri was a natural choice. It was a relief, when enough time had passed, for the two friends to meet again without having to hide anything for the sake of the timeline. That had been almost four years ago, although Kagome still easily passed for twenty-four, her legal age.
Eri squeezed back and whispered, “So sorry, I couldn’t shake him.” Then she slipped around Kagome, calling loudly and obviously to Shippo that she needed food – in the backyard. Kagome was confused for about three seconds.
“Kagome-san.” That voice. It was overly warm and soft, like bread that hadn’t cooked long enough. Doughy. She hadn’t heard it in five hundred years, but it was still too soon.
It was a sincere effort for the miko not to grimace. “Hello, Hojo-san.”
“Eri-san mentioned that she was coming to the shrine, and I am in town visiting my parents, so I just had to drop by and see you. Is everything okay?” He leaned forward, his hands held out awkwardly, and peered into her eyes with concern. Kagome suddenly realized what his visit was about. Apparently, not nearly enough time had passed for the washed-out, skinny man to get over whatever protective feelings he had towards her.
“I’m well. Thank you, Hojo-san. I am here with my husband.” She stressed the word, but didn’t see more than a twinge of disappointment in his open, stupid face. “And my sons-“she quickly corrected herself, “friends. My son and my son’s friends. So I am sorry I don’t have time to catch up.”
“Please Kagome,” his whisper had a tone of desperation in it, and Kagome quickly stepped out onto the porch in her socks, pulling the door mostly closed behind her. It had been a long time since Sesshomaru had tried to melt someone, and she wasn’t eager for that streak to be broken at her mother’s house.
“Hojo, thank you for thinking of me. You have always been a polite boy, but you need to go now.”
“Boy?” His surprise and offense had her wincing. Sometimes she forgot that she looked so much younger than she really was. He did seem like a boy to her though, painfully young and mortally clueless. “It’s him, isn’t it?” Hojo snatched up her hands, holding them in a surprisingly strong grip. His face hardened with a determination that she wouldn’t have thought him possible of. She briefly considered using one of the martial arts skills she had learned a few hundred years ago and breaking his weak little human wrists. “That gang-member’s brother. He did force you into this, didn’t he? I knew it!” Kagome didn’t have time to interrupt him, not that she could have formed any words past the shock and anger clogging her throat. “You don’t have to suffer in silence any longer, sweet Kagome, I’ll-”
“You will get your hands off of my wife.”
The sentence was spoken evenly, and so coldly it sent a chill down Kagome’s spine. Days since our last dismemberment: Zero. She winced, her anger fading in the presence of Sesshomaru’s absolute fury. She could feel his youki rising, twining around them both and urging her to step back into his space. She wondered for a moment how long scent stayed in a daiyoukai’s memory. At least 500 years, she guessed. Before Hojo could even react, Sesshomaru was joined by Masahiko on one side and Junichi on the other. Kagome had to push back with a little reiki just to get breathing room from all of the energy her sons were throwing around.
“Sir,” Hojo drew himself up to his full height, which would have been respectable in any office environment in Japan, but was laughable in comparison to the three youkai that towered over him. Great, Kagome thought, because Sesshomaru just loves it when people tell him no. “I have known Kagome-san far longer than you, and I think that friendship deserves some of her time. Don’t worry, Kagome, you don’t have to say anything in front of him, just come with me.”
He actually tugged on her hands, as if she was going to leave her family and follow him off to – what exactly? She wasn’t sure. A life with him? The milk-toast pharmacist? “Yeah,” she drew out the word and pulled her hands from his. It was a struggle. “I don’t think so.”
“She said no, dingle-dork, or can’t you hear nothin’?” Inuyasha appeared around the side of the house and leaned on a support column for the porch, the juice stain on his shirt doing nothing to soften his murderous glare.
“Dingle-dork!” Saburou called out happily from Sesshomaru’s hold. Kagome reached around to take him, scowling at her best friend.
“Thanks, Inuyasha, he’ll be saying that all night now.”
Shippo peeked around the other corner of the house, “I thought it was pretty accurate.” He shrugged. Kagome herded her family back inside, completely ignoring the man still standing hopelessly in the yard. Her determination caused her to miss the pointed look and push of youki Sesshomaru sent toward his brother and adopted son.
The door to the house closed behind Kagome, and Inuyasha cracked his knuckles. He had been waiting five hundred years for the go ahead to beat the stuffing out of the little panty-waist that had always followed Kagome around. And while he normally chafed a bit at commands from Sesshomaru, who was he to argue when the Saidai Mao told him to get rid of someone?
“Listen up, dude,” Inuyasha liked that modern word, dude. He had learned it during the sixties in America and it still sounded good. It was particularly degrading if spoken with the right tone. “I ain’t gonna say this more than once. Leave Kagome the hell alone. Don’t touch her, don’t talk to her. Don’t even fuckin’ think about her, got it?”
“Or what?” Hojo asked, pale-faced, but obviously trying to find his balls. “You’ll send some of your gang members after me? I’ll call the police!”
“Hojo-san,” Shippo smiled disarmingly and threw one arm around Hojo’s shoulders, walking him towards the gate with more pressure than was really necessary. “I apologize for my uncle’s behavior, but you understand, we are all very protective of Kagome. What with her unfortunate childhood illnesses, and everything. Surely you understand?”
Inuyasha watched a master manipulator at work and huffed to himself. He almost never got to kick the crap out of anyone anymore. It was disappointing. Hojo was nodding, but also trying unsuccessfully to get Shippo to turn around. The kitsune wouldn’t let him get a word in edgewise.
“That’s right, I thought you would. From the moment I first met you, I felt a real kinship with you, Hobo.”
“It’s Hojo,” the human interjected.
“Yes, forgive me. Hoko. As I was saying Hoyo, we all care for Kagome. And so we should all try to do what she asks. Can you do that, Hobo, can you give Kagome what she needs most?”
The idiot was lapping it up like a kitten with cream. Inuyasha followed them through the shrine grounds, right up to the tori gate, and leaned against a column.
“Of course, if she would just let me-”
“Good, that’s good, Holo. What Kagome needs is to be with her family, whom she loves. What she wants is for you to disappear. Forever. Can you do that Hobo?” The man blinked, struggling to understand what he was hearing. “I hope so, I really do. Because if you can’t…” Kitsune magic winked, creating a blue-green haze in the air. Suddenly, Hojo found his face within a foot of unnaturally bright green eyes and a wicked grin that displayed sharp fangs. “If you can’t, Hobo, then I will make you disappear. Forever. And Hojo,” he gently picked the man up, as though he weighed nothing, which to a youkai he did, and set him down on the first step that led to the street. “Don’t bother making that phone call.” He leaned even closer, and Inuyasha had to hold back a laugh at the sweat rolling down the idiot’s pale face. Shippo bared his teeth and made a growling sound, “I am the police.”