Epilogue

Spring

Sesshoumaru avoided another strike, flamboyantly flipping out of harm's way, only to arrive on his bare feet once more with not a hair out of place. Steep cuts of magenta disappeared into the waist of his hakama and drew attention to the defined V low on his torso. Each time he landed, the material slid down his hips just a little, earning an appreciative sound from the women on the sidelines.

They sat together in the grass and watched the match play out; previous conversation forgotten as soon as the dog demons started to strip.

"Mmm," Kagome finally said after several minutes. "I could watch this all day." She scratched at her hip – right where her scar used to be – but she assumed it was psychosomatic.

After Sesshoumaru changed back for good, she wasted no time before making another wish on the Shikon to ensure that her last wish was indeed complete. This time, it worked.

She commanded the jewel to begone, so that it couldn't cause anyone – her especially – any more trouble than it already had. She had expected it to simply vanish, but instead was surprised when it embedded itself painlessly back into her side, right where it used to be.

The Shikon's return to her body had a couple of side-effects; one being that the ugly scar she'd gotten from Mistress Centipede had instantly disappeared. It was like the whole thing never happened, but the scars that remained – though not visible to the eye – would serve as an ample reminder, and likely never heal completely.

The second was she would no longer be affected by time. She'd played pretty fast and loose with the laws of space time as it was, but in addition to being able to continue traveling back and forth between the two eras, she had also stopped aging for good.

She wasn't immortal by any means. She could break her neck or bleed out just like anyone else, but old age would never claim her. She wasn't sure how she felt about that, until she saw the look of pure happiness on her mate-to-be's face when she told him the news.

The third, and most annoying side-effect was that sometimes, it itched like hell. But she was fairly confident that part was all in her head.

"Not me," Sango replied, and Kagome raised her brow. "I'm about ten minutes away from declaring a draw and dragging him off to one of the huts to celebrate."

They giggled together and turned their attention back to the shirtless spar where it belonged.

"I love seeing him work up a sweat," the slayer added, expression growing more salacious. "The way he swings that sword is almost sexual."

Clashing metal and grunting sounds could be heard in the distance, followed by a few colorful words. The women continued to gaze appreciatively, an unspoken understanding that conversational manners were not currently required.

"They do it on purpose," the miko said after another moment. But as she spoke, neither removed their attention from the heated mock battle taking place. "They know we get off on this, so they totally play it up for the crowd."

"Are you complaining?" Sango asked, and Kagome shook her head.

"Not in the slightest."

Inuyasha blocked a heavy blow from Sesshoumaru's sword, and the impasse left both inu locked in a show of force. Muscles bulged as they tried to overpower one another, stomachs and arms flexed as they applied their strength, resulting in an attractive display of dog demon anatomy.

"So, how are they treating you over there?"

Kagome finally tore her gaze away from the alluring sight to give her good friend her attention. She could see the other stuff – and more - when she got home. Like, the second she got home.

"Wonderfully," she replied with a smile. "You know, he really built it up to be some dangerous, hostile environment, but everyone's been perfectly nice. In fact, it seems like they are tripping over themselves to accommodate me."

Sango turned to her, smirking. "After what you did to that tiger, it doesn't surprise me. We heard about that all the way out here, and it's still the main topic of conversation out in the village."

Kagome shrugged, sighing softly as she replied. "Yes, I'm sorry it came to that, but it had to be done." Her friend nodded in agreement before she added, "And it gave me a chance to demonstrate what my holy powers can accomplish when properly motivated."

Another reason the demons out West were wary of upsetting her. Sesshoumaru was quite pleased at the early gratuitous showcasing of her abilities.

"But still, it was so gruesome." Sango grimaced, remembering the story she was told. "I expect that kind of thing from Sesshoumaru, but you..."

"Hey, you threaten my loved ones, you pay the price. And now everyone knows it." Sango seemed to accept that rationale as an unholy smirk creeped up the miko's lips. "Besides, after what Sesshoumaru put him through, I consider it an act of mercy."

The demon slayer saw the glint in her friend's eye and realized something.

She was obviously a good influence on her daiyoukai lover, but it became clear that he was rubbing off on her as well. She couldn't say it was a bad thing, but just hoped the two both ended up somewhere in the middle... Or maybe closer to Kagome's side would be good.

"Well, we're going to miss you, killer," she joked. "It won't be the same here without you. In fact, everything's different now." With a bemused look, she asked, "Who would have guessed a few months ago that I'd break up with Miroku for Inuyasha, and you'd be moving in with Sesshoumaru to become Lady of the Western Lands?"

Kagome smiled, but didn't respond. Firstly, because they both knew the answer to that. If anyone would have suggested such a thing, they would have been dropped off at this era's version of a crazy house to have their head examined.

Second, because she didn't have an opinion on the whole 'Western Lady' thing yet.

She knew what would be expected of her, but she wasn't entirely sure she wanted that for herself. She wanted to help, and it helped to have influence, but... she needed to think about it.

But she had plenty of time. She and Sesshoumaru hadn't even mated yet, and those plans were still a long way off. For now, they just wanted to have fun and not worry about all that. They felt they'd earned it.

"Speaking of the feudal era's hottest demon lord... how's the sex?"

Kagome grinned shyly, face turning pink as she cut a glance over to Sesshoumaru to make sure he wasn't listening.

She hadn't had any women to talk to about sex since, well, having it. And after only a couple weeks, she was quickly becoming an expert in the subject.

But she didn't know what kinds of things were okay to talk about. What was considered TMI, and what Sesshoumaru might not appreciate her divulging.

"Feral," she finally went with. That appeared to be the right answer.

"Ugh, I know! What is it in that dog demon gene that makes them such passionate lovers?" They both looked over at their partners and became excited at finally having someone who shared similar experiences. "I actually feel bad for all those poor bigoted women who condemn us for our 'sinful affiliations.' They are really missing out."

And Sango was even happier that she had finally come around, and was no longer one of those women she pitied.

"I don't feel bad," Kagome said dismissively. "Let them have their mediocre sex life. More for us, am I right?"

The taijiya smiled at her newly indoctrinated friend, and her less than apologetic attitude. She wondered how much of the new her came from having sex, and how much of it came from being around Sesshoumaru so much.

"I don't know how much more I could handle. Sometimes Inuyasha keeps me occupied all night, and well into the next day."

"I know," the miko agreed, loving having someone who could relate. "I don't call it his 'speed stripe' because he's done quick, that's for sure."

The two indulged in another giggle fit, trying to keep it down so as not to gain the attention of their sharp hearing significant others.

They finally caught their breath again, and that's when Sango smiled kindly at her friend. "I'm so happy everything worked out for us. If things keep going as they are, we might end up being sisters."

When Kagome smiled back, it was genuine. Because she never thought there would come a day where she could talk about her and Inuyasha's love life without the accompanying heartache, or resentment eating her from the inside. But it really didn't bother her anymore. It hadn't for a while.

She had almost lost both of her best friends for that reason, and she was so happy that she didn't.

As for the sisters part, that was looking more likely by the day. Not that it would really change much. Because-

"I always felt like we were."

Another pleasant, friendly smile was shared between them, where a hundred things were said without being spoken.

Finally, Sango broke the spell.

"Okay, tell me more about this 'speed stripe'..."


With Sesshoumaru becoming increasingly distracted, Inuyasha finally put an end to their spar.

As they were no longer trying to kill each other, these matches ended up being more about showing off than practicing any real attacks. So when the daiyoukai started holding back his obnoxious flair he loved to flaunt, Inuyasha called it a day.

But as they walked back to edge of the clearing to retrieve their shed garments, he had that odd look on his face again. Then, the bastard smirked.

"Hey," he said again, and his brother finally looked up. "You eavesdropping on the girls again?"

Sesshoumaru's silence was incriminating, but the hanyou was willing to drop it as they started donning their haoris.

"I was trying to thank you for your help last week. Sorry I had to bug ya, but that elemental-"

"Think nothing of it."

Inuyasha frowned, and found insecurity in the silence that ensued.

"I mean, I coulda handled him myself-"

"Of course," he cut in, as he focused on getting his shirt on neatly. "Every elemental is under This One's surveillance for the foreseeable future. I should be thanking you for bringing it to my attention."

The brief eye contact snapped the younger inu back into action, and he started dressing faster.

"Yeah, well, I doubt we'll be seeing him again, or any of his kind for that matter."

"I should hope not."

Sesshoumaru was ready for his obi while his brother played catch-up, but the hanyou slowed long enough to offer a wicked grin.

"Especially after what happened to that tiger." Sesshoumaru grunted in agreement while Inuyasha shook his head. "People are still talking about that shit. I mean, I expect that from you, but Kagome?"

"All will learn she is not to be trifled with sooner or later," he said, joining his brother in a smirk. His eyes twinkled with amusement, and pride. "I am fortunate to have discovered this early."

The two were in agreement. That seemed to be happening more often these days.

One toed into his boots while the other grabbed his obi.

"How's she doing?" Inuyasha asked, casting a quick look down the field where the females were still chatting.

"Did she not just tell you?"

"I want to know what you think."

That was happening more often these days as well. Whether or not his opinion was ever of any consequence to the hanyou before, only now did he actively seek it out.

This, like many things, was a subject he was well-versed in.

"I think... she is happy."

And as a result, so was he. Inuyasha recognized this, and then it made three of them.

"Yeah, well, if you're taking her from me, then she better be. Make my suffering worth it, or you'll be the one who suffers."

The daiyoukai raised a brow at the half-hearted threat, though he in no way doubted its authenticity. It was a moot point regardless.

With his swords tucked away, he watched Inuyasha finish his knot, and gave the boy a good once over.

"You do not seem overly distraught," he observed. "In fact, I have never seen you looking so well. How are you and the slayer faring?"

"Great," he replied, grinning. "Better than ever. I need to thank you again."

"You do not."

"No." His countenance became serious, and Sesshoumaru braced himself to receive his brother's gratitude. It was still a bit awkward to endure.

"If it wasn't for you, I'd have never gotten the nerve to tell her how I felt. You sniffed me out and fixed things up right away." He dropped his gaze long enough to tuck away his sword, but continued. "Despite almost fucking her, that was the best thing anyone's ever done for me, and we're happy, so thank you."

Sesshoumaru frowned. The whelp continued to insist that he had done something to assist him; to intervene on his behalf. He denied this up and down, but when pressed as to why he had spoken to her that night, he could not generate a valid reason.

He supposed it was worth examining, but every time he tried, another portion of that evening derailed his analysis, and left him leaden with remorse. It was a most unsettling feeling.

"I do regret taking her to the springs with me," he confessed suddenly. "It was juvenile and malicious."

Inuyasha's eyes widened noticeably, and he stilled. He hadn't been expecting that, but after taking in his brother's earnest expression, his own guilt kept him from enjoying the rare admission.

"Keh, well, I was kinda asking for it." His lips curved down regretfully. "I shouldn't have been kicking your bruises like that."

After all, when you fuck with a mean dog, you can expect to get bit. Sesshoumaru didn't take shit from anyone, and he was no exception. He was willing to accept his role in their adversarial relationship. Even if the bastard did start it.

"Regardless, it was unbefitting." Inuyasha didn't respond, and the longer the silence ensued, the more displeased Sesshoumaru became. His brother appeared to have forgiven him for the many wrongs he'd committed against him over the years, but he didn't feel he deserved to be absolved quite yet. He didn't know how to remedy the guilt in his chest, but he figured acknowledging it was a good place to start.

"I regret the bitch I took in our youth as well." Inuyasha looked back up from dressing to see his brother's deep frown. "Being truthful... I was always jealous."

"Over Kara?" he asked incredulously, as if what he suggested was blasphemous.

Once it registered, Sesshoumaru responded the same way.

"No," he insisted, very much offended by the insinuation. "Father. I was always second behind you, and the two of you had never even spoken. It wasn't fair."

The look on his face was the one he reserved for their father alone. Only now did Inuyasha recognize the subtle change, and what it was. Pain.

He instantly felt bad. He didn't know why his dad did what he did, but he found himself wishing the inu hadn't done it.

"But that wasn't your fault," Sesshoumaru declared, shaking off his anger and straightening. "I should not have taken my quarrel with him out on you, and I apologize."

He still wasn't used to this from him, and was aware it made them both uncomfortable. He wondered if that would ever go away.

"What's bringing all this up?" he wondered, but he shouldn't have.

"Kagome." Just speaking her name relaxed the tense air around them, as the woman who brought them together continued to do so, even unknowingly.

"She opened a door to a whole new world for me," he said reverently, looking down the field as his chosen female chatted happily, unaware that two sets of golden eyes rested on her seated figure. "Everything is different now; better. She gives me hope, peace, contentedness. Satisfaction." The hanyou got the feeling he didn't mean that how it sounded, but he wrinkled his nose nonetheless. When Sesshoumaru returned his attention to the younger inu, he didn't appear to notice.

"I feel like my life began that day in the snow, and I have you to thank. If not for you, I would never have found her, so I owe you... everything. My life." Taking in his brother's stunned reaction, Sesshoumaru frowned again. "Which is why it is uncomfortable for me to ask something of you now."

That seemed to shake the hanyou from his stupor. "What do you want?" he asked suspiciously, suddenly wary of what he may request.

"When you invited me into your pack, it was understood the arrangement would be temporary." Inuyasha nodded, but if he didn't know any better, he'd say his brother looked... nervous.

"However, even though I have returned West, I do not desire our affiliation to be terminated." Sesshoumaru regarded him carefully. "Seeing as how Kagome shall remain with This One, I propose a merger."

The daiyoukai tried to mask his discomfort with confident posture.

He wasn't sure how his brother would take to his proposal, or even if it was alright to make such a suggestion. But it only made sense to combine the packs, especially since they were family, and he had poached one of his most important members.

Understanding dawned, and Inuyasha smirked humorlessly. "Don't suppose you wanna call me alpha though, right?"

"No," he confirmed, and the half-breed's disappointment was palpable. "I would like to call you brother."

At his curious look, the demon lord clarified, "No mockery, no disdain, no half."

"And?" he demanded warily. "What else?"

"And I would like you to do the same."

Inuyasha just kept staring, like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. But it never came. Sensing his hesitance, or perhaps it was confusion, Sesshoumaru sighed.

"There was a time when you needed my protection, but that time has long passed. I failed you then, but as a result, you have earned the right and capability to be your own man... or youkai. And I have lost the right to insist you submit."

It was too late for that now. He hadn't been alpha to him when he needed it, so he could not barge into his life and assume the role this late in the game. It wouldn't be fair.

"I shunned you because of my jealousy, but in doing so, made you even more enviable in my eyes. I will never know the freedom you enjoy."

His brother was resilient, and as a result, had earned a freedom that Sesshoumaru could only dream about. But he supposed the grass was always greener, like Kagome had said. Inuyasha believed that his brother was the one with an enviable life – a privileged existence. And while true in some respects, it was decidedly not in others.

"You do not need anyone now, so the pack you have made is simply there because you wish it to be."

Another right he'd earned through his hardship. Sesshoumaru's duty to those around him afforded him loyalty and respect, but those youkai didn't necessarily like him. He didn't necessarily like them, either; it wasn't required. But Inuyasha got to surround himself with the people he cared for... and dismiss the ones he did not.

"We cannot choose who is bound to us by blood, but we can choose who is bound to us by affection. I fear I have severed any ties the former would have granted, but it is my hope that in the latter lies a chance for reconstruction."

He remained silent, and Sesshoumaru took it as reluctance, or possibly rejection.

"I understand that some things cannot be forgiven. However, Kagome has shown me that amazing things are possible in that regard. Though she is an especially compassionate woman, and you would not be faulted to deny me this; it is... a rather large concession, I know."

But he wanted to make it clear that he did not wish to assert power over him. What he proposed would make them something like equals, and for the proud youkai, that would be quite the concession as well.

Inuyasha had yet to respond, but the daiyoukai tried to focus on the fact that the hadn't refused him outright. Hopefully, yet confidently; he held out his hand as Miroku had done with him when they reunited after the bridge.

The hanyou looked at him oddly, squinting at his hand, and then his face curiously.

"What is that?" he demanded.

Though Sesshoumaru's confidence wavered, his hand never did. He was starting to consider that the monk played him for a fool, however.

"I am told it is something men do."

Inuyasha regarded his outstretched hand another moment, before shaking his head.

"I don't think so."

Stoic yet disappointed, Sesshoumaru lowered his arm. He hadn't expected such easy forgiveness, but Kagome's influence had turned him into somewhat of an optimist. But he understood.

Before his hand returned to his side, however, his brother managed to outmaneuver him. He lunged forward, sliding his arms around the Western Lord's middle, and squeezed him for all he was worth.

The haughty demon was more than a little shocked. He was so completely stunned by the swift movement, in fact, that he stumbled backward a step before regaining his footing.

If they had ever touched in a non-violent way, Sesshoumaru couldn't recall it. But the rage and humiliation he should be feeling for having his hanyou brother's ear pressed tightly against his chest was surprisingly absent.

His own mother had never touched him so intimately, and before Kagome, he couldn't even recall a female who had been so bold. It was strange, but not terrible. Not exactly nice, but... humbling. He'd gone decades, even centuries at a time without touching another living soul. Such a simple thing, but impactful, and a comfort he had not anticipated.

When the shock began to wane, he slowly lifted his arms and returned the embrace, cradling the silver head against his chest.

He heard twin gasps off in the distance, followed by some sort of squeal, and when he shifted his gaze; the sight of Kagome's beaming features exuding approval and joy made him squeeze a little tighter.

"Thank you," he uttered lowly, "for letting me have her."

He felt the heavy scoff that blew across this clothing, and his brother looked up. "Like I coulda stopped her if I wanted to."

"I owe you my life. That is a rather large debt."

Another life debt, but worth it a thousand times over. Just as the last one had been.

Inuyasha finally pulled back, and the demon lord released him. "Just keep that smile on her face, and we're even."

"I intend to," he easily promised.

Too easily, he realized. Just like Kagome's request in the cave, it was not a fitting payment. For a life as magnificent as his, this debt was going to have to hurt.

Before Inuyasha could turn around, a clawed hand grasped his shoulder. Sesshoumaru grit his teeth, and forced out his next words.

"Honor requires me to inform you that I would already grant you this. You must choose another favor."

The hanyou dubiously regarded his brother's determined features and tried to think. Then, something flashed in his eyes before the most frightening smile Sesshoumaru had ever seen slithered its way up his lips.

The daiyoukai's stomach dropped, and he couldn't recall the last time fear had gripped him so tightly.


Summer

Introductions had barely been made before an apologetic servant asked for a brief aside. Inukimi excused herself and assured a swift return, leaving her son and his apparent mate-to-be sitting alone in the lavish, yet tastefully decorated room.

If Kagome was nervous about meeting Sesshoumaru's mother, she was hiding it quite well. She did not display any anxiety until she saw him produce a pipe – she had no idea where he'd gotten it – and proceeded to light it up.

He sensed the change, so once the smoke left his lungs, he turned to Kagome.

"A high-quality youkai tobacco," he explained. "nothing more."

"Really?" She eyed the extravagant device suspiciously, but could already determine that the smell was different.

"Would I lie to you?" She returned his mocking smirk, and he prepared to hit it again. "Even if I would, opium is a mortal trapping; it would have no effect on my youkai self."

"Still, I'd rather not risk it." As he turned away to release his smoke in a thick cloud, she placed a gentle hand on his thigh. "I need you in top form to perform your duties."

He smiled down at her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and placing a kiss on her crown.

"Nothing will keep this one from ruling his lands affectively," he assured her. But as he gathered her close, she rubbed her hand up his leg suggestively.

"Those aren't the duties I'm talking about," she whispered, then laughed. "Though perhaps we wouldn't be in this mess."

He leaned down to press his forehead to hers. "It would have only delayed the inevitable; you cannot run from fate, miko."

She saw a familiar fire building in his amber gaze, and grinned. "Especially when he's a daiyoukai."

His dashing smile always did her in, and she tilted her head to receive his lips on hers. Right as they touched, Inukimi returned alone from the hallway she'd disappeared down.

They pulled apart, which she had surely seen, though she made no mention of it as she reclaimed her seat across from them.

She brandished her own pipe, nearly identical to his and filled with what she assumed was the same quality tobacco he mentioned.

"So, you are an acquaintance of his brother?" she asked, lifting the mouthpiece to her painted lips.

"Yes milady."

She released her modest puff, regarding the miko thoughtfully. "Then I assume you know the specifics of his father's fate."

Kagome nodded. "I do."

"And his mother."

"Yes."

After another thoughtful pause, she faintly arched her brow. "And this does not concern you?"

She brought the pipe back to her lips, and when Kagome turned to her side, she found the demon lord doing the same.

"I trust Sesshoumaru. I have faith in his abilities, not to mention my own." Smiling warmly, she took the hand resting at his side with hers and gave it a squeeze. "Besides, I love him, so nothing else really matters."

Sesshoumaru returned the affection comfortably as Inukimi watched on. She appeared to be assessing them carefully, but regarded her son with a mild amusement.

"How have you been received thus far?"

Kagome offered a genuine smile. "Everyone's been great."

"Really?" You could hear surprise in the regal demoness' tone.

"Oh, yes. After what happened with that tiger, they give us both a pretty wide berth."

There was a hint of pride in her aura, and Sesshoumaru's as he gazed down at her happily.

"Oh yes, I heard about that." Kagome could see the youkai's lips twitching, like Sesshoumaru's did when he was amused. "Gruesome fate. I was quite shocked to hear of your involvement."

"He harmed my friends," she shrugged, unapologetic. "and threatened the man I love. I am compassionate, but I'm not a saint."

His mother leveled a condemning glare.

"But a miko."

"Yes," she confirmed.

"Then you were simply upholding your duty to rid the world of youkai." She rose her pipe to her lips again and looked at her son. "More strange that you should bind yourself to one so... intimately."

Sesshoumaru said nothing, but the pressure Kagome felt around her hand relayed reassurance. She squeezed back, but kept her attention on his mother.

"That's not how I roll. I only rid the world of bad people; their race is irrelevant."

This seemed to amuse the demoness as well, though she appeared to be fascinated in her own subtle way.

"Does that not ostracize you from your kind?" she asked, but Kagome was dismissive in her reply.

"Any who would shun me for the company I keep is unworthy of my friendship anyhow. The way I see it, they are just saving me the trouble of figuring it out myself."

Inukimi was mid puff, but she nodded slightly in acceptance. Once she emptied her lungs, she offered, "I must admit, the West has been eerily peaceful ever since that ill-conceived attack."

"His foes showed their colors," she shrugged again. "and everyone saw the price you pay for that." Then, she held the Western Lady's gaze meaningfully, in a way the demoness would later describe as brave. "I don't want to hurt anyone, but I will if you threaten the people I love."

The demon's lips twitched again. "Do you love me?"

It was the first time during the meeting that Kagome faltered, and his mother smiled victoriously.

"I, um... yes?"

She didn't respond, but there was condemnation in that silence, and Kagome relented.

"I just met you, but I'd like us to be close, if you're open to it."

The request was hopeful and earnest, but the assessing gaze she'd been getting thus far suddenly took on a new edge that had the miko feeling very uncomfortable.

"I'm open to more than you might think," she told her, her smile taking on a more seductive air. "Just how close would you be willing-"

"Mother."

His deep, commanding baritone broke the trance, and earned Kagome's attention.

"Don't blame me, she's the one who brought in all that love talk."

But his mother relented, turned back to her pipe again. Her focus was back on the miko as thick smoke curled past her ruby lips.

"Lady of the West is not some figurehead position," she informed her, all business once again. "It takes commitment and devotion, and the welfare of many are at stake. It is not simple to manage on its own, but balancing the duties with children can be very difficult even for youkai to handle, should the day arrive."

Kagome looked to the demon lord pensively, but he kept his focus forward.

"It is why I decided she would do well with your assistance," he answered.

She had been interested in meeting the Western Lady ever since she learned she was still alive, but she hadn't been particularly eager either. Being introduced to his mother was a big step, and though they planned to be mated anyhow, she figured she'd let him make the arrangements when he felt the time was right. He put it off as long as he could.

"I don't wish to take your position from you," Kagome felt inclined to assure her. "that is not what I'm after. But one day, kami forbid, it will be left to me, and I want to be prepared."

She was certainly in no rush to take on the massive responsibility, especially when there was a capable ruler already in place. The last thing she wanted to do was waltz in and start ruffling feathers. For now, she had no problem with hanging back and letting the demons do their thing. Or, at most, she would offer her input if she saw anything that might need retooling.

"I just thought maybe you could show me the ropes."

"Ropes?" she asked, lifting a silver brow. It was amazing how alike they were.

"Uh, yes. Train me, let me hang out, give me some pointers, that sort of thing." The blank stare she received was not promising. "I don't mean to cramp your style; I just figure why not learn from the best?"

The cheesy smile she gave earned her a light scoff as the Western Lady refilled her elegant pipe.

"I see you have some experience placating an enormous ego; I wonder where you learned it."

Her gaze slid to her son who frowned disapprovingly.

"I wonder where he got it."

Golden eyes instantly snapped back to the miko where they belonged. Brief surprise flittered out as they regarded her unapologetically defiant features, and then the demoness smiled.

"I certainly see the attraction. Firey and petulant has always been his type." Kagome turned to find the daiyoukai still glaring daggers at his mother while she continued to talk about him as if he weren't sitting right there.

"Propriety bores him to death, but his lifestyle has always demanded it." Her devious smile spread wider. "I bet he goes wild when you show up to take the hot air out of the room, throw a wrench in things and keep him teetering on those aristocratic toes."

The prospect seemed to amuse her further, but Kagome remained silent while the two demons continued to smoke. She withstood his mother's scrutiny commendably, even as it suddenly became more pointed. She was looking very thoughtful again, and finally declared, "You are unconventional. Untrained. Unindoctrinated. Human, miko," she rattled off with ease. "Very young. And defiant."

It was unclear whether it was meant to be an attack, so she didn't respond to her assessment.

"But you have motivation, interest and genuine concern. You will apply yourself; I can tell. Can you follow instruction? Obey commands? Show respect?"

"Of course," she said with a friendly smile. "So long as I am respected in turn, that is all I require."

Inukimi said nothing to that, only asked, "When is the mating?"

Sesshoumaru was smoking, so she replied, "Autumn."

"Not much time, but since you do not wish to push me out, I suppose it matters not. However, you will move to the Castle in the Sky to shadow me until the time when you are my son's mate."

Kagome nearly choked on her spit as she felt the demon lord tense beneath her hand.

"You want me to live with you?" she asked, then turned to Sesshoumaru for help.

"After then, you are free to assist me, or 'hang out' whenever it suits you." The demoness relaxed back in her seat as she lifted her pipe, incredibly nonchalant for what she just proposed.

Kagome was caught off guard by the suggestion and didn't quite know how to reply.

"That is very generous, but I don't know-"

"She will not leave the fortress."

His glare was intense as he wrapped his arm around her waist possessively.

"Keeping your little bird under lock and key?" his mother mocked, neither frightened nor impressed with his display. "I thought she was capable."

Suddenly, she paused. Understanding dawned as she lifted her eyes from the pipe she held to rest them on her son meaningfully.

"Unless there is another reason you are being unreasonable. I know that possessive glint." Looking back and forth between them, she said, "Tell me, why such a rush on the mating?"

The two shifted guiltily in their seats, and she raised her brows.

"You naughty boy! And you weren't going to tell me?" The inuyoukai's countenance went from admonishing to suddenly sympathetic as she shifted her focus to the mother-to-be.

"Poor thing," she offered, then turned to her son. "She's so young, you brute! Could you not have aimed for those pretty tits of hers?"

"Mother-"

"Well, this changes everything," she announced, decision made. "In that case, I must insist she move in immediately."

Arm still crossed, the miko turned to Sesshoumaru for help yet again, but his mother quickly cut in.

"Lady of the West is the least of your concerns. You have some challenging trials ahead of you." The earnest way she spoke had Kagome feeling nervous, and this was not lost on the demoness. "You are quite fortunate to have me to assist, as I have been through this once before."

Izayoi's pregnancy was not an easy one. It never is when a human woman gives birth to a half breed. Though not terribly common, Inukimi happened to have front row seats last time around, so at least her son's mate would not be working blind through the trying event.

"She will be protected as a member of our house, and I can guide her through the troublesome parts of the pregnancy." She looked to her increasingly displeased son. "You may come and go as you wish, but you have duties to see to as well."

Everything inside him wanted to flat out refuse, but when he looked to Kagome and saw the fear in her eyes, he thought better of it. He would do anything for her, but this was one instance where he would be forced to demur to someone more knowledgeable. This was too important to let his pride and selfish desires get in the way.

He begrudgingly agreed to his mother's terms, but vowed he would remain in the castle with her whenever it was possible.


Autumn

Kimi watched the scene play out below as a bout of bittersweet nostalgia pinched her heart in the most beautiful way.

The Lord of the West, hand in hand with his pupped human lover as she dragged him giddily into the cover of the forest. As she watched history repeat itself before her very eyes, she had an inkling of where the two were headed, though she did not need to guess why.

Beyond the wood was a beautiful little clearing Sesshoumaru used to frequent during his summers at the castle. Other times, after he was asleep, she and her mate would steal away to the serene, bloom-laden hideaway and make love beneath the moonlight.

Years later, Izayoi would accompany them.

Her son was a grown demon, and the Western Lord to boot. He certainly didn't need to sneak away to make love to his chosen female, he was well within his rights to do so in her home. And he had, several times and without repent since the miko had moved in to begin her training.

But autumn was upon them, and after the mating had taken place the carefree solitude they currently enjoyed would be much harder for the pair to come by. She couldn't remember the last time she'd seen her pup looking vibrant and happy and just... thrilled to be alive.

She was grateful to the human who seemed to rejuvenate her cold and solemn son, so she would allow them the stolen private moments their little youthful excursion would afford.


Kagome lay in the center of a secluded field amongst a sea of white summer blooms. Hands thrown back over her head, she arched.

A rumbling growl answered her pleasured moan, vibrating off slick skin and stimulating it even further.

She looked down her body, and though beginning to make himself known, their unborn child was not large enough beneath her belly to block his handsome face from her view.

His crescent sat proudly between his ruffled bangs, and beneath; two molten amber pools were bleeding red with desire.

The ferocity in that gaze used to frighten her, but now his beast only showed himself to her when his passion could not be contained. He employed the same intensity when he fucked as when he fought, though his weapon, and execution were entirely different.

His stripes were still smooth – a barometer she'd learned to use to estimate how much time she had before he had them both too enraptured to speak – so she combed through silvery-white bangs to get his attention.

She was unsuccessful, however, and the hand in his hair clenched into a tight fist. A firm tongue stroked her languidly, wetting the velvet-soft flesh inside and out. His muffled groan reverberated up her body to be released through a second set of parted lips.

As the trembling subsided, she felt a large, warm hand rest gently on her modest baby bump, and looked back down. She could feel as well as see the intensity with which he worked, and at once the tender care he took in delivering his passion.

Not a word was needed, though his lips and tongue were not dormant as they latched on, wrapped around, and suckled on her heated flesh.

His claws pinched her hip, not too much but oh, just enough. But before she surrendered herself completely to the dog demon's capable care, a lazy smile graced her lips.

"I was just thinking," she began, and his red-rimmed gaze was hers to behold.

Then, the cool autumn air descended on her abandoned sex.

"I am not doing my job adequately if you are able to think at all."

He looked slightly annoyed, but his chin glistened in the sunlight.

"Shut up," she demanded, grinning even wider. "I was just thinking about how smooth these past few months have gone. It seems like we get along a lot better these days."

She reached down to stroke the impossibly smooth skin at his alabaster cheek. His eyelids narrowed.

"Despite you constantly telling This One to 'shut up.'"

She glared back. "If only you would listen."

The beginning of their acquaintance was wrought with sharp tongued exchanges and heated disagreements. The two stubborn, passionate, and fearless adversaries were neither accustomed to backing down nor shying away, especially when they thought they were right – which was most of the time.

But underneath that was an unspoken appreciation of finally having someone who could spar on their level. And though often on separate sides of an issue, they each posed a worthy challenge to the other's argument, resulting in a well thought out conclusion and better educated opinions.

But it became clear that the ferocity in their sparring correlated with sexual frustration, because once they started taking their disputes into the bedroom to hash out, those sharp tongues became occupied with more enjoyable endeavors. Clash of heated words would soon graduate to a clash of heated flesh, and by the time they were through they either did not remember or did not care what the argument had been about.

"We could have 'gotten along' sooner if you had allowed me to pleasure you earlier on." His lips curled wickedly to expose a deadly fang. "The blame lies with you."

His smooth, confident baritone reached her ears as claws scraped across her sensitive hip. The shiver that ensued began at the base of her skull and ran all the way through to her toes.

She recovered quickly and leveled a taunting smirk.

"You always try and blame me, but that excuse is like Tenseiga." He raised an eyebrow, and she said, "It ain't gonna cut it."

He held her smiling gaze stoically for a long moment, and did not drop it as he lowered his lips back down.

"You know- mmm-" Whatever she was going to say was effectively stifled by his clever mouth. His tongue stroked the swollen bud between her lips, before moving lower to trace her sopping entrance.

"What were you saying, miko?" he asked, not bothering to look up.

If he had, he would have seen her head thrown back to expose the soft column of her throat.

Her breasts pointed skyward as she arched her back in bliss, eyes screwed tightly shut while strong hands kept her waist anchored.

"I don't...ah - I don't remember."


Winter

The Warring States Era would continue to bestow some impressive snowstorms in the years that followed, but none would be as harsh and harrowing as that fateful winter Sesshoumaru became human. Kagome took it as an omen.

They were all tested that winter with many hardships and difficulties, but their resilience got them through it, and into spring all the stronger for what they had endured. Their troubles had melted away with the snow, and after the particularly problematic season, the ones to follow were not hard to withstand.

This year had been particularly generous with the weather, and though the treetops surrounding the old well still held reminders of their most recent blizzard; the clearing was free of freezing white. The world had been kinder to them lately, and it seemed to only be getting better as time went on. The future looked very promising.

"Hanyou will outnumber you soon," Inuyasha declared from his position lounging lazily against the well. He'd just learned earlier today that he was going to be an uncle yet again, and could already hear his wife lobbying for their own new addition to the brood.

He managed to stave her off the idea during Kagome's last pregnancy when their daughter was going through her little hellion phase. But she had calmed down quite a bit in the last few months – thank kami- so he knew it would be harder to temper Sango's desire to keep up with the Jones'.

"I am seeing to it personally."

Beside his brother in a much more refined pose, Sesshoumaru sat cross-legged with his back perfectly straight as they waited for Kagome to return from the future.

It made him nervous every time she left this era, and those anxieties only tripled when she started bringing their pups. The thought of his family being closed off from him 500 years in the future was a terrifying one, but if worse came to worse; he would simply have to wait it out. However, the well had shown no signs of weakening, nor had it failed them yet, and with all he had endured at the hands of the fates, he felt he was owed just this one kindness. Especially because he had been cursed as the only member of his family unable to take the shortcut.

"You can take a break," the hanyou informed him, somewhat irritably. "She is already pregnant. You can't make a new one until that one is born."

Sesshoumaru cast his brother a devilish look. "It is worth a try."

And try they did. Inuyasha rolled his eyes, but traces of amusement disrupted his annoyed cadence. Both reactions were valid, however. At least, he thought they were. It seemed like Kagome had just given birth to their last child and they were already onto the next.

After the first showed up way ahead of schedule, the couple had vowed to wait before expanding their little mix-raced family any larger. Now, they appeared to be off and running, and uncle Inuyasha was starting to worry he might have to give up demon slaying to babysit full time.

"With all that trying, I'm surprised you find the time to come by so much," he grumbled, taking his frustrations out on the poor flowers he just ripped out of the ground.

Mood suddenly soured, Sesshoumaru's lips curved downward to join his brother in a lament.

"And apparently it is still not enough for those obnoxious villagers."

It only took the younger inu an instant to realize what he was talking about. It started with fixing up a few huts, and soon expanded to stocking the nearby market. A few soldiers for protection here, a few smiths and specialty shops there. Before the village knew what hit them, they had gone from drab and destitute to one of the more desirable towns to live beside. They were flourishing, and despite trying to keep it quiet, everyone knew who was responsible.

Sesshoumaru of course refused all shows of appreciation the townspeople tried to bestow, so they finally found a work-around and elected to hold a yearly festival in the bastard's honor. He showed up begrudgingly as etiquette would dictate, but he always complained for weeks leading up to the event. Inuyasha was certain he was more annoyed that they were able to pull a fast one on the Western Lord and make him accept their gift.

Besides, it wasn't like anyone made him do all that nice stuff for them. He was surprised to learn that Kagome didn't even have anything to do with the unprecedent generosity. Not directly, anyhow.

He just started doing it one day, and no one had been able to pry a reason out of the fucker. Maybe there wasn't one.

"They're just trying to show their gratitude," he explained, not for the first time. "The celebration is their way of saying thanks for all you have done around here over the years."

And it was a damn good time, too. It was the one time of year his wife let him get completely shit-faced in public, and with all the free booze, he wasn't alone. All alcohol had been provided by an anonymous benefactor, and he had a suspicion of who it might be.

"It is bad enough that they try and poison me with their putrid human food," Sesshoumaru groused, with a very convincing scowl.

"Sorry, they can't afford a proper gift for your highness. They just want to honor you for keeping them safe and helping the village prosper." Inuyasha's petulance failed to smooth out the creases in his brother's brow, but it never intended to.

"I do not need their pathetic gifts," he insisted. "From now on, you may take credit for my services."

Inuyasha scoffed. "So you can keep your tough-guy asshole image lest anyone think you might actually give a crap about them?" He shook his head dismissively with an obnoxious smirk. "You are so transparent."

If he bothered to look over, he would have seen a very impressive glare being leveled at him from a very intimidating daiyoukai. Instead, the hanyou just looked unassumingly out into the tree line and dared the demon lord to refute his claim with any conviction. The moment of silence stretched on.

"So, how's the training coming along?" he finally asked, changing the subject. "Has your son been able to control his youki."

Straightening, Sesshoumaru's annoyance was forgotten in an instant.

"He has shown much improvement." Inuyasha nodded in acceptance, obviously pleased. "The advice you gave him has proven invaluable. I thank you again."

"No problem," the hanyou replied, a shy smirk curling up half his face. "I wish I knew a half-demon when I was his age to show me that stuff. I had to learn it all on my own." Something wistful came over his features then, and his smile evened out. "At least he has nice big fortress, and two strong parents to protect him."

He instantly regretted the remark when he saw remorse flash in his brother's eyes for half a second, before being quickly covered up and replaced with genuine gratitude.

"He is fortunate to have an uncle to guide him as you do," he offered stiffly. "There is nothing I could possibly provide him that is as valuable as first-hand knowledge and experience. I appreciate you giving him the benefit of your years." He held his eyes a moment more, and then said, "I consider myself lucky to have a hanyou as my brother."

It wasn't the first time he thanked him. It wasn't even the first time he'd said those words. But Inuyasha still blushed, and averted his eyes under the weight of his brother's appreciation.

"Yeah, well, the next one's growing up quick. Son number two is already showing the signs, so I think I'm gonna start his training even earlier."

When Sesshoumaru's eldest started displaying his youki in erratic ways, he immediately took him to his brother. He was aware there were difficulties with hanyou containing their strong demonic blood, though he was not certain the extent of the issue, or what it meant.

Over the years, Inuyasha had shown his nephew the trade secrets on managing the powerful youki, as well as many other things only a fellow hanyou would be privy to. No one knew the struggles he would face more than he did, so in addition to his uncle, he had also become a mentor of sorts.

The reiki was the curveball he couldn't help him with, but when the time came, Kagome was ready to help him train.

"Whatever you think is best," Sesshoumaru said, unable to contain his amusement in his brother's embarrassment. "I trust you."

"Too bad he ain't coming this time." Sesshoumaru nodded in agreement. "But I gotta say, one of your demon spawns is more than enough to keep me busy. We had a blast last time, but I was exhausted."

When Kagome returned through the well, she would be short a couple of pups this trip. The tradeoff for letting her give up on college and stay in the feudal era was that Mrs. Higurshi decreed she must be allowed visitation with her grandpups before they grew too old to pinch and spoil. Sesshoumaru easily agreed, but that was before any of his progeny were in the picture, and the threat of permanent separation did not loom so thickly in his throat.

At least it gave he and Kagome some increasingly hard to come by alone time. But he always insisted at least one of the pups stay back with them, just in case. That was where uncle Inuyasha came in.

"If it is an imposition, I can still arrange for a sitter at the fortress."

"Nah, its fine," his brother assured him. "I like the little tyke. He reminds me of me."

"Me as well," Sesshoumaru agreed with a smile. It quickly fell away. "Though perhaps it is the name in part."

When his brother had demanded he request a favor all those years ago, he couldn't think of anything he wanted. He didn't think he was vindictive, but the more Inuyasha thought about it, the more he suspected that he did have some pent-up hostility towards his older sibling.

That was long gone now, but Little Inuyasha would forever be a testament to the petty nature of the brothers' relationship.

"Yeah, sorry about that," the hanyou said sheepishly as he scratched the back of his head. "I was pretty immature back then."

Even Sesshoumaru didn't know what his flat glare was for; that the long-lived hanyou referred to five years prior as 'back then,' or that he insinuated he was no longer immature.

"Indeed," was all he said, and opted to drop it.

"Not that I'm complaining, but why isn't Rin watching them? I thought she was your go-to."

Talk of his ward saw the return of Sesshoumaru's foul mood and deep scowl.

"It is difficult to ask when she will not grant an audience."

"Still mad huh?"

Irritably, the demon lord snatched a small flower out of the ground beside him and began tearing at the petals like his brother had done.

"Entirely. It is ridiculous. If anyone should be upset, it is This One."

"You were upset," he reminded him, yanking out another flower. "That's what got you into trouble."

"My actions were entirely justified."

"You held him over the balcony by the throat."

"Yet I did not drop him," he quickly pointed out.

"His neck was bruised." Inuyasha grimaced. "And he pissed himself."

Sesshoumaru lifted his nose haughtily and turned his head. "It was just warning."

"He didn't know that."

"He knew what would happen." When he found he'd removed the last of the petals from his poor flower, Sesshoumaru threw what remained disdainfully into the grass. "I told him as much when their courtship began."

"I mean granted; it was hella stupid to mess around with her in the fortress..." Sesshoumaru seemed to appreciate his brother's concession. "but what do you expect from horny teenagers?"

"Respect," the daiyoukai replied moodily. "Decorum."

"Feh. At that age, sex trumps all else. You gotta get it when you can get it, and damn all the consequences."

Sesshoumaru was certain he had never been so careless at that age. Fairly certain...

At any rate, Rin was still very much a child in his eyes. She was a good kid, but she lacked the maturity for such things. Why else would the thought of her entertaining suitors be so distasteful to him? She needed a bit more worldly experience before she was ready to leave his protection.

"Rin should have known better," he grumbled. "I warned her about the machinations of young males."

"From what I heard; it was her idea." The death glare Inuyasha received made him throw up both his hands defensively. "Don't blame the messenger! She's the same age Kagome was when you started fooling around; don't be a hypocrite." Sesshoumaru pouted at his brother's assessment.

It wasn't the same. Kagome was an old soul. Literally. Plus, she lived a lot faster than Rin did, a lot more dangerously. Not to mention, she had him ushering her into womanhood, and not some snot-nosed-

"Besides, it's not all Kohaku's fault," Inuyasha said with a grin, and a knowing sparkle in his eye. "Girls that age like to rebel. I bet she did it just as much to turn the screws to you as to Kohaku. She wants to prove she's her own woman, and get attention, and make you nuts. It's just what they do."

"When does it stop?" the daiyoukai asked dejectedly.

"Stop?" Inuyasha pretended to look confused, only to smirk again when his brother gave him a pained look.

"How do you know so much about human women?" he asked, ripping another flower out of the grass.

Inuyasha shrugged. "Raised by one, loved a few. I'm a magnet."

When he turned to his brother wearing his shit-eating grin, he saw the miserable demon lord tearing up the flower in his hands, and finally took pity on him.

"Want advice?" he asked. "Let Kagome talk to her, then do whatever Kagome tells you to do. I guarantee it will save you miles of pain."

Sesshoumaru stared blankly at his brother for a moment, before realizing that was actually pretty good advice. There were many benefits to taking a mate, but passing off less desirable duties onto your more capable partner was one he did not take advantage of nearly enough. That was going to change.

"So, what's on the agenda tonight?" Inuyasha wondered. "Romantic evening alone?"

Just the mention of it lifted the youkai's mood exponentially. Sesshoumaru perked up.

"Indeed. Kagome has been occupied with the children, and I have been handling peace negations between the neko clans with Toran, so alone time has been sparse. Our anniversary came just in time this year."

"Anniversary?" he asked, creasing his brow. "But you were mated in autumn. I remember, cuz that's when Sango cut me off from sex for those three agonizing months. Thanks for that by the way."

"I fail to see how that is my fault."

"You started seeing Kagome after I started seeing Sango, but you got mated before us," he explained matter of factly. "It makes me look bad."

"Again, I fail to see how it is my fault that you have an aversion to commitment."

He normally wouldn't give a damn about his brother's opinion on his love life, but Inuyasha had received that critique in the past from more than one person. He was starting to think there was something to it. Or at least, there had been.

"Don't act like your better than me," he ordered indignantly. "The only reason you pulled the trigger so damn quick was cuz you had to. Couldn't bear the thought of being even more like pops and siring a bastard of your own."

"We were going to mate regardless," Sesshoumaru insisted defensively. "The pup simply expedited the process."

He would have liked to have a bit more time to themselves first, but he couldn't say he wasn't pleased to have her agree sooner than previously decided.

"Anyway, your anniversary is in autumn, so what gives?"

The daiyoukai smiled smugly and adopted a mischievous glint that had his brother curious.

"Our mating anniversary is not the one we are celebrating," he informed him. "Tonight is the anniversary of Kagome finding this one human in the snow and saving his life."

"Oh shit, really?" Inuyasha asked. "What's it been... five years?"

"Six."

"Damn, where's the time go?" A wistful smile claimed him as the hanyou recalled the journey they took together. "Seems like that was yesterday."

The demon lord smiled as well, a sense of peace washing over him as he thought on the evening that often claimed his thoughts.

"Life as I knew it changed on that night, so each year I thank her properly for her consideration."

"Yeah, especially since you weren't entirely grateful for her at the time."

"Shamefully not," Sesshoumaru acknowledged, deflating just a bit. "It is a slight I shall pay for until my dying breath, I presume."

But if Kagome held any grudges, she certainly didn't let on. Inuyasha suspected she only played that card when she really needed to. He smirked at the idea of the Ice Prince working at a disadvantage.

"So, where you taking her? Someplace fancy?"

"A cave," Sesshoumaru replied happily.

"A cave?"

"The cave, more specifically."

"You're going camping?" Inuyasha was incredulous. Not that he wasn't outdoorsy. The Western Lord was just a bit... particular. "You like camping?"

"I like sleeping bags," he clarified. His brother mouthed and exaggerated 'oh.'

"We revisit there each year and relive that fateful evening as a tribute to how far we've come. With some noteworthy revisions, of course," he said proudly. Inuyasha scoffed.

"Feh, of course. Lemme guess." Then he tried out his best Kagome impression. "Oh Sesshoumaru, your dick is frozen stiff. You better let me warm it before it falls off from frostbite."

"You have been spying on us?" the daiyoukai asked, eventually cracking a smirk. His brother chuckled. "We reenact how things should have gone that evening."

It blew his mind how he could have ever resisted the naked miko squirming atop him all night long. Especially with how he remembered her feeling pressed against him, all warm and moist...

But then, he was a stubborn bastard. If he'd been demon that night and had his senses, the scent of her arousal would have definitely done him in.

"Yeah, you never would have found Rin," the hanyou said confidently. "You'd still be in there, knowing you two."

Before he could retort; the familiar pull of his miko's aura had him on his feet. It was wild, going from absolutely nothing, to all her awesome power revealing itself at once. He almost got a headrush as he quickly stood, and practically threw himself down the well to greet her.

Inuyasha chuckled at his eagerness, and slowly stood to receive his friend.

But after a moment, he was still standing alone, and he tried to ignore the sound of lips locking and mouths sucking and tongues... he didn't even want to think about it.

"Father!" he heard little Yasha wail from the well's harrowing depths. The pup's complaint had its desired effect, and a moment later, Sesshoumaru emerged with his mate in his arms, and their pup in hers.

The second she put him down, Yasha ran straight to his uncle to climb on him a bit.

"Hey," she greeted warmly, yet tiredly. "Sorry I took so long; you know how Mama is."

"How is your mother?" Sesshoumaru asked, plucking their son's travel bag from her shoulder and handing it off to his brother.

"She's great. She sends her love."

"And she received mine?" he asked, pulling her into his arms as he got briefed on her visit.

"Of course." She surrendered to a quick peck on the lips before he allowed her to continue. "She loved the pictures I took, and the kids had a blast. I wish you could come with me; I really think you'd get along."

She felt terrible leaving him behind every time she went to visit her mother. And he was not the only one who feared the well closing up. Just the thought of him alone, having his family ripped away... If it ever happened, she just hoped she was on this side.

"I will meet her eventually; we simply must be patient." The way he rubbed her arms and spoke with confidence eased her anxieties immensely. But she knew he was just as twisted up as she was. She could always count on him to keep calm, no matter what. For his sake, she tried to emulate him.

"Yep, you've got 500 years to make a good impression, so hopefully you can pull yourself together by then."

Kami, he missed her. She was only gone a few hours, but they drug on painfully when she was not around. He hoped that never changed.

She smiled up at him tauntingly as they remained wrapped in each other's arms, and he countered with a wicked grin of his own.

"I imagine she would simply be grateful that I took her bratty child off her hands. I expect quite the dowry when I arrive."

She detached herself as he went in for another kiss, and stepped away.

"Well, if that's how you're going to be, I can just turn right back around and throw my costume back in the closet."

"You found it?" he asked hopefully, and she patted her overstuffed backpack.

"Of course." His eyes sparkled hungrily as his wicked smile intensified. "But the milk makes my breasts so much bigger; they're going to be bursting out the top."

He didn't pretend to sympathize as he watched her assess and shake said breasts.

"What costume?" Inuyasha asked, eager to remind the couple both he and their son were still in the vicinity.

"Oh, just my old school uniform," she replied, and turned toward her mate. "Sesshoumaru was feeling nostalgic."

The demon smiled in the face of his brother's judgmental glare.

"What can I say, I am growing sentimental with age."

"Sure pervert, whatever you say," the hanyou muttered while he lifted the energetic youngster up on his shoulders.

"Speaking of perverts," Kagome intoned, "how's the monk these days?"

Inuyasha made a face. "Still running that wacko village as their spiritual leader."

"It's a cult, is what it is."

"It's weird. I don't see why all those women wanna line up to be wife number 377, or whatever. The guys, I at least understand. That ratio is outstanding."

To be honest, she totally got it. It wasn't for her, like at all, but Kagome could understand the draw. If you like that sort of thing.

"Miroku is charming and confident," she pointed out. "throw in master grifter, and those girls never stood a chance. He offers them sensual enlightenment through sexual liberation, romance without restrictions, and a judgement-free lifestyle. For a lot of women who had their womanhood monitored, regulated, or slut shamed, I could see how the opportunity for a less traditional way of life could be appealing. It is very progressive for these times."

She'd explained it to him before, but the hanyou was resistant to accepting his good friend's new way of life. She'd wager he'd be against anything that took the monk away from him, but would concede that this scenario was a particularly weird one.

But, to each his own. There were certainly many who questioned her sanity when they learned she would be leaving her priestess duties to shack up with the most ruthless demon in the Western Lands. She was in no position to judge; she just hoped her friends were happy.

"And, so long as he isn't hurting anybody, we can't dictate what grown adults do with themselves."

"It is manipulative, and exploitive," her mate stoically decreed. He'd expressed his opinion on the subject many times, so she knew his main concern was seeing the charming grifter gaining so much loyalty and power. He was just a human, and he knew the monk was peaceful. But he kept an eye on anyone who acquired a mass following so quickly like he had. He knew Miroku better than most, and he would put nothing past the man.

One thing was for certain; with several hundred wives, he was no longer wanting for children. Now, he had enough to ensure his legacy lived on well into the modern era. Half of japan was fitting to end up having Miroku for an ancestor.

"I don't disagree, but most of those women are there escaping much worse." And he'd heard her argument several times, but she was inclined to give it again. "He offers them shelter and safety, and he doesn't force them to do anything. It isn't like they're locked up; they can leave whenever they want."

"Well, you're welcome to join him whenever you like," Inuyasha teased. "We all have standing initiations to move to Miroku's love ranch."

"I should at least pay him a visit," Kagome said guiltily. She promised to keep in touch, but she'd just been so busy...

"You will not go without This One present."

"No way," she immediately replied, and wrapped her arms around his middle when he cocked a brow at her. "All those women and the free love vibes do not mix with my mate, thank you very much."

"Where is your trust, miko?" he chided teasingly, bowing his head down to hers.

"I trust you implicitly. It's those horny women disciples of the lecher I don't trust."

His hands were on her hips as they swayed back and forth, foreheads touching while they gazed into each other's eyes.

"I have been artfully avoiding aggressive advances from shameless women since before your ancestors were born;" he assured her smugly. "I can handle myself."

"Is that so?"

He bent even closer until their noses touched, still rocking slightly as she moved her arms around his neck.

"Yes, and I had a perfect record until a particularly shameless miko pulled me in from the snow, stripped me bare, and trapped me inside her sleeping bag for the evening."

"Alright, c'mon squirt," Inuyasha announced to pup on his shoulders. "We gotta get you outta here before you learn what perverts your parents are."

"I already know," the youngster mumbled as they moved out of the clearing and away from the canoodling pair.

"Is that how it happened?" she asked after an all-too-fleeting kiss. "My memory is a little foggy."

"If you had chosen the favor I offered you more wisely, you would have been given a night you could never forget."

He told her much later what he'd expected her to ask him for that night, and how distasteful he had found the idea. Honestly, it had never crossed her mind to ask for his body; she was too preoccupied with saving it. And herself.

That's not to say she hadn't been aroused, they both knew that was a lie. But they also both knew he did not find the notion as distasteful as he had tried to tell himself.

"So, instead of bartering for the lives of my pack, you insinuate I should have requested a night of mindless passion?"

"Hn. I had already decided I would not kill you," he informed her lowly, and she mocked outrage at his deviousness. "You could have had both."

"But what about my friends?" she challenged, then felt two large hands sliding slowly down her backside.

"I would have been too exhausted to kill them after all that mindless passion." She gasped when he grabbed her firmly and threw back her head when he put his lips to her throat.

"Well then, I definitely blew it... again," was her husky reply. She felt him growl in agreement against her skin, and ran her fingers through his long, silky white hair. "I never seem to make the right wish. Any chance at a do over?"

He pulled back to let his lips hover just over hers, teasing her cruelly and pulling her hips to his so she could feel every inch of what she was in for.

"That, my dear, is what this evening is all about."

He descended on her slowly, took her lips gently despite the urgent need pressing hard between them.

Out here, he was a wild, vicious beast with perfect control. But when she got him alone, that measured restraint it took centuries to build was reduced to tatters in a matter of seconds, and she knew she was the only one who had that power, that privilege.

"It is," she agreed, grabbing his face and aching between her thighs when he smiled devilishly just for her. "And as fun as it is to pretend, in all truth; I wouldn't change a thing about that night."

"Nor would I," he rumbled. "If everything that happened got us to right here, I would do it all again in a heartbeat."

As a woman who traveled back in time; Kagome was well aware of the ramifications of altering the past. If she'd asked for some hot sex that night, or if she'd wished the jewel away like she was supposed to, in all likelihood, they would not be there right now. They would not be together at all.

So, though her choices had been the wrong ones at the time, they had ultimately been the right ones for them both, and she would never wish for anything different.

She'd made the right wish all along, she just needed to pass through a bit of time before she could see it.

"But just for fun," she said playfully, and his cloud began to form. "let's find out what that other wish has in store for us."

And then he flew them back to the cave to make all her wishes come true.


A/N: Fuckin' fin.

I wanna thank everybody who supported this story over the past year. 2020 is no doubt going down as complete shitshow, but writing this has been a fun distraction for me, and I hope it was for you too.

I'm free, lol! See ya on the next one! Be good to yourself and each other!