Author's Note: Here it is, the final chapter of this story. I have some additional notes at the end of the story.

Disclaimer: Only Tsuki belongs to me, everyone else belongs to Rumiko Takahashi.

Kagome's Gone
by Maia Serrelinda
Chapter 14

******

Kagome woke slowly, surrounded by a soothing warmth. She opened her eyes sleepily to find Inuyasha's golden eyes gleaming at her.

"Did you sleep well, koishii?" he asked with a knowing gleam in his eye.

She flushed and smacked him playfully in the chest. He caught her hand and kissed her open palm, bringing a smile of delight to her lovely face.

"So...it's done? We're mated now?" she asked.

"Hai. I'll show you," he said, and guided her hand to the curve of her neck, where his mark now stood. The bite he had placed there had healed over, leaving a vibrant red scar. She could feel its slightly raised outlines as she ran her fingertips over the mark.

She smiled, and kissed him before rising to go bathe. A draft of cool air reminded her that she was naked; and she smirked at her mate before wrapping the sheet around herself and making her way to the spring to the sounds of his amused laughter behind her.

******

The newly mated couple ate breakfast before packing up the few items they had brought with them. Kagome wore Tsuki's gift of fire-rat clothing but packed up a few of the outfits she had found in her dressing room. Hand in hand, they left the grounds of the house before Inuyasha knelt to allow his mate to settle herself on his back for the journey to Kaede's village.

This journey was entirely different from the long, tedious traveling they had done before the jewel had been completed. This time Kagome felt free to stroke Inuyasha's ears and kiss his neck as she'd so often wanted to do before.

Kagome wasn't the only one enjoying this journey - Inuyasha now felt comfortable giving her knees and thighs caresses and small squeezes. Several times the couple stopped to admire a pretty meadow or merely to embrace again, confident in this new freedom they had to express their feelings to one another.

As evening fell, they neared the village. They had already crossed the borders of the forest some time ago, and by now even Kagome could see the lights of the village's fires and lamps.

She sighed, reluctant to let go of the time they had spent alone together, and was about to half-jokingly suggest that they delay their return for a couple of days, when a small russet blur shot across the clearing bordering the village to smack into Inuyasha's chest with an audible thump.

"Kagome! Inuyasha! You're back!" the young kitsune exclaimed. "I missed you!" Catching his breath, he sped up Inuyasha's chest to burrow in Kagome's arms as Inuyasha helped Kagome down from her perch on his back. Shippou buried his head in Kagome's shirt, saying that her new clothes looked nice on her, when his eyes widened. They flew up to Kagome's slightly reddened cheeks. "You're finally together! I'm so happy!" he cheered and perched on Kagome's shoulder, peeling back her haori to rub his tiny hands over Inuyasha's mark. "It sure took you guys long enough!"

Inuyasha looked fierce for a moment and then gave up the charade as he ruffled the kit's head affectionately.

They heard a soft thump and a "Hentai!" and immediately afterwards a male "Itai!" as the trio grinned at each other.

"That would be Sango-chan and Miroku-sama," Kagome said, starting forward just as they rounded the curve and stood before the couple. Kagome raced forward, enfolding her friend in a tight embrace.

"Kagome-chan!" Sango exclaimed. She looked slightly puzzled, as if she couldn't understand why Kagome was hugging her.

Kagome looked inquiringly at her mate, who shrugged indifferently. "I didn't tell them what happened. I didn't want to waste any time."

Kagome looked torn between anger that he hadn't told anyone and delight that he hadn't wanted to take any more time to reach her than he had to. Finally, she stuck her tongue out at her mate and pulled her eyelid down with one finger in an ancient child's taunt before hooking her arm through the bewildered taijiya's and heading off the village.

Miroku looked between the retreating women and the laughing hanyou shrugging resignedly. "Mind telling me what's going on?"

Inuyasha chuckled a last time and said, "Let's follow them. I think it's important to hear both sides."

The two men followed the path the women had taken a minute earlier. They rounded a corner just in time to see the women slip into the hut that they had helped to build the year before that now served as their base when they were in the village.

Miroku and Inuyasha stepped inside just as Sango and Kagome seated themselves around the fire. The two males settled around the fire also, Inuyasha sitting close to his mate and dropping a quick kiss on the top of her head. This small gesture caused Miroku's eyebrows to shoot up so far they were hidden under his thick fringe of bangs. Sango's jaw dropped slightly.

Together, the couple related the events leading up to the last day or so, leaving out the marking part as if they had prearranged it. After Inuyasha had rescued Kagome at the end of the story, Kagome took a deep breath and smiled at Inuyasha somewhat nervously. He nodded slightly and she turned to face their friends.

"We, um, have something to tell you guys," Kagome started. Shippou opened his mouth to spill the news, but before he could get a sound out, Inuyasha had clapped his hand over the kitsune's mouth. Miroku and Sango leaned forward eagerly.

"Well, um, something happened while were away," she blushed and looked at the fire.

Inuyasha decided to spare her the embarrassment, announcing, "We're mated."

Silence reigned over the hut for a split second before Sango's joyful "Kagome-chan!" split the air as the taijiya leapt over the fire to snatch up her dearest friend in a fierce hug. The two girls laughed happily as Miroku slapped his friend on the back.

******

The next few weeks sped by. Kagome had explained to Kaede what they wanted to do to celebrate their mating, and a small celebration would be held on the outskirts of the village in two weeks' time. They had sent a messenger, in the form of Miroku's tanuki friend Hachi, to Tsuki and to Sesshoumaru. Hachi returned sooner than expected with the responses, as they soon found out - Sesshoumaru had actually been visiting Tsuki when Hachi arrived.

Kagome and Inuyasha had traveled through the well to Kagome's time, to tell her mother and grandfather the news. Kagome's mother had long since prepared paperwork so that Inuyasha could live in her time if he needed to, much to their surprise. When they asked her about it, she smiled knowingly and would only say that she'd had a feeling they might be needed. They were married in a traditional ceremony, Kagome wearing her mother's wedding kimono. Souta was thrilled that Inuyasha was officially a part of the family.

The reception/celebration went off without a hitch. Everyone was on their best behavior and even though the villagers were a bit nervous around Tsuki and around Sesshoumaru, everyone seemed to get along just fine. The food was plentiful and the music constant. Night fell, and some of the guests began to drift away from the celebration, though a good number remained, dancing and singing around the bonfire that had been built as the night grew chilly. Rin and Shippou were both asleep in the main room of the group's hut. They had decided earlier that evening that Inuyasha and Kagome would share the room that Kagome had previously shared with Sango. Sango would take Miroku's room, and Miroku would sleep in the main room for the time being. Watching their friends so obviously in love and so happy in their new relationship gave the couple an added push, and since they were already courting, it seemed it was only a matter of time before they, too, were mated.

The celebration continued until dawn the next morning. The sun rose to find Kagome sleeping in Inuyasha's arms. They were nestled in a thick branch of a large tree that overlooked the festivities. Most of the remaining revelers had either shuffled off towards their own beds or simply fallen asleep where they were. Sesshoumaru and Tsuki had left together, presumably because traveling together would be easier, but the way Rin slept peacefully as Tsuki held her spoke of something more. Even Sango and Miroku were sleeping together - Miroku leaning against a tree trunk and Sango leaning against Miroku. His arms were around her and her hands clasped his.

Sleepily, Kagome wondered what the future held for all of them, now that the Jewel had been completed. She and Inuyasha could travel back and forth between the times, but she didn't know how long that would be possible. She inhaled deeply, breathing in Inuyasha's scent. She allowed his comforting presence to lull her back to sleep. She'd think about that later. Right now, she just wanted to enjoy the present.

******

Epilogue

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Sango and Miroku married a few months after Kagome and Inuyasha had. Kagome and Inuyasha moved out of their shared hut and built a small house on the spot where Kagome's family home stood. They traveled back and forth between Inuyasha's larger home and their home in the village, as well as between Kagome's time and the feudal era.

Kagome and Inuyasha decided not to have children. They had found that Kagome didn't seem to age - whether it was due to the jewel's connection with her soul or her mating to Inuyasha or a combination of those, they couldn't tell. Regardless of the cause, they had decided that they had plenty of time for children later if they so desired. For now, they were so devoted to one another that they wanted to simply enjoy their time together.

Sango and Miroku had four children - three girls and one boy. Their children were the caretakers of what would eventually become the Higurashi shrine.

-owari-

Author's Notes: Well, it's done. I want to thank everyone who encouraged me to continue this story after I'd abandoned it in the beginning. I know I sort of left it to rot on its own for a while there, but I always intended to finish it, I just never had the time.

There are a few elements to this story that I intentionally left open. First, I never addressed what happened with the Shikon no Tama. This ties in to another issue I left unaddressed - how Kagome and Inuyasha reconcile their lifespans. I never really intended to wrap that up with this story. I left it unexplained. The reason why is that the best solution to this issue that I ever saw was in moonsilver's excellent story "The Gift". I read her take on it and knew I couldn't come up with anything better. I was afraid that I'd end up writing something too close to her solution, so I decided it was better to just leave it.

Second, I didn't really do a lot of follow-up. I didn't want this story to become some sprawling epic. The main point of this story was to get Kagome and Inuyasha together. Even the kidnapping plot was very secondary to this story. I've been married for several years - you can't just ignore the bad times that come along with the joyful times. So I purposely didn't explore their relationship after their reception.

Third - is Kagome a descendant of Miroku and Sango? I know I hint at the possibility. The answer is - I don't know. I hinted at it intentionally, but I don't really think she is. Again, because I didn't want this to become some sprawling epic, I didn't explore how the shrine and its grounds pass down through history to Kagome's family. I left it unclear so you can draw your own conclusions.

The last thing I want to address is the issue of a sequel. I know someone will ask, so I'll say that I do not plan to write a sequel to this story. In my universe, Sesshoumaru and Tsuki are together, but I don't know if it's long-term or what. Either way, I won't be exploring their relationship and I don't intend to. Sorry.

One last thing - I'm not sure how much more Inuyasha fanfiction I will write. I still love Inuyasha, but I increasingly feel like the fandom is at critical mass - there's simply too much of it. I've written one Rurouni Kenshin story, and I still have ideas for a Bebop one-shot and a Slayers story. I'm not saying I'll never write more Inuyasha fiction, just that I don't have any plans for it right now.

Thank you all so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.