** This story deals with rape, so if this sort of topic bothers you then be forewarned. **

Author's Notes: First, before I get all emotional I would like to make an announcement. I am making a website based on my singing career, after receiving the advice to do so in order to promote myself, but besides that it will include a photo album and a links page. If you have a website you would like posted on another site, send it to me either in a review or via email (my address is in my profile). Even though it isn't Inuyasha oriented, I will post Inuyasha sites or, frankly, any website that you have created so long as it's appropriate. So let me know! And now we can get on with the story. Wow, I think I'm going to cry. This is the last chapter you guys! But, it's not the end of this story line. I am officially announcing the title of the next story, which will make this a trilogy! The new story will be called 'Soldiers In A Timeless War', but that's all I'm going to tell you. I hope you won't be disappointed!
But back to this story, I can't believe how much success it has had. It surpassed 'Confessions of a Broken Heart' and my own expectations by a long shot in reviews and reader response. I thank you for that, it has been a true joy to read all of your reviews and to write this story. So now, without further adieu, I present to you the final installment of 'The Realistic Happily Ever After'. I hope you enjoy it as you have enjoyed the rest of the story. Thank you (bows elegantly and walks off stage).

Nikoru-the-silent-assasin: you're right, this is a very American style wedding, but I just haven't had the time to research into the customs of Japan. I just wanted you to know that I am aware of that fact, and that I appreciate your advice and reviews. Thanks!

Doomikazi: there's nothing wrong with a guy liking romance. Besides, this isn't what you would call a REAL romance, with all the lemons and such. At least, I don't consider it to be. And just so you know, girls always go for the more 'sensitive' guy who can appreciate a good story line. But I've probably just made you feel even more embarrassed, right? lol

Serina Tsuki- I appreciate that. Thanks! We single women have to stick together, you know?

Title: The Realistic Happily Ever After

Author: dolphingirl0113

Chapter: Twenty-Three

Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha.

It was all like a dream. The sky was dark, the stars overhead shining through the silver canopy that covered the wedding. Chairs were set up, ten to a row, on either side of the aisle, which was a long strip of silk covered in red and white rose petals. At the end of the aisle was something similar to the concept of a podium, with a large, elevated platform in the center, on either side five descending platforms for each of the brides' maids and groomsmen.

Sango and Miroku were the first to appear, their arms linked in silent intimacy, a bouquet of red and white roses in her hands, Miroku holding his free arm behind his back as Mrs. Higurashi had instructed. He glanced over at his wife, and felt love pool in his heart. She was positively radiant, and her silver and blue gown and silver eye shadow made her seem like a part of the night itself.

They walked up to the highest platforms beside the one where Inuyasha now waited, parting as Sango moved to the left and Miroku to the right. He winked at the hanyou as a friendly gesture, and Sango smiled warmly.

Next came Ayame and Kouga, their sharp, chiseled features making them a striking pair as they walked down the aisle. His hair was in its usual ponytail, though tonight he was without a headband of any kind, his pointed ears ingeniously tucked beneath his black locks. Ayame was no different, her ears concealed by her cascading red hair, so that no one knew the difference between her and a normal human.

When Sesshoumaru and Ayumi appeared, the girl didn't seem even the slightest bit nervous. Kagome had selected her on purpose to be Sesshoumaru's partner because she knew the truth about him, and thus wouldn't be intimidated by his cold stares. And truth be told, the demon lord's attention was directed elsewhere, for his eyes had located Ms. White in the front row, her black gown stunning.

All of the Higurashi family commented on how grown up Souta looked when he and Eri appeared, walking slowly but confidently down the isle. And there wasn't one woman in the entire audience who wasn't envious of the brides' choice of dress for her wedding party.

Yuka and Hojo were the last to appear, Hojo with his usual naïve confidence, and Yuka trying to find her boyfriend in the crowd. She must have found him, because she smiled happily and returned her attention to where she was walking.

There wasn't a single guest who didn't at least smile when Rin and Shippou appeared, Rin carrying a much smaller version of Sango's bouquet, her dress with sleeves, rather then only thin straps, falling to her ankles, Shippou in a miniature tuxedo, carrying a pillow with two golden rings. Their arms were linked together, and all the women were cooing while their dates secretly agreed.

Once everyone was assembled, the string quartet paused momentarily, just long enough to have everyone in the audience on the edge of their seat, wondering when the bride, the biggest celebrity besides the groom, would appear.

Inuyasha felt himself swallow, hard. He was suddenly very nervous, desperate to see the woman who had been hidden from him since the night before. But at the same time, he was afraid. Would she come? Had she changed her mind and would now leave him standing at the alter alone? And why wasn't that damn quartet playing? At least the music could soothe his nerves.

But then the strains of a new tune, one that he didn't recognize but obviously everyone else did because they all rose to their feet, facing the entrance, marked by a white arch laced in roses and garland. Inuyasha, out of curiosity, looked that way too, and what he saw took his breath away.

There she was.

His Kagome.

She moved as though invisible wings were helping her float across the ground, her tiny, delicate feet once in a while making a brief appearance beneath her long white gown. It hugged her body in such a way that all her curves were accented, but then swept away from her at her hips, trailing behind her in a train of fabric that was several yards long, outlined in pearls. The veil made her seem mysterious, and as she stepped closer, Inuyasha found it harder and harder to breathe.

Kagome was moving on a sea of emotions at that moment, aware of everyone staring at her, but at the same time only conscious of one set of eyes which were, just for tonight, violet.

He was beautiful.

She chuckled at the incredibly feminine thought, but knew it to be true. He was the only man she could ever call beautiful and handsome at the same time, for while his face was that of a man, his eyes were dark and vibrant as jewels.

"Inuyasha," she whispered, and knew that he had seen her mouth his name, because his eyes softened, and she watched as he returned the gesture by whispering her name as well.

Just before she reached the bottom of the steps that would lead her up to the man she loved, Kagome turned to her grandfather as a single woman for the last time, and kissed his cheek. He smiled lovingly, placed an aging, wrinkled hand against the side of her face, and stood on tiptoe to kiss her forehead. She closed her eyes briefly, taking the moment and pressing it into her memory forever.

"I love you, grandpa," she whispered, and he nodded, unable to speak for the tears in his eyes.

He released her, and Kagome turned to walk up the steps, finally coming face to face with the new man of her life, and smiled broadly as the music stopped, he lifted the veil from her face, and all went silent. The priest cleared his throat and began the ceremony.

Throughout the entire proceedings, Kagome couldn't look away from his eyes, and he barely managed to blink, so afraid was he that she would vanish at any moment. He still had the feeling sometimes that he didn't deserve such a treasure, such an angel. After all, what had he done?

The day they met came back to him in a flash, that first moment when he had seen her burned into his mind forever. He could never forget the way she had blanched when he kept calling her Kikyou and how, even later when he knew the truth, he would continue to taunt her about the fact that she was only Kikyou's reincarnation, and could never be as powerful as the miko herself.

And yet, she is still at my side, he thought, just like she promised.

He looked down into Kagome's smiling face, and felt warmth like none other fill his entire being. He had never felt this way before, not even with Kikyou. Never had he felt this trusting, this happy. Never had he felt this much in love.

All of their adventures, tracking down Naraku and the jewel shards, had brought them closer together. Even Kikyou, unintentionally, had forged a bond between them that could never be broken. And, gradually over the course of nearly four years, they had fallen in love.

He wasn't sure of the exact moment when his care and concern had shifted into something more. He knew when he had recognized it willingly, that day in the woods when he found Kikyou, just after Kagome's rape. But he had loved her long before that. When had it started?

Was it during the encounter with the peach man, when the demon teased him about loving the 'pathetic little human' and he did nothing to deny it? Was it that first time when Kikyou tried to drag him into hell but he broke away at the sound of Kagome's voice? Or after, when Kikyou had asked if Kagome meant more to him then she, and he did not answer? Maybe it was that day when he sent Kagome back to her time, stealing the shards for her own protection so she couldn't come back, only to see her standing before him as she flung herself into his arms. But no, that wasn't the moment either.

When was it that he first felt this incredible, passionate love? When had his heart forgotten completely about Kikyou and moved on to someone new, young, and full of life?

And then it hit him like a ton of bricks as he gazed into her warm brown eyes, wanting to reach out and touch her cheek. Her words from that day echoed in his mind, in his heart, and in his soul.

"I will always be by your side."

Ironic that the moment he fell completely in love with Kagome was the moment he thought he had chosen to be with Kikyou forever. But he couldn't deny the way his heart had shifted when he saw her sitting on the rim of the well, the sunlight in her eyes, her hair blowing about her face as petals from the nearby cherry trees floated by on the wind.

He had thought to never see her again, and his heart had been broken for the second time by a woman, only this time it was different: this time he had broken her heart as well. But then, she had come back.

"Kagome," he had whispered, and she had turned to look at him.

"I've been thinking a lot about you and Kikyou and I while on the other side," she had begun, and the sound of her voice had caught him in a snare so powerful he could never escape. But he would never want to. The way that small smile had played across her lips as she spoke was something he would never forget. Such a small gesture had pulled at his heart like no declaration of love ever could.

"I just want to ask you one question," she had said, rising to her feet and walking over to face him directly. He had expected something like a demand for an explanation, or for her to ask if he had ever enjoyed her company. But instead, her question had been simple and unexpected. "Can I stay with you?"

"Would you stay with me?" She had smiled again, that silly little smile that he loved so much, and that was when his heart shifted. That was when he had fallen in love with Kagome.

He was brought back to reality when he realized that everyone was staring at him, including the priest. The area was silent, and he blushed slightly, wondering if he had missed something. But Kagome smiled encouragingly.

"I have been informed," the priest began in a slow, steady voice, "That the bride and groom would like to say their own vows. Is that correct?" Kagome nodded, and Inuyasha, unsure of what else to do, imitated her response. So the priest nodded and stepped back to let them speak to each other.

"When I first met you," Kagome began, and it was the first time he had heard her voice since the night before, "I never expected to love you. Actually, I never thought I could stand to be in the same room as you. But somehow, over time, you broke down the walls of my heart, and I wouldn't have it any other way." She took a deep breath, trying to hold back the tears of joy in her eyes.

"It is often said that we don't chose the ones that we love, that they are chosen for us by our hearts. I understand what is meant by that now, because if it had been left up to me, I would have walked away a long time ago and never looked back. But my heart wouldn't give up or give in, and I am so thankful for that." She swallowed again.

"Most people say that they can't remember the first moment they feel love for someone. I don't believe them. I know exactly when I first loved you." She stared meaningfully into his eyes. "It was on a day when I thought I'd lost you forever. All my friends can tell you how much I cried, but in the end, all I truly came to understand was how much you meant to me and how, so long as I was at your side, I would be content." A tear rolled down her cheek, but her voice remained steady.

"I made a vow that day, to you, that I would always be at your side, no matter what. I meant it, but now I take that vow in front of witnesses." She glanced over at both Shippou and Rin meaningfully, and the two stepped forward. She handed Rin her bouquet to hold temporarily, and then took one of the rings off of the pillow in Shippou's hands before returning her attention to Inuyasha, taking his left hand in hers.

"I swear to be by your side for the rest of your life, come what may. I will never doubt what you say, and promise to love you wholeheartedly so that you will never, never feel alone again." She silently slipped the ring onto his finger, and the whole audience beamed at what she had said.

Inuyasha found it very hard to think at that moment, let alone speak, but he knew what was expected of him since he and Mrs. Higurashi had discussed it at length the day before at the rehearsal dinner. He took a deep breath and met the eyes of the woman he loved.

"I guess we fell in love on the same day," he began, knowing she had meant the same day he had been thinking about only minutes before. "To be honest, I hated you when we first met, because you reminded me of a time in my life that was full of pain. It wasn't your fault, but because you argued back I let my anger out since you always offered a good fight. That was all I knew: pain, betrayal, anger, and loneliness." He smiled.

"But slowly, without my ever being aware of it, you managed to work your way through that maze of pain so that you, and you alone, could touch the inner part of my soul that I had kept hidden away from the world for so long." He saw a tear slide down her cheek, and knew that his own eyes were moist. But he was a hanyou, and a proud one at that, and would not let himself cry.

He leaned over and took the second ring from Shippou, who was sniffling like an idiot next to a smiling Rin, tears in her eyes as well. What was with women and children and crying, anyway?

"Kagome, that day when you promised to be by my side, I promised silently to always protect you. I have only failed you once, and I swear I never shall again." He picked up her left hand. "I will never abandon you to pain or suffering, and any burden you have we shall bear together. I will not keep from you any of my troubles, and I will be, as you promised me so long ago, by your side forever." He slipped the ring on her finger, and Kagome sniffed loudly.

The priest stepped forward with a beaming smile, raising his arms to either side as though to envelop the couple in a huge hug. "By the power invested in me, I pronounce you man and wife." His eye held a mischievous glint as he looked at Inuyasha. "You may kiss the bride."

Without hesitation Inuyasha moved forward and planted his lips firmly against Kagome's, bending her over so far that one of her feet came up, bent at the knee, his arms around her waist and hers encircling his neck. It was the only time he would ever show such public affection, intentionally, to anyone, but, just this once he felt that Kagome deserved it. After all, she was now his wife.

The architects of the vineyard had designed the main building to host large parties such as wedding receptions, so that it contained a decent sized ballroom, complete with a crystal chandelier. The floors were polished wood, and the tables all matched Kagome's color scheme of ice-blue and silver, with red and white roses in silver vases as the centerpiece for each table.

One side of the massive room was set aside for dining, complete with a long buffet of both Japanese and American delicacies, including, of course, an entire steaming pot of hot ramen, just for Inuyasha. It seemed somewhat out of place next to the expensive filet mignon and fancy salads and soups, but Kagome couldn't resist giving her husband his favorite meal, no matter what any one else might say.

The other side of the ballroom was completely vacant except for a small area occupied by the equipment necessary for the d.j. He was currently preparing his 'work station' to start playing music, and to complete the scene, at the end of the dance floor the wall was lined with windows which had a perfect view of Tokyo at night, framed by the stars. It truly was exactly as Kagome had pictured it: perfect.

She was now sitting at the slightly elevated table meant for the wedding party, the only exceptions being Ms. White, her mother, Kaede, Rin, and Shippou. Rin, Shippou, Mrs. Higurashi, and Kaede were all at one end talking amongst themselves, and Ms. White had, somehow, managed to find her way over to sit by Sesshoumaru, who was just across from Kagome and Inuyasha, giving the new bride a perfect view for spying.

Sesshoumaru was blushing profusely by the time he realized who was sitting down next to him, and even Inuyasha got a kick out of that, knowing why his older half brother was so embarrassed and loving every minute of it.

But Ms. White, who should have been more embarrassed then anyone after the events of earlier that evening, simply smiled that confident smile of hers, and leaned her hand against her cheek. "So, were you disappointed?"

"Excuse me?" Sesshoumaru practically spit the water back into his glass as he sputtered. Kagome wanted to burst out laughing, but Sango covered her friend's mouth with her hand, not wanting to ruin the moment. It wasn't often that anyone got to see the lord of the western lands so unsettled.

"Was it disappointing to see exactly what's under these clothes all day?" To accent her point, Ms. White indicated her body. Sesshoumaru just turned an even brighter shade of pink.

"I beg your pardon for seeing that at all," he grumbled, looking away, but Ms. White just laughed.

"I don't care," she said calmly, "Frankly, I'm glad we've got that out in the open. In fact, it would only be fair for me to see what you look like in just your underwear."

Sesshoumaru's jaw practically hit the table, and even Kagome was at a loss for words on that one. Actually, did Sesshoumaru even wear underwear?

"Ms. White, I am truly sorry for what happened earlier today," he said softly, but the blonde woman just waved her hand casually.

"And like I said, I'm over it." Their eyes met for the first time, and both went silent for a moment before she took a deep breath. "And, call me Nancy please."

"Alright," He gulped, though it was barely noticeable.

Soft music drifted toward them over the clattering of plates, which told everyone the d.j. was up and running.

"Um," Ms. White whispered in a voice that was suddenly shy. She still didn't look away from his eyes. "W-would you like to dance?"

"Dance?" Sesshoumaru didn't understand, but glanced over at the dance floor, seeing several couples, and remembered what dancing was. He looked back at Ms. White. "If that is what you wish."

It wasn't the most romantic thing anyone had ever said, but for Nancy White it couldn't have been more beautiful. Kagome smiled as the pair rose from their seats and walked toward the dance floor, noticing how Ms. White was careful to walk on the side of Sesshoumaru that still had an arm so that he could guide her if necessary.

"Oh, they make such a cute couple!" she squealed, and both Sango and Ayame agreed. But Miroku frowned, glancing around to make sure that Eri and Yuka were still at the buffet, before speaking.

"Are you three forgetting that Sesshoumaru comes from the other side of the well?" All three girls stopped giggling, and Ayumi joined them as they stared at the monk.

"No," they all replied in unison. This surprised him.

"And yet, you don't see that as a problem?"

"No," they all replied again.

"Okay," Miroku had a tone that said he was confused, so Ayumi took the opportunity to explain things to him.

"If Kagome and Inuyasha can be married, then why can't Sesshoumaru and Ms. White? After all, from what all you have told me about Inuyasha's brother- "

"Half brother," Inuyasha interrupted.

"-Whatever, he probably needs to find someone from the other side of the well who doesn't really know about his reputation as a ruthless killer."

"Besides," Kagome added, "Have you ever met a woman who has so completely and totally unsettled him? I have never seen that demon blush so much!" At that moment Eri and Yuka chose to return, thus everyone was forced to leave the comment in the air, though they all at least nodded to show they agreed.

After about an hour of dining and casual conversation Mrs. Higurashi rose to her feet and walked over to whisper something in Miroku's ear. He paled slightly, but nodded his head, looking very determined. Kagome raised an eyebrow curiously as he rose to his feet at Inuyasha's side and, taking a glass, pinged his fork against it to get everyone's attention.

"Um," For once the monk Miroku seemed at a loss for words, and he glanced down at Sango for help. She didn't know what he was up to, but smiled encouragingly, and that seemed to help. "I guess that as the grooms best man I'm supposed to give a speech so, here it goes." He took a sip of his water and set the glass down.

"When I met Kagome and Inuyasha, they were still something akin to strangers. But even then they managed to crack me up. I came across Kagome long before I met my current wife Sango, and, as the man I was back then, I decided to flirt with her. But Inuyasha would have none of that. I think he came darn close to punching me in the face when I jokingly asked Kagome to bear my child."

The audience laughed, and that seemed to give Miroku courage. Sango was just shaking her head, and Kagome knew exactly what the woman was thinking. If only the world knew how true all of that was.

"It's been almost four years since that first day, and I can honestly say that I have never known two people who truly love each other so purely and unabashedly as these two, except for perhaps myself and my wife." Again, everyone laughed, and Miroku relaxed some more. "They will do anything for each other, and I think that is truly something unique. That is the meaning of the love that we all search for, when you love someone so much you would die for them, but even more importantly, you would live for them too. So, here's to you, Inuyasha, and to you, Kagome."

He raised his glass, and everyone else followed suit as Kagome and Inuyasha gazed into each other's eyes. Kagome smiled, and Inuyasha leaned in to peck her on the cheek.

The sound of a microphone turning on caused the entire room to shift their attention in the direction of the d.j., a short man with brown hair, who was smiling at everyone. "I would now like to play a song that the bride personally requested, saying it was special."

Kagome knew what it was, and rose to her feet, pulling Inuyasha with her. He followed, albeit hesitantly, and Kagome turned to indicated that the rest of the wedding party was to follow. They all rose, and it didn't escape Kagome's notice that Ms. White had taken hold of Sesshoumaru's arm affectionately, nor did it pass her by that the demon lord didn't seem to mind.

Once in the middle of the dance floor, the d.j. once more turned off his microphone and leaned over to flip a switch, a soft melody beginning that sounded vaguely familiar to Inuyasha.

Tale as old as time. True as it can be. Barely even friends, Then somebody bends, Unexpectedly.

As the music became clearer, Inuyasha realized what it was and smiled as he took Kagome in his arms and began to twirl her around the dance floor, the others following suit. But that didn't matter. He only saw the woman in his arms who was now his mate in both this world and his own. No one could take her away from him.

The song was too short really, but Kagome didn't care. She and Inuyasha just moved gracefully into the next tune, this one a little faster, and slowly the dance floor filled with ther people as well. At one point, the sound of Sir Mix a lot came on, along with 'I like big butts and I cannot lie', and all the girls took over, moving into a tiny circle and dancing together and just having a good time.

The night wore on, and as it did the wine slowly took affect, as did the time, so that by the time midnight rolled around everyone was losing their enthusiasm to dance or eat or even talk. Realizing this, the dj decided to call it a night.

"I'd like to thank all of you for allowing me to be a part of this tonight," he said softly, "And now, to end the evening, the bride and groom will share one last dance."

Obeying, Kagome and Inuyasha walked back out onto the dance floor one last time as the soft strains of Daniel Beddingfield's 'If You're Not The One' began playing, and Kagome leaned her head against his chest comfortably.

"I love you," she whispered. He smiled.

"I love you too."

"I can't believe we're married."

"I can, because you've technically been my mate for several months already." Kagome slapped his shoulder playfully.

"You know what I mean." It was then that she noticed he was still wearing the charmed necklace that gave her the ability to 'sit' him on command, and suddenly felt extremely guilty for not having removed it sooner. She moved to touch it, but he put a hand over hers.

"What are you doing?"

"You can't possibly want to wear that now," Kagome replied, "And I'm sorry I didn't remove it sooner." But he just clutched her hand tighter.

"Please don't take it off," he said softly, "It's become a part of me because it links me to you. Whenever we were fighting, I knew that at least I had the necklace, which meant that a part of me was in your hands at all times."

Kagome felt tears in her eyes yet again, but pushed them away, not wanting to spoil the moment. She threw her arms around his neck and pulled him close. "I love you so much. And I always will."

He didn't reply, but just clutched her tighter as he gave her a solid kiss, everyone watching with stupid grins on their faces.

That day came back to him again, that moment when she had taken his hand to walk with him back to where the others were camped. 'I want to see you smile', she had said, 'And no matter what happens I will be by your side forever'.

He smiled.