Author's Notes: Oh man, guys, here it is...the final chapter in the final story of this trilogy I have so unexpectedly created. I can't believe it. It's like saying good bye to an old friend, and that's not an easy thing to do, trust me.
All told, this trilogy consists of three stories, over sixty chapters and 3,000 reviews. I can't believe how successful it has become any more then I can grasp the fact that, now, after all this time, it is finally coming to an end. I started on 'Confessions of a Broken Heart' last November and now, almost an entire year later, I am finishing 'Soldiers in a Timeless Battle'. Thank you, everyone, for your support throughout all of this, I have treasured your responses and your kind words, and even your honesty at times when things have not quite been on par with what they should be...all of these are things I will remember.
Just as one final side note, below is the information again for my next story, which will be coming out in a matter of days as I have been working on the first five or so chapters, and have the entire story outline finally complete. I think you'll like it. I am very proud of how it is already developing. But that having been said, it will never take the place of this trilogy.
I'll shut up now and just go sit in a corner and cry, if it's alright with you, and you guys and move ahead and read the conclusion, okay? Thank you so much for everything. Thank you...thank you (bows elegantly and exists from the stage).
NOTICE: The next story that will be posted, in place of 'Soldiers in a Timeless Battle', will be called 'The King's Mistress'. It's an alternate universe plot, I've already prepared the first several chapters, and am very proud of how it's already starting to develop, so wait for that in the very near future. All the information about it is as follows:
The King's Mistress
Pairings: Inuyasha/Kagome, Miroku/Sango, Sesshoumaru/Rin
Summary: Kagome comes to court without expecting much more then the fact that she will be married to Kouga, ruler of the north, and vassal to the King. She has accepted the fact that her sister, Kikyou, will be marrying King Inuyasha, and that she will forever more be forced to walk behind her skirts. But all that changes when she catches the eye of Inuyasha himself, casting doubt on his choice in a wife, as well as her choice to accept the life that has been planned for her. Now two sisters, as close and protective of one another as twins and yet the greatest of rivals, will compete for the greatest prize: the love of a King. But only one will wear the crown, while the other will be cast in shadow as nothing more than the King's mistress.
Title: Soldiers in a Timeless Battle
Rating: PG-13 (for language and, at times, sexual implications)
Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha.
The sun shone down on the small village in the early February afternoon, warming the earth and causing a certain amount of steam to rise from the chilled, wet ground of winter. At long last it seemed that the gods had lifted the cold spell, and were going to allow everyone to start their spring and summer routines.
Kagome walked down the center road through the village, headed in the direction of a small hut that was somewhat off on its own, secluded in the woods. But she was stopped as a small hand grasped her arm firmly, and she turned to look down at a boy of fourteen years with black hair and brown eyes. She smiled kindly. "What is it, child?"
He glanced over his shoulder, as though checking to see if there were monsters. "Priestess, you must hurry. My father is having his leg pains again."
Looking up at the sky for a moment, Kagome struggled to remember who the man was, before finally recalling the father she had tended to a week before after he had been in a hunting accident where a deer had severely injured his right thigh.
Finally, glancing back at the boy, she reached into a large pocket in her red pants and pulled forth a large pouch of herbs. "I see. You'd best take me to him then." The boy nodded and, taking her hand, led her towards one of the homes near the center of the village...and away, she noticed with a sigh of longing, from her own home.
Inside the hut was an elderly man, his eyes dark and his black hair salted with gray, lying on his back, his eyes clenched shut in pain. He peered over at the door as the flap was pulled aside, letting in the sun, and tried to smile slightly as he noticed Kagome moving towards him. "Priestess," he muttered through clenched teeth, "I hope I have not caused too much trouble for you."
Slowly sitting down on her knees, though Kagome was having some difficulty finding her balance thanks to her extremely pregnant belly, she smiled and smoothed back the man's hair with her right hand as she set the pouch of herbs down with the other and reached for a small cup full of water. "I see you already prepared the hot water," she nodded with approval, "That will certainly help you feel better faster."
The man nodded. "You can thank my son for that...he is the one who remembered."
Kagome glanced at the boy and gave him her warmest smile, to which he blushed in return. "Well done," she commended before turning back to her work, removing several pinches of the herb and placing them in the cup, stirring it with her finger before handing it to the man. "Do you need help sitting up?"
She nodded again and placed her hands behind his back as he hoisted himself into a sitting position, wincing as his leg moved in a way it didn't like. He instantly drank the liquid, making a face at its sour taste, and handed the cup back to Kagome.
"You'll probably feel somewhat tired for a while," Kagome spoke calmly as she gently removed the blanket that was covering the man's legs in order to inspect the wound. The bandages around it were soiled, and as she removed them she could see that the gash was infected and full of pus.
Sticking a warm cloth in the pot of leftover water, she pulled it out after a few minutes and proceeded to clean the wound slowly, trying not to create too much discomfort for her patient, before reaching down to her waist and removing another, smaller pouch and handing it to the man.
"I want you to take two pinches of this herb," she instructed as she proceeded to re-bandage the now clean gash, "Twice a day, is that understood?"
"It will help with the infection," she explained as she finished, sitting back on her heels and admiring what she had done with a smile of satisfaction. Kaede would be proud.
"Thank you, priestess," the man said again, his voice and eyes full of gratitude. "I know how hard it is to work now, in your condition." He indicated her belly, and Kagome blushed, waving the comment away as though it were nothing.
"I'm not due for another two months, so you need not worry about me."
"But it must be so tiring for you."
She nodded. "It can be at times, but honestly, my husband won't let me do too much without his permission, so I don't even have the opportunity to tire myself out."
The man laughed at that. "Your husband is right to protect you so much. He is a good man." Their eyes met. "I mean that, good priestess."
Kagome smiled, her cheeks flush with pleasure and her chest swelling with pride. It seemed that Inuyasha was indeed slowly winning the villagers over to his side with his kind gestures and his willingness to always protect the village. "I shall tell him what you have said, and am sure it will make him very happy," she finally commented, rising to her feet. "But for now, I must go and make dinner for my own family."
The man nodded. "Of course. Have a pleasant evening, my lady."
Kagome nodded and left, still feeling unused to being shown such respect, even though it had been two years since she took over Kaede's role as the village priestess. The old miko had trained Kagome for two years, much shorter then usual, but then, as she grew weary and unable to complete her duties, Kagome had stepped in, and before long she had taken over completely, leaving Kaede to relax in her old age and be taken care of by the villagers, who were all grateful for the service she had given them throughout the years.
Once more the hut that was her home came into view, and even though it was small, it was most definitely larger then it had been before. Miroku and Inuyasha had added on three rooms, so that now Inuyasha and Kagome had their own bedroom of sorts, as did Sango and Miroku, Kaede, and Shippou, who was now fifteen and insisted on his own living space. Kagome smiled at the thought. No matter how old he became, she would always remember the years when he had curled up at her chest and slept with his ear against her heart, listening to it beat steadily throughout the night.
The villagers thought it somewhat strange that they had not moved into their own homes, but Kagome decided it was better to just allow them to wonder. After all, how could she explain to them that they had been through so much they couldn't possibly imagine living anywhere but together any more?
"Kagome, where have you been?!"
Kagome was wrenched from her thoughts by the harsh sound of Inuyasha's voice, and she found herself staring at the frustrated hanyou standing in his usual pose, his arms crossed and his chin in the air haughtily. Some things would never change...
"I've been tending to some of the villagers," she replied sweetly. "They needed my help."
He sent her a glare. "Keh, I thought I told you that you were to not do any more for the village until after the pup is born."
Kagome rolled her eyes. "You don't honestly expect me to stay in the hut all day, do you Inuyasha? And besides, if I didn't take care of the villagers, who would?"
"Kaede, of course! Or Kikyou! Her village isn't that far away, after all."
Kagome bristled slightly at that. "Maybe I don't want Kikyou tending to the people of my village, Inuyasha, since I am perfectly capable of doing it myself!" The old strain of jealously had managed to entwine itself into her tone, and Kagome blushed slightly in embarrassment, but still held her ground.
"I can't believe you're still so nervous around her," Inuyasha taunted, trying to make a point. "Do you need any more proof that you're the one who has ended up as my mate?" He indicated her belly.
"Well maybe I wouldn't feel so insecure if you acted so protective around her too, baka!" Kagome snapped back. "She's just as pregnant as I am, and yet, somehow, you think it's alright for her to come and tend to my village, as well as her own, and yet I get in trouble for even thinking about actually doing my job!" She stomped past him and into the hut. "Maybe I wouldn't get so upset if you had a little more faith in me!"
From within, Kagome heard an exasperated sigh, and turned to see Sango by the hearth, mending one of Miroku's robes. "You two will never stop, will you?" The demon exterminator asked with a chuckle.
Kagome just rolled her eyes. "He started it...again..."
"How very mature of you, Kagome, to point that out to me," her friend retorted in a kind way, causing Kagome to blush slightly. But before she could reply there was a great commotion outside, and she and Sango both rose to their feet to see what it was about.
They saw Shippou, now nearly as tall as Inuyasha, his arms and legs beginning to have the developed muscles of a man, his face lean and handsome, his shoulder-length red hair pulled back into a ponytail and accenting his green eyes, smiling at them and waving a rabbit in his right hand. Kagome smiled and waved back. "I guess that's dinner," she spoke out of the side of her mouth to Sango, who smiled and nodded in reply.
Miroku appeared next, his staff, as always, in his hand, Kirara, in her small form, on his shoulder, two small children walking on either side of him, one, a boy, slightly older then the other, who was a girl.
"Mama!" The boy called out excitedly as he ran on his short, stubby four-year-old legs, his arms held wide to prepare for a giant hug. Sango swept him up into her arms, making a soft sound at his ever-growing weight, and smiled lovingly as she played with his hair.
But Kagome's eyes were directed elsewhere as she heard the other child, a smaller, more petite girl, cry out "Papa!" and run for Inuyasha, who picked her up and tossed her into the air with ease, eliciting a cry of delight from her lips.
She had flawless ivory skin framed by ebony hair like Kagome's, violet eyes like Inuyasha's when he was in human form, and, of course, little black dog ears atop her head. They'd already discovered that when she transformed she looked the spitting image of her father, with silver hair and amber eyes, but that unfortunately only stayed for a single night twice a year. It seemed that, as she was only a quarter demon, she only transformed every six months.
"Kohana," Inuyasha cooed to his daughter, and she giggled, wrapping her tiny arms around his neck. She was a petite child, her face perfectly sculpted, like a doll, and her eyes danced when she laughed, like her mother.
Kagome smiled at the pair, noting how Inuyasha's eyes grew so soft whenever his daughter came around. At first, Kagome had feared Inuyasha would be upset that his first child had not been a son, like most of the men in the Feudal Era seemed to be, but he had instantly loved the girl on sight, and named her Kohana, meaning 'little flower', because he said she reminded him of a perfectly developed rose: always beautiful.
"Ah," Miroku sighed as he moved up to stand in between his wife and Kagome, "Can you believe how fast they are growing?"
Both women shook their heads, though it was Kagome who spoke, a soft smile on her face. "Sometimes I still think she is just a baby, and I need to change her diaper, but then I remember she is almost three, and that I have another child on the way." She rested her hands on her belly with a contented sigh.
Sango touched her son's nose fondly, and they rubbed noses before she set him down. "You won't grow up too fast, right Taro?"
Taro nodded seriously. "I promise, mama."
They all chuckled, and Kagome was reminded even more of Miroku as she looked at the four year olds face. His hair was short and black, like his father's, and his eyes were the same kind brown. But at the same time, he had a softness about his features that was purely Sango, and Kagome knew he could not have turned out more perfect for her friends.
Turning around and tottering over to where Inuyasha and Kohana were still playing, Taro tugged on the hanyou's red pants, and Kagome watched her husband reluctantly return his daughter to the ground so that the two friends could play.
"He's such a beautiful child, Sango," Kagome commented, and Sango glowed with pride.
"He is, isn't he?" She sighed. "And Kohana is wonderful. Those two will grow up to be good friends."
Miroku nodded seriously. "Yes, perhaps they can marry some day." He received smacks from both women, who looked hurt at the thought of their children growing up at all. He just smirked and shrugged. "What? One has to plan ahead for these things, you know."
Kagome just shook her head and smiled as a sudden strong gust of wind nearly blew them all over, and it was Miroku who had to keep Kagome from losing her balance. There was no surprise when Kouga was suddenly standing before them, a huge grin on his face, Ayame at his side, six small pups in a backpack like contraption slung over her shoulders.
"Hi," the wolf prince announced happily. "Are we late?"
Kagome laughed. "No, Kouga, you're actually a little early. Nancy, Sesshoumaru, and Rin aren't even here yet."
"OUCH!" Kouga suddenly went reeling forward, clutching the back of his neck where it had been struck by the back of Inuyasha's hand.
"What were you thinking, baka?" The hanyou snapped. "Kagome could have been seriously hurt! Can't you see the condition she's in?"
As always, Kouga was quick to snap back, getting right in Inuyasha's face so that the old rivals were practically touching noses. "Of course I can see what condition she's in, stupid! Who couldn't, with a belly like that? And nothing happened to her, she's just fine! So get out of my face!"
"Get out of your face? You think I'm just going to let you come barreling in here and risking Kagome's safety?"
"I didn't endanger her!"
Kagome sighed and put a hand to her left temple, massaging it thoughtfully as she closed her eyes. "Inuyasha..." Her voice was deadly calm. She was not in the mood for nonsense, and the hanyou instantly looked up with pleading eyes as he realized what she was about to do. "Sit."
A grunt of pain followed the sound of his body coming into contact with the ground, and then a light girl's laughter pierced the air and everyone looked over to see Kohana rocking back and forth on her heels, her arms around her stomach. "Papa go sit! Papa go sit!" She chimed happily, laughing harder and harder, and soon everyone else was laughing too...except for Inuyasha, of course, who slowly rose to his feet mumbling about stupid, cranky pregnant women.
"So Ayame, how is your brood?" Kagome asked, walking over to inspect the pack, where six little pairs of eyes stared back up at her, the wolf-demon children blinking nervously, not having remembered Kagome from before. How could they? They were only four months old.
Ayame puffed up like any proud mother would. "They're just fine. You should see them walk."
"They're walking already?"
"Of course!" She replied, as though it were the most natural thing in the world. "And running! I would expect nothing less from the sons and daughters of Kouga."
At the mention of his name, Kouga beamed with pride and his eyes softened as he growled affectionately at his pups, who responded in little whimpers.
Kagome chuckled. "I don't know how you did it, Ayame. I mean, six of them at once?" She sighed as though the very thought were exhausting. "I could barely handle Kohana by herself, and I'm not looking forward to the labor of this child either."
Ayame just shrugged. "Wolf demons are built differently, so we can handle so many births at once."
"Will you be going back to your home for the delivery this time, since you didn't make it last time?"
Kagome recalled Kohana's birth, and how she had come two weeks early, catching everyone by surprise. Kagome had no time to return to her time, like she'd promised her family, and this time she feared her mother bursting into tears if she missed the birth of her second grandchild. "Yes, I'll try anyway. Mama really wanted to be there for Kohana, and she really wants to be there for this one too."
"Have you figured out any names yet?"
"No, Inuyasha says he wants to pick the name the day the child is born. He says that is how it is traditionally done with demons: the male names the children." Kagome shrugged. "He picked a beautiful name last time, so I have no problem the second time around."
Sango grunted. "Not all men pick great names." She pointed an accusing finger at Miroku. "He just had to name our boy Taro. What does Taro mean, anyway? It means 'first-born male', and nothing else!"
Miroku smiled that sweet, innocent smile of his. "Sango dear, I told you I wanted to name him that because I intend to have lots of children with you. I feel it is a good name to lead into a large family."
Sango pouted for a few moments, but then, when her husband wrapped his arms around her and placed his hands over her belly, where they thought she was finally pregnant again after two years of trying, her eyes softened and she smiled. "Fine...but if it's a boy again this time, I want to name him Kohaku."
Miroku, for once, wore a serious, understanding face, and nodded as he pressed his face against the side of her neck. "As you wish."
"Ugh, can you two find some privacy please? I swear, whenever I come here one of you couples is making out."
Everyone swung their heads around sharply to the left to find none other then Nancy White, her blonde hair shining with natural highlights she had acquired from spending an entire summer in the sun of the Feudal Era, longer now, falling halfway down her back and currently pulled back into a high braided ponytail. She wore a sleeveless top and matching ankle-length skirt of white ermine, which Sesshoumaru had personally acquired for her as a wedding gift, and she seemed positively radiant. The mark at the base of her neck had faded somewhat, now looking more like a birthmark then the sign of a mate, but demons knew what it meant, and that was enough. She wore no wedding band as she had not insisted that Sesshoumaru come back to her time for a wedding, but that had never seemed to matter to her. Altogether, she now had that contended look a woman acquired once she knew she was with the man she would love for a lifetime, and the only thing missing in her life was a child, but the couple had insisted that they wanted to wait for a while before going down that road.
"Nancy!" Kagome called out happily, running up and throwing her arms around her friend excitedly, albeit awkwardly with her oversized stomach.
At that moment Sesshoumaru appeared, with Jaken and Rin alongside, and while the demon lord remained still and his face passive, Rin shrieked in delight to see her friends and quickly went about hugging every one of them, including Kagome, before being attacked on both sides by the two children who had been running about up until that point.
"Auntie Rin! Auntie Rin!" Kohana exclaimed excitedly, and Rin, sixteen years old, smiled and knelt down to their eye level as first Taro and then Kohana hugged her around the neck. She then stood up and noticed Shippou, who was skinning the rabbit that was their dinner nearby.
"Hello, Shippou," she greeted, her voice having dropped a lot since she had grown so that now it was rich and velvety. Shippou froze and turned slowly, standing up from where he had been kneeling.
"H-hi Rin," he stammered, blushing as he realized how he must look with the stench of rabbit all around him, his hands filthy. But Rin just giggled, and everyone watched the exchange with avid curiosity.
Where Shippou had grown extremely handsome, Rin had become equally as beautiful, with long, slender legs and a curvaceous form, her brown hair now falling in thick waves halfway down her back. Her eyes were dark and full of the potential for love, and everything about her seemed soft. It was easy to see where Shippou became so easily tongue-tied in her presence.
"Well," Kagome exclaimed, trying to save poor Shippou from any more embarrassment, "Are we ready to eat? I think Kaede has already started steaming the rice, so the rabbit is all we have left to cook, and we can do that while we sit and talk."
"Sounds great," Nancy affirmed, walking over to Sesshoumaru and looping her arm through his, and while he remained stiff, he didn't pull away, his arm relaxing slightly.
They all filed into the hut, barely managing to fit in the large main room, now surrounded by the four other bedrooms, but that was half the fun. Kagome couldn't have been happier to have her friends with her.
Settling down, Shippou disappeared for a moment to change out of his soiled clothes while Kagome sat by the fire and Inuyasha draped a thin blanket over her shoulders, sitting beside her while Kohana sat in his lap. All together they formed the picture of the perfect family, with a husband, a daughter, and a pregnant wife.
Sango started serving the tea, and Kaede appeared a few moments later with a smile, several bowls of rice in her hands. Conversation started up easily between all of them, and the old friends quickly settled in for a warm, comfortable evening.
"So what have you heard from Kikyou lately, Inuyasha?" Nancy asked, as forward as she had always been.
"She's doing well," he replied shortly, still clearly not comfortable talking about his former love for too long.
"Is Sukiono behaving himself?" The blonde continued, and seeing her husband's uncomfortable posture Kagome stepped in to reply.
"He is. I just saw him a week ago, and I must say he acts now just like any other normal boy, getting into his share of trouble, but at the same time always trying to please his adoptive parents. And I'll tell you what, Gideon could not be a more loving father to him, even now, with Kikyou's first child on the way."
"That's right, I remember you mentioning she was pregnant," Ayame commented, checking to make sure her brood was soundly sleeping as she took a sip from her cup of tea. "When is she due to deliver?"
"Yes, she is two months ahead of me," Kagome giggled and glanced at Inuyasha. "Although I must say I'm a little embarrassed that I'm already on my second while Kikyou's just now having her first, Sango, who was pregnant before me, is now barely on her second, and you, Nancy, haven't had any yet."
Nancy just laughed. "Nah, don't be embarrassed, you and Inuyasha just have a loving relationship, that's all. Isn't that right, Inuyasha?" She winked, and the hanyou blushed, though his arm snaked around to grip Kagome's shoulders firmly.
"This is so wonderful," Sango commented, "All of us meeting like this. I wish we could do it more then just once a month."
Kouga nodded. "As do I, but I can't leave the tribe any more as much as I used to, because it's finally starting to return to its old size, and that requires a lot of management...and sometimes a firm hand, when necessary."
"Keh, I still don't know why you're the appointed leader," Inuyasha grumbled, but Kagome elbowed him in the side and sent him a warning look so that he ended up looking away and taking a bite of rice.
As the night wore on, Kagome grew more and more relaxed so that, by the time Kaede had served the final round of tea, her eyes were drifting closed every few minutes. Inuyasha noticed, and gently shook her to get her attention.
"Do you want to go to bed now?" He asked tenderly, and Kagome smiled, but shook her head.
"No, I want to say until everyone leaves."
"All right," he nodded and looked back towards the group of companions, who were now discussing something in regards to a demon uprising in the north that Kouga was having to deal with, and Kagome sighed in contentment.
Never in a million years could she have guessed that this is how things would have turned out for her that first moment, now over seven years ago, when she had been pulled down the well for the first time. So much had happened since then. So much had changed, she thought to herself as she looked around the room at each individual person.
Sesshoumaru, once so untouchable and, frankly, cruel, had become, at the very least, more humane, thanks to his relationships with both Nancy and Rin. His eyes no longer carried the cold flint they once did.
Miroku was now a man who could live a normal life, as was made clear by his laugh, which Kagome had never realized before had been bogged down with worry while he had carried his curse. He didn't have to worry about dying and leaving Sango alone in the world, but instead could slow down and savor every moment he was alive.
Sango was happier now then she had been when they'd first met her. Her eyes no longer held that tragic sorrow that the loss of her family and village had wrought upon her, and while, at certain moments, she would still grieve for Kohaku, at the same time, like always, time had slowly healed her wounds.
Rin was no longer the little girl who had stumbled upon Sesshoumaru that first day, but was instead now becoming a radiant young woman in her prime.
And Shippou...oh Shippou...he was no longer the adorable little kitsune who had clutched at her neck while he slept, and who had so fiercely defended his friends even when he had stood no chance of success. He was now nearly a grown man, with all the trials and tribulations that came with such a passage, and while she would always love him, to Kagome he would never again be that little boy she had saved so many years ago.
Kouga had changed as well, for the better. When she'd first met him, he'd been nothing more then a spoiled, immature young man who was trying to find his place in the world. Now, with the addition of seven years and much suffering and fighting, he had become a man in every sense of the word, with a sense of responsibility and honor, and a wife and children at his side.
And then there was Inuyasha, with his beautiful eyes and stern features. He had changed too...so very much, and on so many different levels. Yet, deep down, a part of him was still the hanyou she had first glimpsed, pinned to a tree in a deep sleep. He always would be, and she loved him for it.
And as for herself, well...Kagome couldn't even begin to process how much she'd changed. When the whole quest had started, she had been but a young girl of fifteen years. Now she was twenty-two, with a nearly three year old daughter and another child on the way. Her understanding of responsibility, friendship, and love was so much stronger now...so much deeper.
At the age of fifteen she could not have imagined leaving her life in Tokyo behind, and leaving school, all for one man, but now she couldn't imagine life turning out any other way.
She could still recall that day, now four years ago, when she had gone to the college and withdrawn from her classes, telling her friends that she was going to study abroad for a while. Eventually, she had lost touch with them...save for Ayumi, the only one who knew her secret, and that had been hard, but in the end Kagome had realized it was better that way. Now she didn't have to lead a double life any more. She could just be the Kagome that was a wife to Inuyasha and a mother to Kohana, rather then also trying to be a student and friend of people in the modern era.
In the end, Mrs. Higurashi had been delighted to have a granddaughter, and always spoiled Kohana rotten whenever she came to visit. Souta was growing quickly too, now ready to graduate high school himself, and this time Kagome's mother had every intention of NOT allowing her son to get married before he finished college first.
Nancy had left her job at the firm eventually too, saying she was ready to settle down, and that she'd always planned to quit and become a full time wife and mother eventually anyway. And that is what she had told her boss; she had met a man from America, and was moving there to live with him. Ever since, the only person she had kept in contact with was her sister, who wrote to her from America at least twice a month.
Everyone laughed at something funny, and Kagome felt her body jolt awake at the sound, causing her to realize just how exhausted she was. Pregnancy certainly had a knack for draining the life out of a person, she thought ruefully as she shifted positions so that her head was now in Inuyasha's lap, his hand gently, thoughtlessly stroking through her hair, while Kohana and Taro had fallen asleep together in a far corner, curled up under some spare blankets.
Kagome smiled warmly as she gazed at her daughter through the flames of the fire. That was her girl...hers alone...and no one could ever take her away. Kagome could love her for the rest of her life, and it would be the same with the next child that would be born. She smiled...she couldn't wait for that time.
Of course, she knew her life wouldn't be all sunshine and roses. Inuyasha had explained to her, in great detail, that as his mate, she had adopted his life span which, while only about half as long as Sesshoumaru's, was still far greater then the lifespan of any human, which meant that, about the time she was reaching the equivalent of her forties, their friends, Sango and Miroku, would probably be dead. The thought broke her heart, because she couldn't now imagine a life without her surrogate sister, or Miroku for that matter, but at the same time, it was a choice she had made when she agreed to be Inuyasha's wife, and she did not regret her decision. She would rather lose her friends, who she would miss terribly, then the love of her life, though neither option particularly appealed to her.
"Kagome...Kagome?" She felt someone gently shaking her body, and Kagome made a small noise as she turned her head to look up into Inuyasha's kind face. "Kagome, lets get you to bed."
"No," she protested, though it was feeble, "I want to stay with everyone else. I never get to see them."
Inuyasha chuckled. "They're all asleep now, Kagome."
"Yeah, you fell asleep about an hour ago yourself."
He smiled and picked her up, carrying her bridal style into their room, where a soft mattress from her time was nestled in the far corner, nearly taking up the entire space of the room. Kagome didn't care. A soft bed was one thing she hadn't been so willing to give up, so Inuyasha had finally relented and allowed her to bring it over, though it had certainly been difficult. She smiled at the memory of her husband and grandfather jointly trying to squeeze the mattress down the well, cursing and swearing at each other as they did so.
The covers were warm and soft as down feathers, and Kagome sighed happily as she curled up onto her side, the only position she could sleep in any more, allowing Inuyasha to tuck the sheets up around her chin. Though her eyes were closed, she heard him slip off his fire-rat coat and undershirt before crawling in beside her and spooning his stomach to her back, reaching over and clasping her hand in his.
"Where's Kohana?" She whispered, yawning as she spoke.
"With Taro," Inuyasha replied, nestling his face in her mass of ebony hair. "The two fell asleep in the great room and we didn't have the heart to move them."
"And Nancy and the others?"
"All asleep in the great room, except for Rin, who is sharing a room with Shippou."
"She's what?" Kagome felt her body stiffen at the implication, to which Inuyasha just chuckled.
"Relax, it's not what you think. Kaede gave Rin an extra sleeping mat and blanket, that's all."
"Oh," Kagome relaxed again, knowing she was on the verge of sleep once more. "Inuyasha?"
"I love you."
He squeezed her hand tightly and sighed, and she knew he was going to sleep as well. "I love you too, Kagome," he replied. "Now and forever."
She listened as his breathing slowed to a steady rhythm, indicating he had finally fallen asleep, before allowing her own mind to let go and slip into a world of dreams. And in her dreams, she was once more a young girl of fifteen, learning how to shoot purity arrows and hunting for jewel shards with her strange mix of companions: a broken-hearted hanyou, a lecherous monk, a demon exterminator, a little kitsune, and the occasional appearance of a dashing young wolf prince. In her sleep, she unknowingly smiled, seeing them all as they had been then, and still were, in some ways now, and knew that, no matter how long she would have to live without them when the time came, she would always, in the end, have her memories with her, and that was something no one could take away from her. Ever.