Looks like the last chapter. Sorry if that disappoints but you have to know when to end a story or it drones on and loses its appeal. Plus, I have to get on with real life and updating this frequently is keeping me from getting my work done. I have this horrible habit of not being able to put a story aside once I've started it…
As I said before, there is a good chance I'll be adding occasional one-shots set in this universe, so keep an eye out for them -- they'll be labeled as "Courtship Universe" stories in summary.
For all the Sango/Miroku fans out there, I'm sorry I couldn't indulge you but I felt it would be too much to cover in this story. Also, I'm not totally comfortable with their interaction. I'm an S/M fan, don't get me wrong, I just don't know that I could do their paring justice. Not yet, anyway.
Citrus… okay, so there isn't all that much (you should have seen version 1 -- that practically passed with a G rating!) I'm sorry, I love reading it myself but I have to be careful to follow the website rules and I don't want any of my underage readers getting into trouble either. There's some steamy parts I think, but outright dirty stuff will have to wait until I have my website up and running.
I'd like to thank all my wonderful reviewers for the encouragement over the last couple of weeks, it really means a lot to me.
And now, the final chapter.
"Inuyasha? Our bedroom is the other way."
"We're not going to our room," he smirked, a facetious glint in his expression.
Kagome's eyebrows furrowed. "So then where--"
"It's a surprise, koibito. Just wait."
With that request, Kagome snuggled into his inner kimono, a soft white cotton that was deliciously infused with his masculine scent. The air became suddenly cold, telling her that they were outdoors. What was he up to?
All at once they stopped, and Inuyasha gently let her down in the center of a garden surrounded by high stone walls.
"Where are we?"
Taking her hand, Inuyasha tugged her lightly toward the center of the garden, past small fountains and fragrant rose bushes. "This garden is a well-kept secret. I wasn't even sure I was going to tell you about it, at least not so soon."
"Why the mystery?"
Inuyasha stopped, barely hearing her words, and turned her around before covering her eyes with a clawed hand. "Close your eyes, koibito. I want to wait until we're there."
Confident that she was unable to see, he turned her around again and guided her around a bend to stand in a small clearing.
"Okay, open your eyes."
She had to blink a little, allowing her eyes to adjust to the lowered light level. This portion of the garden was shadowed from even the moon by a very large tree.
"That looks like--"
"The Goshinboku," he finished for her. "This tree doesn't have any special powers or anything, but it's the tree my father proposed to my mother under. Maybe a poor substitute for you, I don't know, but I thought it might make you happy."
A broad grin swept across her face and she jumped at the hanyou, throwing her arms around his neck. "Arigato, Inuyasha. I love this surprise."
He folded her in a warm bear hug, pulling her closer to his heart. They relaxed like that for a moment, mostly to give Kagome a chance to finish waking up from her nap.
"Inuyasha, there's something I have to tell you," she whispered.
"I'm not going to be a miko after tonight."
Frowning in confusion, Inuyasha pushed back a bit to meet her eyes. "What do you mean?"
"During the mating ceremony, the temple miko gave me this look… and I realized what she was thinking. I can't be a shrine maiden if I'm not a maiden. Already I've lost some of my powers just being bonded to you. Once we consummate this, I will probably lose the rest of my powers. I don't know if I will be able to detect jewel shards anymore. I -- I'm sorry."
An errant tear slipped down her cheek which Inuyasha quickly brushed away, his eyes widening in concern. "Kagome, you don't honestly think that matters to me anymore?"
"I know you want the jewel--"
"I DID want the jewel," he corrected. "Now my only concern is destroying Naraku. I can do that with the shards or without them. Please don't think of it anymore."
"H-hai." She sniffled away the rest of the tears, trying to put a smile on her face again.
Inuyasha smirked at her. "Even without priestess powers, you'll always be my miko."
She laughed at this. "And you will always be my evil demon."
Suddenly, Kagome found herself being shot up into the large tree and rested on one of its wider branches.
"Sure about that, Kagome? We demons are pretty ruthless with meddling priestesses."
He was playing with her! Kagome stepped back to gain balance from the trunk of the tree. "Don't be so cocky, hanyou. This miko can kick your butt any time she wants."
"Prove it, wench."
She leapt at him, almost knocking him off the branch. Instead, he wrapped one arm around the branch and another around his mate as she pushed his shoulders down and stared into his eyes.
"I'm a little scared," he playfully admitted. "Now just what kind of torturous punishment do you have in mind, miko?"
"Well first there's the disrobing spell," she drawled, moving her hands from his shoulders to tug at the opening of his inner kimono. It took only seconds to push back, especially since her 'spell' apparently included enchanting the victim to help with the removal.
When the garment fell to the ground below, Inuyasha looked up at her again. "What if this demon can erect a barrier and send your spell back to you?" Grateful that she hadn't taken the time to correctly tie her kimono, he began deftly removing it from her body, this time completely disrobing her.
"You're sure no one will find us here?" Kagome was suddenly shy, glancing around the garden.
"No one. That's the other reason I chose this place."
"Good," she grinned. "I'd hate to have someone rescue you from this next enchantment, hanyou."
With that threat, she dipped down and crushed her lips to his, resulting in a paroxysm of desire in Inuyasha. He started groaning in time to her own keening noises. Anyone daring to interrupt this time would have easily met with death, though not necessarily at the hanyou's hands.
He'd had enough of the submissive role. Before she knew what was happening Kagome found herself somehow flipped so that her back was now against the branch. She was breathless with both the shock of his movement and the hunger in her lover's eyes.
In a low, heavy voice Inuyasha growled into her ear, "still think you can overpower me, miko?" He nipped at the lobe for emphasis, following the bite with a loving lick before trailing more down her neck.
Words. Kagome knew that sentences had words. Now what were they… Oh… Who gave a damn anyway?
"That's what I thought."
He was being arrogant again!
Pushing away any last shreds of prudishness she might have had, Kagome reached down and grabbed him in response.
"What?" She looked at him innocently, batting her eyelashes. She almost worried that she'd hurt him but his fiery look roared into an inferno, telling her otherwise.
"That's it little miko," he scolded, bringing her arms up behind her head and holding them fast with one hand. "You've asked for it now."
She'd started to laugh at the threat when he began moving lower down her body. "What are you …"
"Like that, do you?"
Again words escaped her. She merely nodded, grasping firmly onto the branch below her and fighting to stay inside herself. The sensations were awe-inspiring but she knew he needed her more than he was letting on.
"Onegai, Inuyasha, come up to me…"
With a last reverent kiss to her lower regions he obeyed her command and slid his way up to make eye contact. Her glazed expression encouraged Inuyasha, and he quickly moved to rid himself of the last vestiges of clothing.
They were bare to the stars and, at last, each other.
"Be with me?" Kagome's voice was soft, pleading.
Inuyasha kissed her again, positioning himself between her legs, and they became one.
* * * * *
"I wonder if they're still alive?"
Miroku winked at the taijiya as they passed the master suite on the way to breakfast. "Well the servants have been dropping off dinner for someone for the last three nights," he mused.
They'd almost made it to the dining room when the door to the aforementioned suite opened and two laughing, snuggling figures stepped out into the hallway.
Sango quickly pulled Miroku into the dining hall, effectively colliding with him.
"Gomen." She blushed and quickly stepped back.
They rushed to their seats, pasting innocent expressions on their faces when Inuyasha and Kagome entered the room.
"Ohayou, minna!" Kagome's cheerful voice rang out in the hall as she and her mate took seats opposite their friends.
"Ohayou, Kagome-chan," Sango replied. You're going to tell me everything, her eyes told the young woman.
Miroku was sending his own secret message to Inuyasha. Three days? You old dog, you!
Inuyasha growled at him.
The room took on a sudden chill as Sesshoumaru appeared in the doorway, followed by a bouncing Rin and scampering Jaken.
"Good morning, Sesshoumaru," Inuyasha greeted his brother, wondering just how back-to-normal things were.
At first the demon lord ignored him, coming to sit a few cushions away. "Good morning, Inuyasha, Kagome."
The entire room gaped at him, except Rin who simply beamed.
"I trust you are feeling well, Brother?"
Inuyasha was almost too stunned to respond, but nodded. "And you…?"
"Fine. The poison has completely dissipated." He took the bowl of rice that was offered and began arranging his meal on the small table. "You've decided to join us for breakfast today," he noted.
"Yes, there is business to take care of," Inuyasha responded. "We'll be faced with the nekoyoukai any day now, and I'm sure there are duties you'll need me to perform."
"The nekoyoukai retreated, Inuyasha-sama," Jaken piped up.
"When their military leaders discovered that Sesshoumaru was healed, they knew they couldn't stand a chance against both of Inutaisho's sons and backed off their plan."
Inuyasha stole a glance at the inuyoukai beside him, verifying the truth of Jaken's story.
"So there's no attack."
A great sigh of relief left him and he smiled at Kagome. "That will make this much easier, koibito."
"Hai," she agreed.
Sesshoumaru failed to hide the curiosity this exchange piqued. "Make what easier?"
"Kagome must return to her time. She's been gone almost two weeks now and I believe I made a promise to her mother."
"You plan to return with her," the demon observed.
Together the pair nodded. "She's marked with my blood now. It's not safe for her to go so far alone." Inuyasha stood from his breakfast and came to kneel before his brother. He reached down to his side and untied Tenseiga, presenting it to Sesshoumaru in the same manner it had been presented to him at the taikanshiki. "I believe this belongs to you, Onii-san."
"You are relinquishing your claim to the Western Lands?"
Inuyasha nodded solemnly. "You've maintained them well in the years since father's death. I will gladly take over again if necessary, but I can best serve our people by hunting down the evil in this world instead of sitting behind a desk. You make a far better nobleman than me, Sesshoumaru."
The older inuyoukai didn't disagree, and accepted the katana wordlessly. After strapping it around his kimono, he looked over the table at Inuyasha again. "You will always have a home here, Inuyasha-onii-san. You and your mate." He looked meaningfully at Kagome.
"Arigato, Sesshoumaru-sama," she thanked him warmly.
The moment passed, Inuyasha stood and walked back to his forgotten meal.
"So when do we leave," Miroku asked the hanyou.
"After breakfast. Myouga says there's a wolf tribe running rampant just south of here."
"Another Shikon shard?"
Kagome smiled as her three longtime companions discussed their plans. No more hot baths or plush futons. No five-course dinners, freshly pressed kimonos or lavish parties. Only the wide open wilderness, sooty campfires and an arrogant hanyou leaping from tree to tree with her on his back.
And that sounded just right.
~ The End ~
* * * * *
Ohayou -- "Morning!"
Minna -- everyone