Disclaimer: Not mine.

Warnings: Inuaysha's language. (What else?)

A/N: I am kinda sad to wrap this up. The story evolved a little differently than I expected, so the aforementioned epilogue is embedded within this chapter. I plan to post some story notes in the next few days, so please don't let the next author's alert raise your expectations. After that, I will be polishing a few kinks out of the story and posting it up at MediaMiner. The optional lemon chapter will likely materialize sometime in the next few weeks. (I expect it will slot in after Chapter 10.)

There have been some neat comments and questions in the reviews. I will try to address those in the forthcoming story notes. If you have additional questions, feel free to send them along. I'll do the best I can to tie up any loose ends.

I'm really shocked and delighted to have received such a positive response. Thank you for reading!

XII. Jewel

Kaede had counseled them to rest a few days, allowing Inuyasha some time to recover from the ordeal of birth. Many of the villagers paid visits to meet and ogle the new addition to the family.

She had her mother's sweet and friendly nature, cooing and burbling and loving every minute of the attention. Like any babe, she would cry and fuss when she was hungry or soiled, demonstrating some of her father's temperament as well. But she was easily appeased and, overall, appeared to be a very happy child indeed.

Shocking silver hair was proof of her youkai heritage, although it was not yet clear what supernatural abilities she might possess – a difficult matter to predict in a child of mixed heritage. Kaede and Sango speculated that the full extent of her abilities might not become manifest for several years.

Wary of anyone, human or youkai, who might harbour ill will towards a hanyou babe, Inuyasha's fierce protective streak had further sharpened. But what really unsettled him was the rapt attention his little girl was already receiving from the males of different species, growling Shippou and Kohaku away more than once from their new playmate.

Kagome had giggled at his antics. With that hair and those violet eyes, their daughter was bound to be a stunner when she blossomed into womanhood. Oyaji was surely in for a rough ride in a few years.

Shippou-chan was already besotted with his new imouto, drawing pictures for her and recounting their tales from the jewel quest. Of course, as aniki he turned out as the hero more often than not.

The kitsune was not, however, the only admirer to bestow gifts upon the newest resident of the village. The women and children demonstrated their heartfelt acceptance of Inuaysha's family with gifts of fabric for baby clothes, and small playthings. A full week passed, however, before the young family received the most surprising gift of all.

The quiet hours of predawn witnessed the arrival of the small toadying creature at the outskirts of the village. Seconded to keep watch over the human settlement while the hanyou settled his new pup, the firecat set out to greet the distasteful visitor she scented on the wind.

"Ack!" squawked the creature, surprised by the sudden and silent appearance of the lowly hanyou's accomplice. Despite her small size, he knew she could be a formidable foe.

"Stay back," he thwapped the cat on the nose with his jintojo. "I come on behalf of the Great Lord Sesshoumaru-sama. To oppose my errand is to oppose his will."

Kirara transformed. Lifting the madly protesting creature by the collar of his haori, she escorted him on his errand before returning him to the edge of the village. She watched dutifully, both tails flicking quietly as he shuffled off back in the direction from which he had come.

What the fuck is this? It reeks of my good-for-nothing brother.

Commotion broke out at Kaede's hut with the rising of the sun. Untying the small parcel retrieved from the entryway, Inuyasha popped a vein.

"What is it, Inuyasha?"

As Kagome approached to see what had set him off, the hanyou growled in anger.

"Another one of the bastard's insults." He unwrapped the small, red kimono. "I can hunt firerat for my own family."

"Ooooohhhhhh….. Kawaiii!!!" Kagome squealed, reaching for the tuft of white fur that fell from the bundle.

Inuyasha trembled with rage. His claws extended, preparing to shred the small fluff, but Myouga-ji suddenly hopped up on his shoulder.

"Stop! Inuyasha-sama, that is from your honourable father's mokomoko-sama."

"Gggggnnnnnyyyyyyaaaaahhhhhh!" Inuyasha's fist punched through the floor. Damn him.

Kagome smoothed her hands over his shoulders, sliding one up to stroke the base of his ear. The hanyou relaxed slowly. Sensing that he was no longer about to shred the first thing within reach, Kagome reached for the small bundle of dried flowers that had also fallen from the kimono.

"That's not like Sesshoumaru," she lifted the precious bundle thoughtfully.

"Hell, no," Inuyasha replied. "Those are from the little girl."

Kagome exhaled slowly as she warily eyed the old dry well. Inuyasha stood beside her, his comforting arm encircling her shoulder. Little Nyoko-chan rested peacefully, swaddled in the sling against her mother's chest.

Much like the first day that Kagome had become tied to this place, the fresh breeze caressed them softly and the birds sang overhead. But painfully aware of nervous knot tightening low in her belly, Kagome paid little attention at that moment to nature's blessings. Inuyasha's hand stroked her arm slowly in a reassuring motion.

It had been three weeks since the birth of their little one and their daily activities had settled back into a routine pace. Despite enjoying life as a new mother, a small part of Kagome had nonetheless been dreading this inevitable moment. As much as she hoped for a reunion with her family in the modern era, she worried that the well would once again be closed.

Kaede-obachan and Miroku-sama had deduced that something about the baby somehow reactivated the well. The last trip through had been premature, they theorized, twisting the timeslip slightly off. If their theory was right, the way should be open now.

But there is so much we don't understand. Not wanting to suffer a crushing disappointment, Kagome had been avoiding this trip. Inuyasha decided for them, this morning, after waking from another night of fitful dreams.

"It's been long enough, woman. Your mother's gonna twist my ears off as it is." Having decided, Inuyasha would brook no argument. Bidding farewell to their friends, they gathered the few things they might need for an extended visit. They would be able to stock up on modern luxuries, after all, if they made it through.

Taking another deep breath, Kagome nodded her readiness.

"Let's go."

Inuyasha lifted her into his arms, entering the well in one mighty leap.

Nyoko-chan wakened and gurgled at the sight of the pretty blue lights.

oyaji – Somewhat disrespectful term for "father". Often translated as "old man." Inuyasha sometimes refers to his father this way.

imouto – "Little" (younger) sister.

aniki – "Big" (elder) brother.

jintojo – Jaken's two-headed staff.

mokomoko-sama – Takahashi-sensei's name for Sesshoumaru's fluff. The name hasn't been used in the manga, as far as I can tell, but did come up in an interview. (bows to Kuro … Ah, Kuro, how we luff thee….)