Author's Note: Just tying up a few loose ends…
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
"Kagome, what're you—it's fifty degrees outside," Inuyasha said bemusedly, turning back to see his wife a few feet behind him on the path, readjusting the hat on their one-year-old son's head and then securing it further with the hood of his snowsuit.
"I don't want him to catch cold," she replied.
"Catch cold? He'll get heatstroke in that thing. Come on, the others are waiting for us."
Kagome shifted the baby's weight a bit higher up on her hip and jogged to catch up. "I don't know why you had to schedule a company picnic when it's so cold out."
"It's August, Kagome—how were we supposed to know the cold snap would hit so early this year?"
"I suppose—but it's just so cold. Oh, I hope Sango's brought an extra pair of mittens—these ones I grabbed for him are getting a hole, see?"
"He'll be fine, sweetheart—it's not that cold."
She shot him a look. "This from the man who wears shorts and a t-shirt when it's below freezing."
"Come on, that was one time. And I didn't suffer any permanent damage, did I?"
"You got pneumonia."
He scoffed. "We don't know that it was from that."
She laughed at his stubbornness. "You're impossible, you know that?" she said with a smile.
"Kagome! Inuyasha!" Miroku called out to them as they approached the maze of crowded picnic tables that covered a large patch of grass shaded on one side by a copse of trees. "And how is my godson this lovely morning?" he asked, holding out his arms to take little Daisuke off Kagome's hands.
"Sweating like a pig would be my guess," Inuyasha interjected.
"Will you give it a rest already," Kagome sighed. "Look, I've got to go find Sango—Miroku, can you keep an eye on these two children here for me?"
"Will do," Miroku replied, ignoring Inuyasha's outburst.
Kagome placated her husband with a smile and a kiss on the cheek and then disappeared into the crowd.
"So," Miroku began as they strolled over toward the buffet tables at a leisurely pace, "things are going well, still?"
"Yeah," Inuyasha replied with an easy smile. "I mean, the kid keeps us up half the night, and we don't have much…you-know-what, but I think it's worth the trade-off."
"Told you it would be."
"Yeah. Besides, if you can survive it, it should be a cinch for me…"
A few meters away from the happy picnic-goers, two silent observers stood unseen in the chilly morning fog near the trees. They watched Inuyasha and his son and Miroku as they joined a group of people clustered around the chips and dip, shaking hands and greeting friends. A minute or two later, Kagome reappeared with Sango and little Taro, and Kagome retrieved Daisuke from Miroku so they could all go find seats together at one of the nearby tables.
Sesshoumaru watched his sister-in-law fix plates of hot-dogs for the kids, watched Inuyasha cutting Daisuke's hot-dog into coin-shaped slices and keeping an eye on him as he ate them while perched on his father's lap.
Finally, after what seemed like eons of watching them silently, the other figure spoke.
"So, are you happy now? Are you ready to move on?" Shippo asked, turning toward the other spirit's profile from where he was perched on his shoulder.
Sesshoumaru took one last, long look at his brother and his sister-in-law and his nephew, at the kind of comfortable, easy love that he had never learned to feel, never had the chance to experience, and decided that finally, knowing that his brother would be saved from his fate, he could leave—he could let go. "Yes. I'm ready."
And then, without another word or another glance behind him, he turned and strolled away, dissolving into the mist, releasing himself to whatever realm waits beyond this Earth, and the new sort of life that was in store.
A/N: There you have it—done at last! I hope it was an enjoyable read, because I sure enjoyed writing it (most of the time… --grin--). Thanks to everyone for all the lovely reviews, and for putting up with the ridiculously long wait for updates. Merry Christmas!