A/N: I know, a new chapter and I didn't respond to the reviews beforehand (save a few with specific questions). For an explanation, please read the author's note at the bottom of the chapter. Thank you! Enjoy the epilogue!
They all sat in the library, the third largest room in the castle, around an enormous circular table. Sixteen kings in all, many sitting with their eldest sons and some with their chief advisors placed behind them. It was crowded and warm, although it was barely springtime outside and a few places in the gardens still had stubborn snowdrifts.
Kagome quietly kept her hands in her lap and watched the faces of the participants tense in response to the speaker's words. She suddenly realized she hadn't been listening.
"There are still dangerous demons out there, present company excluded, of course. I think that these patrols would be necessary. Not just for humans, but for the civilized demons who travel these routes as well." The king fell silent and looked around the room for support.
Toga sighed and leaned back in his seat. "And how shall we tell the difference between those youkai that are dangerous and those that are not? Some of my people prefer to take, ah, the road less traveled, let's say."
"And how will you tell the difference between genuine human merchants and thieves masquerading as such to gain that trust and privilege?" added Koga.
The youkai delegates nodded in agreement. The king who had spoken first appeared irritated. "Must I mention the unfortunate, repeated incidents of that scoundrel, Naraku, stalking down human traders and killing them for no apparent reason? That creature alone has been the greatest threat to the new routes, be it human or demon."
Toga raised his hand to stop Koga before he could retaliate. "We believe that we have destroyed the last of the puppets my former chef set loose upon the world. And since the initial culprit is now deceased-."
"Beheaded for treason," muttered Inuyasha, loud enough for everyone to hear.
The dog king frowned at his son. "Yes, thank you." He turned back to the others. "Naraku is dead. I watched the execution myself, along with both of my sons and a number of other involved individuals."
"I heard that he gave you a bit of trouble first," said one of the other delegates.
Toga sighed. "Yes. We have already mentioned the continued presence of his puppets. Naraku himself was able to escape once, but fortunately we had bound him with a subjugation spell and casualties were kept to a minimum."
"A subjugation spell? That's a clever little trick, Toga-sama."
"Yes, I thought so myself. I can't claim credit for the idea, however," the king replied, his eyes flashing towards Kagome.
The princess smiled softly, keeping her head down. Her place in the conference was honorary of course. Although Toga had fought for her official inclusion – citing the fact that it had been her idea, after all – the more patriarchal of the kingdoms had forbidden it. She was a woman! And a human. Who cared if her brother was the first human king in centuries to open his borders to demon kingdoms? Who cared if she was mated to the son of the most powerful youkai king?
"Fight one battle at a time," Toga had told her. Kagome had agreed, albeit with Inuyasha swearing about 'pompous bastards' in the background.
At the moment, however, Inuyasha was being unusually quiet. Kagome mused on how long that this rare state of relaxation would last.
"Perhaps we should get back at to the topic at hand," suggested Sota, sitting two places away from King Toga. "What should we do – if anything – to protect the traders? After all, this is why we're opening the borders; we want to foster economic growth and trust between our two species. It would be hindered if thieves are constantly robbing the merchants."
"Or if wild demons are killing them," said one of the humans. There was a soft sound of irritation from the youkai.
A human king from the far north cleared his throat. "May I suggest that all youkai intending to cross borders bear a mark upon their skin? It would only be given to the tradesmen, so that all may know who are the safe ones to approach."
Kagome watched as Inuyasha leapt to his feet amid a roar of disapproval. Oh well, she thought, that didn't last long.
"Are you insane?" the prince snapped. "You have no conception of what a physical mark means to a youkai! I will not allow any of my subjects to be branded, especially not by humans!"
"What can we do but mark the ones that mean us no harm?" fired back the Northern king. "We have no way to distinguish those that mean us ill!" A murmur of agreement washed through the human delegates.
Toga laid a hand upon his son's arm, silencing him, but not glancing his way. His golden eyes, piercing and unapologetic, fixed on the offending king. "No one marks a demon except his own mate. I can assure you that any one of my subjects, or any other youkai leader's subjects, would resist as my son does. The idea is appalling to us. You must understand that it diminishes a sacred tradition of ours."
The northern king sneered. "Yes, I had forgotten. You bite your mates to display ownership. Certainly, I can understand your hesitance, but perhaps it's time to re-examine your archaic tradition. It's utterly barbaric."
Kagome ran a finger along the mark on her neck, the crescent of clean, even teeth marks that Inuyasha had created more than a year ago. She had never marked Inuyasha in turn, as some females did to their mates, but she didn't regret that. Kagome remembered being frightened when he had first told her about the mark – she hadn't understood its importance, just like this king did not understand. But after he had marked her, it had taken all of two moments to just get it. She felt the connection, visceral and strong, to her new mate. They hadn't separated for weeks after that, not until Naraku's escape necessitated Inuyasha's departure.
The mark meant everything. It was a symbol, but also the actual contract between them. She was his, but just as equally, he became hers. He had obligations to her, just as she did to him. Kagome wanted to scream at the offensive king, but words failed her. How could she explain it to someone who had not experienced it?
Miroku leaned forward from his place behind Toga and Inuyasha. "Forgive me, Your Majesty, but we do not see it as barbaric. It is youkai tradition, just as marriage is human tradition."
The king sneered. "Ah yes. Lord Miroku. You were a diplomat once, a human once. Now you are demon and Toga-sama's right-hand youkai. What can you say to me to which I should pay heed? You have accepted demons so completely that you have become one! It is a crime against Nature."
"Nature allowed this transformation, Your Majesty," said the former human. "I respect both cultures equally. You should know, I am married to my wife, Lady Sango, although this kingdom calls her my mate out of habit. So I believe I do represent an unbiased perspective."
There was a murmur and a few dark looks thrown about. Miroku continued. "Once again, we have strayed from the issue, but I believe I may have the answer. A quite simple one, I hope. Why don't the kingdoms offer military escorts to the merchants? Then the demons or humans guarding the merchants would bear a kingdom's colors and markings, without harming the physical being. The merchants, of course, would be allowed to decline a military escort. If they do so, they do it at their own risk. They can always hire mercenaries."
"Mercenaries cannot wear kingdom colors," growled the Northern king.
"They cannot," agreed Miroku, "but most mercenaries belong to guilds which have their own marks and colors. I think that most merchants would wisely choose the military guard, however."
The royalty put their heads together with their sons and closest allies. "Very well. If that is the best we can come up with," said the king who had first offended Inuyasha. "We should proceed in these talks upon another matter after all. Not everything is about trade."
"Of course," murmured Toga.
The door opened at the far end of the library and Sango stepped in softly, her arm around her very pregnant front. She bowed to the collected company. "Your Majesties, Your Highnesses and Lords, dinner is almost ready. We thought that you may want to refresh yourselves before sitting down to eat."
Sota looked at both the youkai and human delegates. "Perhaps this is a good place to pause for tonight. A meal will brighten our spirits."
Toga nodded. "Let's adjourn then, until tomorrow morning. We'll put this agreement in writing then."
The group rose to its feet and Kagome stood silently as the kings and princes filed out of the library. Soon, only her family was left. Sesshoumaru had a look of utter distaste as he stood with his father. "They will never accept our proposals. They only agree when one of the humans speak." He spared a glance for Sota and Miroku.
"We can't say that yet," replied Toga. "No one wants war, Sesshoumaru. I'm sure that some sort of lasting peace agreement can be worked out. It's already falling into place, although it's slower progress than I would have liked."
"What about you, Kagome?" Sota turned to his sister. "You can give your opinion now, after all. What do you think about what you've seen?"
She frowned. "I think that old prejudices are difficult to erase, but I noticed that the princes among the group were less resistant to our ideas. I think it will get better as time goes on. This is a generation of kings that hates our kind because they know nothing about us. Like that ridiculous proposal to mark demons crossing the borders. But once our people begin to interact, the princes will be young enough to see that not all the old hatred is worthwhile."
"A wise observation. Let's hope you are correct, Kagome," murmured Toga with a smile. He looked at the other males. "At the moment, I think we should go and clean up before dinner, as Lady Sango suggested. The old kings will look down upon tardiness." They turned and began to walk off. "Inuyasha, aren't you coming?"
"I'll be there in a second," replied the hanyou, standing beside his mate.
Toga nodded and looked back to his two companions. "So, Miroku, Sango looks to be doing well."
"She can still hit me into unconsciousness, Your Majesty, so I would have to agree," said the advisor as they exited the library. They could hear Toga's laughter down the hall.
When the door closed behind them, Inuyasha looked at Kagome. "You shouldn't have to sit there so quietly. I want you to speak up tomorrow."
"Oh, Inuyasha, don't start this again. We already decided that we were pushing our luck with my presence. One female in their midst is enough without her speaking. I was actually thinking of volunteering my place to Izayoi. She feels terribly left out." Kagome stepped close and put her hands into his. "Don't fight them on this, not yet. We're here for a different reason."
He gathered her to his chest and buried his nose in her hair. "All those humans, except for your brother, are just idiots!"
"It will get better," she murmured, relaxing in his arms. They had had precious little time together in the past week. Inuyasha had been returning to their room later each evening as he prepared for the next day's talks with his father and Miroku. Last night, she had been asleep before he came back. "But I miss you."
Inuyasha kissed the crown of her head, while his fingers trailed down the back of her neck. He smiled into her hair when he found the subjugation necklace around her throat. Although he had removed it (and with it, the spell) before they had become mates, Kagome still wore it often. She joked that it was the only piece of jewelry he had ever given her, but even the normally oblivious prince knew that she wore it when she was feeling particularly romantic. "I miss you too," he murmured, turning her chin up so that he could kiss her properly.
Kagome sighed as her arms went around his shoulders, pulling him closer. She shivered as he ran one claw tip over her mating mark. "That's unfair," she said, pouting.
He chuckled and leaned in for a kiss. As his lips were about to touch hers, they both pulled back sharply and looked at the door. "Every single time!" snarled the prince.
"Oh stop." She reached up and rubbed his ear, immediately sedating him. "I'll make it up to you tonight, provided you return earlier than dawn."
"How's now? Now good?"
Kagome laughed and kissed him upon the tip of his nose. "Down, boy."
The reason for their hesitance came tumbling into the library at that moment. "See?" said the shorter one. "I told you they were done!"
The taller boy's eyes widened as he discovered the prince and princess in the far corner of the room. "Your Highnesses," he said, bowing deeply. "Excuse us, please. We saw all the other nobles in the halls and we thought…"
"It's alright, Kohaku," interrupted Kagome, smiling as she crossed the room to the two boys. "Inuyasha and I were just about to join the others. But I have to ask, what brought you two here? Many of the kings would be most displeased. A lot of our documents are still in here. The scribes haven't returned for them yet."
Shippo lowered his eyes, but he was grinning. Kagome was a lot like King Toga – she adored him, even if he was doing something slightly unorthodox. "We thought that we could hide in the book stacks, see what was happening."
"But the conference is over for tonight," said Inuyasha, who was considerably less tolerant of the young kitsune's actions. He narrowed his eyes at them. "So spill it."
"I know it's over for tonight! But we have to find good places for tomorrow! You can't just pick a place," argued the fox kit, emboldened by Kagome's ever-spreading grin. "You have to have a plan, Inuyasha!"
The prince frowned. Shippo was the only one outside of his mate and immediate family that was allowed to drop any title around him. He wasn't sure why that was, but if Kagome and his father didn't object, he could hardly do so. "Whatever. But you're not spying on us, you little runt!" He growled softly. "Besides, even if your plan did work, I would smell you in an instant. What else smells like horse dung in a castle?"
"Inuyasha," warned Kagome, her grin dropping from her face. She turned back to Shippo, who appeared rather crestfallen. "You don't smell like anything of the sort, Shippo. You have every right to be in the castle."
The little fox turned his nose up at the prince, who huffed in annoyance.
"However," continued the princess, "you have no right to be in this room during the talks." The kitsune became dejected once again and she smiled. "You aren't just a stable boy anymore, Shippo. You're a royal page now. You and Kohaku. Someday, you two will become officers in the king's army. Boys of your status should not be skulking around in the shadows trying to eavesdrop on what is actually a quite boring meeting between leaders of the lands."
The fox kicked at the ground. "Aw, fine. I just wanted to know what was going on."
"Understandable. But even Toga-sama would be irritated by your spying." She leaned down and pressed a motherly kiss upon Shippo's forehead. "Now, you two run along and take care of your duties. And don't go pestering your sister, Kohaku, because she's very busy at the moment."
"Sure thing, Kagome-sama," said the taller boy, grateful that he had escaped any true punishment. He pulled a slightly sulky fox kit out of the room and down the hall behind him.
"You're too easy on them. They'll be crushed when they get into the army."
Kagome smiled easily at her mate. "They have both had a hard life. They lost the families they had and even though Kohaku has Sango now, they're still just boys. Yelling at them won't do any good." She stepped out into the hallway and began to make her way to the banquet room, since she and Inuyasha were already dressed for dinner. Not that Inuyasha would wear anything besides his customary red. She looked almost drab beside him in her dark blue silk. The gold, silver and diamond kimono were packed away into the royal vaults. They were treasures, after all, and so she had not worn one since the night of her mating ceremony.
"You're… better than I would be."
She looked at him. "What do you mean?"
His ears were flattened against his head. "I don't have any patience with them. You're better… better at being there for them. And Kohaku isn't even your responsibility. And when Sango's kid is born, you're going to be great with it too."
Kagome reached out and touched his shoulder. "Are you saying I'm a good mother?"
"Better than I would be a father," he grumbled, looking down at the wood flooring.
"That's not true," she said, stepping closer to him so that she could wrap her arm around his. "I think you would be very patient with any child of ours. And Shippo knows that you actually like him and that you don't mean half the things you say. Besides, you'll have so many things to teach our child that I could never hope to do. I mean, I know you've been training me in fighting, but admit it, I'm rather hopeless at anything except archery."
"But you're really good at that," replied Inuyasha, a proud smile twitching at the corners of his mouth.
She blushed. "Thanks. The point is that our children will want a father and I certainly can't do that job too. You'll do fine."
"How do you know?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.
Kagome shrugged and looked away. "I just do." She turned back and smiled brilliantly as the doors to the throne room came into view. Lords and kings and duchesses were already filing in through to get to the banquet room beside it. "Will you dance with me?"
"It's not a dance, Kagome, just dinner."
"There are musicians though, just like last night. People are still coming in. Please, Inuyasha?" She sucked in her cheeks as he sneered. "For me." Her voice became steely.
His ears flattened again. "Fine," he muttered, as they stepped into the throne room. The musicians just sitting down in their places, across the room from the entrance to the banquet hall, so that the music would only compliment pleasant conversation and not interfere with it. "I don't understand why you like this so much."
She took his hand and they broke apart from the stream of people walking directly in to the banquet hall. "Because I like remembering how we met. And how I fell in love with you."
Inuyasha scowled. "You were working as a scullery maid in the kitchen with Naraku as your boss. You were a runaway with little hope of ever regaining your title and you were in constant fear for you life." He looked at her with wide eyes. "And you're telling me that you want to remember all that?"
Kagome rolled her eyes and silently instructed the musicians to begin playing. "Of course I don't think fondly on those things," she said, as they stepped into the time of the music. "But there were brighter moments. I suppose I shouldn't be thinking of meeting my mate as one of them?"
"Keh. You just forget all the trouble you went through."
He looked at her with a sharp turn of his head. "You said you'd never use that against me."
She kissed the curve of his jaw and rested her cheek against his shoulder as they danced. She knew that people were probably staring, but she only pitied them for not having the mate that she had. "And I'm not. But she was very troublesome. For both of my personas."
"I think she counted as more than just 'troublesome'," he replied, his mouth pressed against the crown of her head.
"I know, but I can't hate her, Inuyasha."
He rolled his eyes. "Damn it, Kagome, you're such a little innocent."
Kagome raised her hand and snapped her finger across the edge of his ear. Inuyasha made a soft noise of irritation and she smiled. "I used to be. Then I met you." She laughed as the irritation became a growl. "Besides, Kikyo has become so pathetic that I think I would fault even you for hating her now."
"It's her own doing," replied the hanyou. "She was caught and yet she kept doing it."
The princess bit her lip. "I know, but even so, you have to pity her. Getting caught by your own parents and their guests with a palace guard in your bed? I know Kikyo wasn't easily shaken, but that must be mortifying even for her."
"More mortifying since they weren't actually in bed," muttered Inuyasha.
Kagome took in a small breath. "Of course. The central courtyard. That takes guts. And a fair dose of immodesty."
"She probably wanted to get caught," said the prince. "Kikyo was good at a lot of things, but the thing was, she could never keep that fact a secret. I bet she was bursting to tell everyone how easily she conned her parents into thinking she was an innocent virgin."
"Perhaps," said Kagome with a soft smile. "We've been invited to the wedding of course. As fellow dignitaries."
An evil little grin spread across the hanyou's face. "That might be worth it, just to see Kikyo marry a lowly guard."
Kagome swatted him lightly across the shoulder. "Be nice. Besides, what else could her parents do? Half the court knew about it within the hour. They had to appear as if everything had been honorable. They had to at least pretend that the guard was the first she took to bed." She scrunched her nose. "Besides, I think her parents also promoted him to a ridiculously high rank."
Inuyasha's eyebrow shot up. "Well that's not nearly as fun." He shrugged. "But he'll need some incentive to put up with her for life. Of course, she might have him killed off."
"Who? What?" Miroku suddenly appeared at their side with a broad smile. "Killed off, you say?"
"Go away, pervert," muttered the prince.
Sango waddled up to the trio and put her hand on her husband's arm. "Don't mind him. He's just trying to escape talking to Koga."
Kagome grinned, pausing in her dance with Inuyasha. "Why is that?"
Miroku's face suddenly slackened into one of pain. "In the hopes that I will tell everything to the prince, he has decided to inform me of exactly what Ayame has done to better his life, his clan, the world's existence. That sort of thing. As opposed to what he would have gotten with Kagome, I suppose." He ran his hand over his cheek. "He just won't shut up."
"Good thing you aren't our diplomat anymore," teased Kagome. She glanced over Inuyasha's shoulder to see Ayame and Koga walking through the throne room. Ayame was speaking, wagging her finger at the wolf prince. Koga was nodding meekly to everything his mate was saying. "Looks like Ayame has the better deal though."
"Indeed," echoed Miroku. "Her grandfather was installed as council to the king just a short time ago. I was surprised it took that long."
Sango clucked her tongue. "Notice that he's speaking as if he's never given into any woman's demands before," she said to the prince and princess.
The former diplomat wrapped an arm around his wife's waist and pulled her close, placing his free hand on her enlarged front. "I think I made myself clear what I wanted. And I'm getting it, so any concession to you, dearest Sango, is well worth it."
"Pervert." She said it with a soft smile.
"From you, that's an endearment, my love." Miroku looked up and scrutinized the door to the banquet room, his nose twitching slightly. "I think Toga-sama may be preparing for his welcome speech. Are you coming?"
Kagome looked over her shoulder. "Wow, I didn't hear anything, Miroku. You're getting really good." She examined him for a moment. He didn't look any different than when she had met him the year before, except for a fox-like slyness around the eyes. That could have been there before but Miroku was definitively a demon now. Even Kagome's budding youkai senses could detect that with ease.
"I have a few years' head start on you," replied Miroku. "You'll catch up soon enough, Kagome-sama."
"Unlike you, she won't be using her enhanced sense to check out other females, Miroku," muttered Inuyasha.
He put a hand to his heart. "You wound me, my friend. When have I ever given you the idea…"
"Everyday, probably," interrupted Sango. "So you can stop with the theatrics. I knew what a pervert you were when I married you after all." She tugged on his sleeve and they began to walk away. "You coming?" she called over her shoulder.
"We'll be right there," replied Kagome. She leaned into her mate as their friends went into the other room. "Are you saying you don't want that?"
"You looking at other females?" asked Inuyasha. "Well, not really. I mean, they're females so that's kind of confusing…"
She elbowed him in the ribs. "Oh shut up. You've been hanging around Miroku for too long. You're actually growing a sense of humor. It's very disturbing." She smiled at him as he rubbed his side with a grouchy pout upon his face. "I meant the baby."
The prince cocked his head. "I don't know. I guess I won't know until I'm faced with it. Like when I'm in battle."
Kagome took a breath and laced her fingers with his. "Well, suit up, soldier boy."
"Huh?" His ears twitched as he looked at her and then his eyes widened. "Wait… wait a minute!"
The princess pulled him towards the banquet hall as he goggled at her, stopping just inside the doorway to listen to Miroku calling for attention. The king was standing up to give his pre-dinner speech. Inuyasha began making sputtering noises as everyone else fell silent. "Hush now," she murmured, leaning close to him and pressing her fingers over his lips.
Toga stood for a moment and smiled as he looked about the room. "My friends, I cannot believe that it has been an entire week since we gathered. I wanted to say…"
The princess turned to look at her mate, who was ashen. "Inuyasha, hush. I'm trying to listen," she whispered.
"… and the progress we achieved today was a true sign…"
"But… but a baby?" His voice went up an octave. "A baby? How is that… I mean, a baby?"
Kagome rolled her eyes. "I trust that I don't have to explain how a baby is made, Inuyasha. You're very fond of the process after all. I would be surprised if you didn't know its result."
He glared at her for a moment before the expression melted into one of complete astonishment. "I'm going to be a father."
"Yes." She smiled softly as she kept her eyes upon her father-in-law.
"… to this effort. In all of my life, and it has been a long one, I have never met…"
"Why didn't you warn me?"
The princess looked over at her mate. His eyes were still wide with surprise. "I did," she said, laughing softly. "I've been dropping hints all over the place. I thought you were getting it too. You brought it up in the hallway just now. You seemed assured that you would be a good father. So I told you. I don't believe that the male should be the last to know."
He reached for her hand. "Does anyone else know?"
"Myoga does. I told him a few days ago, before he left to arbitrate with those rioters in Kobayashi kingdom. I felt that he needed a little happy news before he had to deal with Kikyo's family, since they must be a mess right about now."
"Okay. Anyone else?" He looked at her carefully, his hanyou nose picking up the scent of her uncertainty. "Kagome?"
She gave him a half-hearted smile. "Well, I'm not sure. I don't think so. No one has said anything directly to me about it."
Inuyasha let out the breath he had been holding and nodded. "Good. I think I need to get used to the idea a little before my parents know."
Kagome looked over at her in-laws. Izayoi returned the look with a brilliant smile and a raise of her goblet. "Uh-oh."
"What?" The prince glanced up to see many of the guests turning in their direction.
"… just lucky that my son realized it in time." There was laughter among the crowd as Kagome and Inuyasha stood in the doorway, frozen by what was happening. Toga lifted his goblet to them. "And although it's slightly past their anniversary, I think we have cause to celebrate, because Princess Kagome will soon be giving my son his first heir. So blessings of Kami on you both."
The room swelled with applause, with the exceptions of a dumbstruck Koga and a few embittered human kings. Every eye was on them as people shouted their congratulations. Sango was crying through a broad grin. Miroku caught Inuyasha's eye and gave him a thumbs up. Shippo and Kohaku were hollering at the far end of the hall while Sesshoumaru clapped twice and put his hands back down. Kagome could only smile and blush. And Inuyasha was practically limp with shock.
"So… your family is a bunch of dog demons," she murmured as she pushed her mate towards their places at the head of the table. "I guess they could smell it."
"I guess." Inuyasha's eyes were wide again as they dropped into their seats. People within earshot were congratulating them and a few males came up to clap Inuyasha on the back, while their wives and mates gave Kagome soft words of encouragement. Izayoi kissed them both, promising to help with everything. Toga beamed.
Only when dinner was brought out did everyone return to the seats and Kagome turned to her mate once more. "So you're alright?" she asked with sheepish smile.
"Yeah," he replied slowly. "It's just that everything is going to change, isn't it?"
Kagome nodded. "That's a guarantee."
"I'm going to have a son."
"Or daughter," she corrected gently. His muscles were relaxing a bit now that the initial shock had worn off, but his eyes were still large and unfocused. "You'll get used to the idea. You have time. It's not happening tomorrow."
He looked at her. "A daughter?" He frowned slightly. "I've got to protect her."
"Or him," she reminded him, smiling broadly.
"I won't let anything happen to our baby, Kagome. Nothing."
Her fingers curled around his underneath the table. Kagura had truly outdone herself with the cuisine that night, but Kagome suddenly couldn't eat a bite. She could barely see anything except the wide-eyed hanyou beside her. "I know you won't."
He relaxed even more and pulled her closer. "Are you okay? Do you need anything?" He frowned down at his plate, as if he just realized he was sitting down to dinner. "You should eat. Not the wine though." He took the goblet away from her place. "What do you want to drink?"
Kagome laughed. "Stop. I think you're getting a little too used to this too fast." She squeezed his hand gently. "I'll be fine."
His ears twitched and the princess suddenly wished that their child would have the adorable puppy ears her mate had. "I just want everything to be perfect. Things between us didn't start out so well and…"
She silenced him with a soft kiss, not caring if anyone else was watching. "It's all better now," she murmured. "It's already perfect."
Inuyasha put a hand on her flat stomach and took a deep breath. There it was, on the fringes of her already heavenly scent – the beginnings of another scent, an intermingling of their own blood. He was amazed he hadn't noticed it before, but something that felt a lot like pride swelled in his chest until it almost hurt. He smirked at his mate. "Yeah, it is."
A/N: There you go! Done! It's not my favorite epilogue ever, but I covered everything and it was infinitely better than the first oh, DOZEN drafts I went through. (Usually when I say that I exaggerate a little and round up… Not this time, sadly.)
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed, read or even glanced at my story. I do greatly appreciate your interest in what are essentially my creative babies. That said, I do have some good news and some bad news for those of you who are willing to follow me onto my next project, which will be a canon-verse, Sesshoumaru/Kagome pairing called The Once and Future Taiyoukai.
The good news – yes, I'm still going to write it. I think I'll be 90 and still writing stories. I will never give it up and I'm very excited about starting this new story. I will not give up on you!
The bad news – I'm in law school now. It's incredibly time consuming and it's going to get worse. Even with my temporary writer's block, I would have gotten this out a week ago if I wasn't doing law school stuff. And I'm just starting off. Like I said, I'm still going to write, but there are some restrictions in place. First, law school (and my husband) will always come first. I'm sorry, I know you want me to update within a week, but that may not be feasible. I'll probably be writing on weekends and, as I don't want my quality of work to decline, it will take me a little while to get things posted. On the other hand, I WILL ALWAYS UPDATE. (I felt the need to yell that for emphasis.) I promise I will not abandon you. Second part of my bad news – I will not be answering reviews any longer. This is effective immediately. I'm sorry but I'm losing enough sleep between law school and writing, I can't afford to answer everyone's reviews too, which usually takes a few hours that I no longer have to spare. I will make exceptions for those of you who write reviews to ask me a question to clarify something or a question that will not cause me to spoil the ending (and other reviews at my discretion).
None of this means that I love you guys any less. I probably wouldn't have been a part of this site for so long if I didn't have all of you. But my life is changing right now and priorities have necessarily been shifted. When you go into $60,000 of debt for school, you'll understand.
Sorry for being long-winded. I just feel that you guys should know exactly what's going on and know that I am in no way trying to short-change you. Since I think that none of you would simply stick around to get my oh-so-enlightening review responses, I'm sure that this really won't affect you very much. But I just like to be clear.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.