With a sigh, Sango plopped a thick branch of dry wood into the hissing fire. She backed away from the spitting flames and sunk onto a log bridging the darkness. With her head in her hands, she closed her eyes and allowed the heat to brush her skin. Worry was tainting her thoughts again. As a warrior, Sango was trained to focus on the future. Complete the mission. Hit the target. Work forwards. Finish the job. But she always found herself lingering behind. Kohaku, then Inuyasha. Fear crept up her spine. 'Kagome…'

Miroku's arm was suddenly around her. His robes shimmered in the fire's light as he shifted next to her. Sango averted her eyes from the flames and locked instead onto his clothing. Blue. Calming. Miroku's hand was stroking her shoulder. "Kagome is alive," he stated. His words were so sure that she found herself believing them.

She sensed it a second before they landed: power. In a graceful motion she armed herself with her Katana and braced herself in a battle-stance. Miroku, calm as ever, slowly stood and faced the night.

Sesshomaru drifted through the dark in a flurry of windswept layers of snow-white robes. His steps were heavy and unhurried. His features were bland—bored, even. At his side marched Kagome.

"Sango! Miroku!" the woman yelled. She charged towards them energetically, clumsily side-stepping twigs and fallen branches. Her stomach bulged out ahead of her. Sesshomaru increased his pace to stay by her side.

The monk and demon-slayer bounded towards Kagome. They swaddled her in hugs and pats on the back. "How are you? What happened?"

Kagome, flushed-cheeked and smiling guiltily, bit her lip and looked pointedly at Sesshomaru.

Miroku made the connections first. His eyes widened, flickering with nervousness. In a split second that faded and his jaw was set. He turned to Sesshomaru and squared his shoulders. "Congratulations, Sesshomaru."

The taiyoukai conveyed no surprise. "Thank you."

Sango's mind was reeling. "It'll be a hanyou…" she trailed off, observing Sesshomaru's slight nod.

An awkward silence commenced. Crickets chirped, the moon waned, and a taiyoukai felt oddly nervous under the scrutiny of Kagome's companions. She absentmindedly searched for Sesshomaru's hand in the shadows, and latched onto his fingers. Reassured, she smiled at her friends. "Where's Shippo?"

"Asleep," Sango replied.

"I'll see him in the morning," Kagome said. "I'm so tired anyway; we've been flying here all day."

Miroku nodded. "When is the wedding?" He asked in all seriousness.

Kagome blushed; Sesshomaru stiffened. "A week," they answered in unison.

"Alright," the monk said.

"We'll attend," Sango assured.

That was when Sesshomaru began to see why Kagome valued friendships.

The tea was boiling.

Miya pursed her lips and stared out the window.

The tea was boiling.

Reluctantly, she drew herself up and marched wearily to the stove. Her hands and heart felt heavy, even though her chest was so barren she couldn't breathe. Why had she put the tea on? It was late afternoon; Kagome used to drink it, after school. Habit.

Miya flicked off the element and seated herself. These little slips, these little moments—they were reminders. Every day, they poured in. 'My Kagome could be dead.'

Sometimes she wished that she could know whether or not her daughter was alright. It had been months since she'd last seen her baby. The longest stretch so far.

Miya cradled an empty cup and gazed at the summer-lit landscape out the window. 'She will come back.'

An hour later, Ms. Higurashi was crying.

"Momma, it's okay." Kagome's arms were around her mother's body. They were in the living room: Miya, Kagome, and Sesshomaru.

Ms. Higurashi raised her eyes and looked at her beautiful daughter. Her nose was red, and fresh tears prickled in the corners of her eyes. She tried to compose herself, to be a polite host for her future son-in-law.

Her baby was pregnant. Her baby wasn't a baby anymore... Inexplicably, Miya felt like crying all over again. The sheer relief of seeing her daughter alive and happy was overwhelming.

"Oh, momma…" Kagome held her mother. She noticed, then, how thin Miya was. She saw the wrinkled accumulating beneath her wet eyes, and picked out laugh-lines etching themselves into her skin. It struck her that one day she'd be holding her mother when she was very, very old. 'Kaede': the word rolled and turned inside her head.

She was going to have children of her own, and she would be the one taking care of her mother. Responsibility filled her. "Momma? Would you like some tea?"

They were in the courtyard again. It wasn't empty, though.

Bright streamers flapped—obnoxiously, Sesshomaru thought—in the hot summer wind. Kagome insisted on decorating for their wedding. Inside the castle's sun-splashed walls, bright colours and soft carpeting smothered the cold stone interior. Everything was laid out for the wedding; from a homemade cake to a battery-operated CD player. Kagome's family; Shippo, Miroku, and Sango; Miyoga; and Rin, her husband, and her newborn were all scheduled to attend. The castle was waiting to be filled with laughter.

They were standing in front of Inutaisho's grave. A stone had been erected.

"What about the war?" Kagome asked. Her hands were pressing lightly on her stomach. 'What about our baby?'

Sesshomaru took a long time to respond. He closed his eyes and raised his face to the sun. He could hear bird's song, and the steady beat of Kagome's heart. Below that, the faint murmur of their child's heartbeat strained to reach his ears. He breathed in the honeyed scent of flowers dappling the base of his father's grave, and wondered at how beautiful the world was above all the horror.

His eyes snapped open, glittering as he surveyed his lover. She was so frail and so beautiful. Mindful not to crush the flowers under his feet, he slid over to her side and embraced her. "Inevitably it will come." So soft and warm, in his arms. It would be so easy for her to break. "We can't stop it." Humans are fragile creatures. So brief.

He reached down and brushed her swollen stomach. "But it is not here today. So we won't think of it, and we'll be happy. There is nothing more we can do." She was full of life, the world was warm and clean, and her hair smelled of flowers and dust. Sesshomaru smiled.

Kagome, in all her youth, thought he was only talking about the war.

"What shall we name him?"

His child was so perfect and warm in his arms: bright eyes and silk-white skin, chubby arms straining towards him.


Kagome smiled.

Sesshomaru bent down, son in his arms, and kissed her on the forehead. 'Thank you, Kagome.'

The human woman saw love in his eyes, and knew she was home.

A/N -- well, it's over! I have to say, that was a great learning experience. My heartfelt thanks go out to anyone who's reviewed. I'm so sorry that this took so long to get out; I really have been incredibly busy lately. I hope ya'll have enjoyed :)
- Birchbud