Chapter 69 Farewells

The following years were fairly settled as the two youkai families grew up side by side in the Palace of the West. For a long time there was peace in the lands allowing prosperity and understanding to grow and flourish. But as youkai lived for a very long time unless killed, Sesshoumaru knew that times could change quickly and easily; especially amongst the human populations. So saying, the Palace's fortifications were always kept in peak condition.

In the times of peace they were the playgrounds of the children; youkai, human and hanyou, who as they played also learned all the secrets of the twists and turns and secret rooms that could become places of safety if ever there was need to hide or escape. No one had ever breached the strongholds of the Palace however and with Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha in charge, that was not about to change. Inuyasha however remembered the warning that Sesshoumaru had given him in the future; he was sad for it but no fool, peace was always fragile when greed grew.

Although these thoughts would sometimes intrude upon the lives of the Inu brothers, it was never for long. Family was the most important matter and keeping up the ties that were the best allies one could have and their family times were very happy. Trips through the well became less fraught with worry and now Inuyasha was able to introduce Kagome to Shou as an adult. They did not let the children meet him as that would have been too confusing for them; in fact Inuyasha, Kagome and their pups only stayed for the weekends; when taking Mama home and picking her up again. Although there were some misunderstandings during those years.

Kagome was entranced by the handsome Shou and impressed at how much bigger he was than the other hanyou in her family so far. He laughed his deep chuckle at her and said he supposed he was, as the others she knew were all still growing; even his uncle. Inuyasha did not tell Kagome yet that he had 'met' himself when he had come back that time. It was still too surreal for him, it wasn't as if he hadn't actually seen himself either, not as a whole.

But Kagome was rather taken with Shou and everything about him. He was charming and well mannered, with his deep throaty chuckle and eyes that sparkled and lit up. Add to the fact that his manner was easy and secure which also made him suave and debonair very like his father. This nearly caused a division for a while between Inuyasha and Kagome. Inuyasha's old feelings of inadequacy started to surface making him seem rude and surly at times when they were all out together. Then one time when Kentai told Shou to 'stop flirting atrociously' with Kagome, Inuyasha couldn't help growling under his breath and had upped and left to go home.

That had caused a row of epic proportions between Inuyasha and Kagome, him because he was furious that she was smiling and laughing with another male and she, because he had embarrassed her. They were rowing in their bedroom in the same way they had used to in the shard hunt days and once they'd said all they had to say and were stewing in silent anger, Inuyasha went to sit in Goshinboku and Kagome went to have a cup of tea that Mama had poured out for her.

Mama was used to the situation even if she hadn't seen it for a few years and this time had an interested audience of three girls and two boys who were listening with rapt attention at the noise coming from their parents. The show over, it was time for the pups to go back to bed and for Mama to talk with her daughter.

"Kagome, you are partially to blame for this upset; it is not all overreacting from Inuyasha. You are forgetting that you have mentally matured much faster than Inuyasha because humans reach maturity quicker than those of youkai blood. You must face facts, Inuyasha is still a very young hanyou, adult in many ways; yes, but not in others and where you are concerned that old feeling he has that he is not good enough doesn't take a lot to re-surface. In this time, Shou is older and more sophisticated than Inuyasha and he feels that."

"I know Mama, I mean't nothing by it, Shou is just a good laugh, I certainly don't think of him in any other way than as a friend and my nephew."

"I know dear, but Inuyasha is not always secure in himself; certainly not as secure as your nice nephew, who has not had the same fight for recognition as his uncle. Now, go and make it up properly with your mate." Mama went to make fresh tea for Inuyasha and Shou whom she had seen enter the shrine grounds. He had jumped onto Inuyasha's branch and was apologising to him for making him feel threatened. Sesshoumaru had advised his son that any mated youkai would find another's attentions to their mate threatening. Inuyasha's instincts had come into play when his youkai saw a potential rival.

Inuyasha 'Keh'd' he knew really that he had made a fool of himself; but that was nothing new and he always hated it, but he allowed himself to be coaxed into the house for a cup of tea and they all sat down amicably around the table; eventually laughing and joking. That night, Kagome proved to Inuyasha that the only person she had eyes or anything else for was him and although sex would have been no good for patching up a real rift between the couple; it was terrific when it was used to reaffirm the genuine love they shared.

Mama started to stay for one month in the future and a couple of weeks in the past until Grandpa passed away; which he did very peacefully and surrounded by his beloved extended family, he had long got over his abhorrance of youkai and was always pleased to see the smallest ones. Once he had gone; Mama reversed the times and spent her holidays in the future, coinciding them with Souta's holidays. Then later when he came to oversee the shrine and married Hitomi; Mama would spend her time once again, a month here and a month there.

Kagome and Inuyasha would still spend a lot of time in the future as they too wished to visit with Souta and Hitomi and later on, all the children. Their own children were not yet confused with times; they still took most things at face value and they didn't really understand that they were time travelling when visiting through the well. So life was busy and never dull for any of them.

Every year the local village held a week long feast in honour of Inumaru and peoples came from all over the vicinity and as it's fame grew, from all over the district and sometimes beyond. The group who had been the targets for the hostility that night had formed a group to support and help one another; soon gaining a reputation for helping out victims of any sort of trouble, regardless of race or gender. It's fame also grew as time went by; until many years down the line it was the force to be reckoned with, that it was in the modern era.

On the feast's ten year anniversary, a special guest was coming. The emporer himself was going to be in the district and had expressed a wish to attend and meet with the local dignitaries. Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha were not overly impressed with the human hierarchy and didn't take much notice of the who's who, but they recognised the importance to the feast and the humans around and agreed to host a banquet in honour of the emporer.

He came with all due pomp and ceremony attended by his court and retainers. It made Rin laugh to herself when she remembered fondly, that she and Jaken along with Ah-Un were all that followed Sesshoumaru around when they travelled; and her Lord had more breeding and bloodline than any human ruler. But she reserved her twinkle of amusement until later and although he knew that she was finding something funny as she tried not to giggle when she caught his eye; he found himself becoming desperate to get her alone. She always had the same effect on him; especially when she smiled and looked at him under her eyelashes.

Inuyasha and Kagome were made happy because the household with whom the emporer was staying, had wanted to do something to honour the occasion of the visit and the emporer himself had suggested donating a statue commemorating Inumaru; to the new town that was developing from the village. That evening both couples celebrated well into the night, One being very proud because of their son and the other because they had been flirting with one another all the evening. But also for some particular reason that night they were all very conscious of each other in their adjoining suites, which served to heighten their pleasures.

Nine months later both girls went into labour a few hours apart which threw the royal household into uproar as midwifes tried to supervise the birthing of the ladies' pups with the two lords getting underfoot and checking on each other's progress. Once again Mama was the calming influence; finally getting each brother to the correct mate and telling them to stay put until their pups arrived.

Rin and Sessh had their pup first, another beautiful boy. He too had the crescent moon on his forehead and a single maroon stripe to his wrists and ankles; his hair was a dark pewter colour that looked like silver smoke where it glistened and his puppy ears matched. His eyes were dark gold almost with a hint of orange and he was stunningly beautiful. They had just got him cleaned up and settled down after his first feed when the sound of the second child due that night was heard.

Kagome had given birth also to another son, this one a carbon copy of their first; but his little ears were twitching to sounds unlike those of Maru. This boy had no markings unlike his twin brothers; and was also smaller, being more like his sister Akari to look at. He was noisy though and made enough sound for both newborns together. He too was fed and cleaned and placed in the crib with his cousin as it was plenty big enough. In the morning it was noticed that each pup had one of the other's ears in a tiny fist and a thumb in their mouths.

As soon as the mothers were able to be up and about it was time to name the pups.

"I welcome Konjoumaru to our family." Said Inuyasha; cradling his nephew carefully and watching as Sesshoumaru held his son as he too, welcomed his nephew.

"I welcome Keitaku to our family." Sesshoumaru said and let his fangs lengthen as Inuyasha looked away. The pup squawked as his uncle marked his neck and set off the other pup. Sesshoumaru took no notice of either of the wailing pups and marked his son.

"That is definitely my last pup Inuyasha." Kagome declared, not seeing the smirk that the brother's shared over her head. "Rin and Sessh have some catching up to do."

"Leave me out of this." Said Rin, as she glowered at her mate; she had seen the passing look between the boys. Then the pups were put back in their crib in the nursery and their parents went in to dinner. As the little boys grew they became inseparable and were adored just as much as the others; on the whole none of the royal children were bad or spoiled in temper, all had at some time challenged their parents and had had to be trained so that their youkai recognised the correct authority.

Now that Konjoumaru had been born, he was also introduced in the future and came along to one of the family gatherings with the twins and his parents and Shou. He was devastatingly good looking, his hair had a slight curl and looked even more like silvered smoke; but he was quiet and serious with eyes that seemed to look deeply and know what they were thinking.

Fifteen years after the double birth; a daughter was also welcomed to the family; she was like her Uncle Inu to look at, but with all the same markings as her father and she was a mischief maker almost from day one. Her name, Mikomi was heard ringing from one voice to another all day as she ran from one thing to another. Her attention and mind like a butterfly as nothing held her attention for long. She would settle down a bit more as she got older and she was very bright and intelligent, learning quickly and easily; so it didn't hold her back. The girl was sweet tempered in the main and remained so when she had been introduced as an adult.

Mama remained a favourite 'Grandma' figure and was very well loved by her children; as by now she considered Rin and Sesshoumaru hers as well. She counted herself blessed as she also had Souta and Hitomi plus their three children to visit regularly. It was a good day all around when Kagome fell down the well and despite all the heartache her daughter and Inuyasha had gone through while they searched for the shards, she didn't think any of them had real regrets.

One day however Mama woke up feeling tired as if she had not slept at all and she stayed in bed all day, which was unheard of for her. She was not allowed to sleep as all the children insisted on being in the room with her but everyone pampered her and brought her food and drinks. She also had a constant stream of adult visitors too, she was highly thought of and an excellent example of a wise mother of married adult children.

She spent a week in and out of her bed but the fatigue did not diminish and she felt the need to go back home to see Souta. Before they left for the well, when Inuyasha was taking his leave of Sesshoumaru, his brother told him that it would be the last trip home for Mama. He could scent her mortality very clearly and told Inuyasha not to come back until Kagome was free of her time because the well would close.

"I will inform Rin when you have gone Inuyasha but if I were you I would not tell Kagome; let her mother do so if she wishes, for she knows she is not coming back here and I have already said my goodbyes to her. She knows she has my eternal gratitude and even my love; I am glad we get to see her again." That was a lot for Sesshoumaru to admit to and he gave a hug to his distraught brother. Inuyasha loved his mother-in-law and did not wish to lose her, but he knew that the normal human life was short and she had been happy. He took a deep breath and went to the chariot.

Mama gave him a secret and loving smile which told him that she knew that he knew this would be her last visit and he leant down to kiss her and wrap her in the blanket she had been given. Kagome gathered her children to her to hold them safe in the chariot as the dragon took off to the skies and then Inuyasha picked up Mama tenderly in the blanket to jump her down the well. Souta and Hitomi were there to welcome them home and he took in the situation at a glance; confirming his suspicions with the sad faced Inuyasha.

Soon it became obvious that Mama was gently fading away, and she was visited by all her family in the future as well. Kagome was beside herself in private; what was she going to do, Mama had always been there for her. Rin took her under her wing, she was now so much older than Kagome and she helped Kagome to cope when Inuyasha was too grief stricken himself to do much good. But Inuyasha was not totally saddened over Mama alone; he had also realised that soon his family this side would be torn away from him by the closing of the well and he was not prepared to let go.

Kagome was losing her mother and so was he; all over again, but he was also going to be losing his Brother/Dad and his twin cousins whom he looked on as siblings. Not to mention his nephews and niece who although older than him were still his friends. However he was able to hold on for Kagome's and Souta's sakes; running errands or making endless cups of tea, any thing to keep him busy and so as not to think.

Mama left as gently as a breeze, there was no pain or distress, but for the ones left behind the story was so different. The sounds of mourning were heartbreaking and inconsolable. Sessshoumaru was as always a great help and practical. He had already got the papers that needed to be dealt with and he, helped out by his older sons; organised all the essentials to do with the funeral and paperwork of the shrine. He had held the deeds of the shrine in trust for the Higurashi heir and these would now pass to Souta, as they had been passed from his father before him.

Souta and Kagome together spent a couple of weeks going through the details of their mother's estate and saying their goodbyes and in fact he and his wife did not intend to be there for the final trip. He did not wish to see the well close behind Kagome and his children had arranged that, in the morning of the departure day, Souta and Hitomi should depart for a second honeymoon and booked them seats on the plane. They would come back, to know the older Kagome and Inuyasha.

Kagome and the children said fond farewells to Rin, Sesshoumaru and the cousins knowing now that they would soon see them all again on the other side of the well. Kagome said a special thankyou to Sesshoumaru for his attentions as always to the needs of their family. She was going to miss them all; especially the twins who were both in tears. Over the years they had become so close.

"I am looking forward to you both being born." she said and with a last hug and kiss from them she took her children through the well. They were not afraid to go through in a couple of goes, Midoriko had said that the well would recognise when to close and would not leave anyone behind. Which was just as well because Inuyasha was clinging to Sesshoumaru. He had said goodbye and had hugged his friends tightly, needing to be prized away by his brother who also wished to say goodbye. Soon they were left alone, the older brothers had taken the twins away to allow their father and uncle time to say their farewells.

But Inuyasha couldn't say the words and he couldn't let go, his arms were tight around Sesshoumaru's waist and his head was buried in his brother' chest. All Sesshoumaru could hear was a very quiet 'Papa, Papa I don't want to let go, come with me please.' The words quite unmanned Sesshoumaru and he found he was holding on just as tightly as Inuyasha.

"I cannot leave here Inuyasha, you know this, my family, my pups are here. I would wish that you could stay, but your family is already through."

"I am your pup too. Here, I am your pup too. You want to leave me?" Inuyasha was crying like a pup now, racking sobs that tore right through Sesshoumaru.

"Don't cry Inuyasha, please I cannot cope if you cry like this. Yes, you are my pup and I love you dearly; although my first instincts were correct, I should never have let you see me."

"Don't say that Sesshy; I would have never made it this far if it weren't for you, you got me through some awful times of misunderstandings that would have ruined everything for me. I just dont want to think of not seeing you again." Inuyasha pushed his head under his brother's chin, desperate for his pack mark to be recognised, but his brother would not take the hint.

"I'm waiting for you on the other side of the well Inuyasha."

"No, you're not; my brother is on the other side; not my dad." He wailed. Then a fresh storm of tears overcame him. Sesshoumaru held him close and rocked him, his own heart breaking at the depth of his brother's misery; misery, he understood very well himself. His own youkai was struggling to gain control; berating him for not doing enough to comfort his crying pup.

"Comfort pup, Lick mark, lick mark. stop pup crying." 'I cannot, He has to leave; if I acknowledge his mark, I will never let him go and he will not leave me.' he informed his youkai, who did not want to listen and kept trying to force his hand.

"Come Inuyasha, it is time little one; your mate and children await you." He tried to be more firm, "Let go now, and damnit stop all this crying; come on pup." But Inuyasha couldn't let go and Sesshoumaru himself was still holding on; not even attempting to dislodge his little brother. Suddenly Inuyasha was grabbed quickly and pulled away before his reflexes could get a grip again and he was firmly slung over a red clad shoulder and marched to the well.

"Say 'goodbye' Sessh before he gets free." Inuyasha dumped his younger self down the well and turned in time to duck his brother's claws as Sesshoumaru angrily and instinctively came at him. There was a larger flash than normal from the well and a deep sexless voice claimed that the portal was closed; then all was silent again except for the gentle, heartbroken sobs of a father who had lost his son. Inuyasha went to his brother and held his head against him in comfort. He didn't say anything until Sesshoumaru stopped his tears.

"My pup, my little Inuyasha pup."

"He's still here Brother/dad, he's just grown up some more that's all. I'm still here." Inuyasha spoke softly and gently to his unhappy brother. "I know we have a strange multi 'whatever' relationship, but I am still proud of you and I still look up to you; but you didn't hear me say it, right?" Then Inuyasha repeated the action of his younger self and butted his brother under the chin, this time though to reassure Sesshoumaru by licking his mark.

"Is he going to be alright when he gets through?"

"Of course he will, he has this know-it-all brother, who he has always loved and thought the world of; waiting for him and loving him back. He has his wonderful mate and fantastic children, what more could he want?" 'apart from you; I always missed you.' he carried on in his mind. "Come on Sesshy, Rin is waiting for you back home and I haven't got a hankie for you."

Sesshoumaru considered, he did love his 'pup' but he had only been borrowed; his brother however was real and belonged to him and however much he might deny it, Inuyasha always needed him. He looked over at his now smiling little brother and felt better. His family was still complete.

As the well expelled Inuyasha into his own time, the same voice that had been heard on the other side of the well repeated it's words. Inuyasha threw himself into his brother's open arms and was folded close to Sesshoumaru's chest. He had sent Rin back with Kagome and the children while he waited for his brother, half concerned at the time it was taking for Inuyasha to come through. He couldn't help still feeling jealous of his future self and the influence he had on his younger sibling.

But now Inuyasha needed him, as he was bereft of his father figure; he was still crying hard and angrily, knowing full well who had torn him from his brother's arms. Sesshoumaru let him get all of it out of his system and held him tightly, saying nothing until his warm and familiar scent calmed Inuyasha and finally dried his tears. The scent was the same, his brother was the same here and then. Sesshoumaru was more mature now than when they first reconciled; he had pups of his own and was someone that Inuyasha could emulate, as he always had strived to do.

Sesshoumaru rocked him as his older self had minutes earlier; but unlike his older self, the brother did lick the mark over and over to assure Inuyasha of his love and welcome. Inuyasha smiled against his brother's chest as he began to feel better. After all, he did have his brother still; why was he causing such a fuss? Sesshoumaru sensed the change come over Inuyasha and was thankful.

"I remember when I lost father, Inuyasha; I too was inconsolable and I wept on and off for years. I sometimes still do, I will always miss him; wishing he could see his grandchildren for instance, but I want you to know that I shall try to always be there for you; silly pup." He felt Inuyasha smile against him once again before he pulled away and looked Sesshoumaru in the eyes. The older one was saddened to see such misery outlined on the younger one's face but he was heartened by the genuine smile.

"Thankyou Sesshy, you're the best. Let's go home; we have our whole lives to live now and I don't feel torn apart anymore. I am home where you and my family are. Here."

Sesshoumaru made his youki cloud and pulling his brother close, he took them home to their mates and families; who were waiting in the Western Palace for their safe return.