A/N: Well, here it is. The final chapter. And, with extremely special thanks to RisingXXAngel, for the wonderful ideas for this chapter about the last thing InuTaisho ever said to Sesshomaru on the night of his death. I hope you enjoy.
Izayoi sat against a tall, snowy tree, sobbing hard and clutching the little baby InuYasha close to her. It had been a day and InuTaisho had not returned. She was unable to believe that it was true, that a mighty demon had been killed in a measly fire. Aside from InuTaisho missing, Minako had also vanished. Izayoi wanted her as well, for she felt so lost. It had taken her twenty minutes to figure out that little InuYasha was hungry when he wouldn't stop crying. And they were in the middle of the woods and extremely vulnerable. Izayoi felt hopelessly lost and couldn't stop crying. She knew that if InuYasha weren't with her, she'd have no reason not to join her beloved in the netherworld.
Izayoi huddled against the cold, frozen bark, hugging her baby tightly and shivering. InuYasha was snug and warm against her and wrapped in his blanket and the robe, but Izayoi was freezing and knew she would die if she didn't figure out what she had to do. Her feet were so frozen she could no longer feel them and that terrified her. If she couldn't walk, then she had no hope.
" Oh InuTaisho," she murmured miserably. " What should I do, now?"
She gasped in fear suddenly as the distinct sound of footsteps could be heard behind her. They were approaching her slowly, stealthily. She closed her eyes and hugged InuYasha closer. " Please, leave us in peace." She said, trembling. The person stopped behind her and she dared not see who it was. She only hoped that whoever it was, they wouldn't harm her baby. Her breath stopped abruptly when she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She carefully opened her eyes and looked behind her. She drew a breath in surprise.
" S…Sesshomaru?" she whispered, stunned. The white demon knelt beside her, watching her carefully. But this time, she saw something different in his eyes. Instead of the rage and hatred they'd always held, this time they seemed to hold a deep sense of compassion. He looked at her with an almost gentleness. She almost felt safe.
" Izayoi." He said quietly. " What are you doing out here? A mere human such as yourself might freeze to death in a matter of hours."
She'd expected him to sound snide like usual. Instead, he sounded deeply concerned.
" Sesshomaru," she said sadly. " It's awful. Your father, I…I think he's dead. He was trapped in the castle when it collapsed in the fire. He hasn't come back, yet."
Sesshomaru had already known of his father's passing for he now carried one of the swords, which he'd found hanging from Bokuseno, the thousand-year Magnolia tree and the father tree of the scabbards of Tenseiga and Tetsuaiga. The sword, Tenseiga, as it turned out, was his birthright, much to his annoyance. The other two were nowhere to be found.
" Sesshomaru, I don't know what to do." Izayoi choked. " I have nowhere to go to now and I can't let InuYasha die."
" Let me see him." Sesshomaru said. Izayoi appeared surprised at his request, but she nodded slowly and turned so that he could see the baby's face. InuYasha was peacefully asleep in his blanket, his little dog-ears twitching. Sesshomaru gazed down at him with an almost fatherly expression. He gently reached down and carefully fondled one of the little dog-ears, mindful of their sensitivity.
" He is my brother, is he not?" Sesshomaru inquired. Izayoi nodded.
" Yes. His name is InuYasha." She said. Sesshomaru closed his eyes. Then, he opened them and looked at her. " Come. I will take you somewhere safe." He said. She nodded and tried to stand up, but then fell back down with a gasp of pain. It had taken all of her strength to get this far so soon after giving birth and she still hurt.
" I can't. Please, Sesshomaru, just forget me. Take InuYasha away from here." She said, attempting to give him the baby. His eyes narrowed. Then, in one swift movement, he reached down and lifted her off the ground, holding her carefully as he formed the same demonic cloud his father had always used, rising up into the air. Izayoi gasped and closed her eyes.
" Relax. I will not falter." He reassured her. For some reason, it actually did sound reassuring. Izayoi slowly felt her heartbeat slow as she cuddled InuYasha close, glancing up at Sesshomaru occasionally. His face seemed so peaceful, like he was deep in thought.
" Sesshomaru," she said carefully. " Why are you helping me again?"
" Because, Izayoi," he said, struggling to choose his words carefully and quickly. Even though the Great Dog Demon was dead now, Izayoi was still his and always would be. As omega, Sesshomaru didn't even have rights to be near her, much less touching her. But he figured now was an emergency. " You are now a part of our clan and the survival of the pup is vital. I shall make certain of his welfare during your lives."
" What do you mean by that?"
" While he grows, I shall watch over him from a distance. When he is old enough, I shall teach him to fight. He will be a half-demon and vulnerable to the world of demons. Therefore, I will not allow one carrying our father's blood to be considered a weakling in the eyes of others."
Sesshomaru, though he knew he cared very, very deeply for Izayoi, would be forced to once again content himself with protecting her and caring for her from afar.
Izayoi sighed. " Thank you, Sesshomaru." She said quietly. Sesshomaru hummed in reply, but said nothing.
Gradually, the full human of Izayoi began to show when she slowly fell asleep against him, worn out from the birth of her son and from struggling to get away from the ruins of the castle where her son's father died protecting them. Sesshomaru had to force his mind on the direction he was going, lest he end up somewhere only hell knew where. He'd done that before and he didn't want it to happen again. Flying wasn't yet second nature to him like it had been his father and he had to be careful not to let Izayoi know that. She clearly didn't trust his flying skills.
Sesshomaru sighed and scanned the ground, searching for a suitable village to land near. Izayoi would want somewhere heavily populated with many men about to protect them from demons or people from her home valley come looking for her. But even if there was nothing, Sesshomaru would protect them himself. He was bitter, for his father had never been particularly understanding of the fact that Sesshomaru was stronger than his mother had been. Akiko had been oddly weak for a demon. Sesshomaru, no matter how much he resembled her, was not, by any means, that weak. But InuTaisho had never seen otherwise to the fullest extent. Sesshomaru would make sure that InuYasha got exactly what he needed to become stronger. He'd treat him like an enemy, force him to grow and develop his skills. It was the only way to make certain that the pup would learn to defend himself rather than to constantly rely on the protection of others.
Sesshomaru descended suddenly when he spotted a small village below. As he started down, Izayoi began to stir. Soon, she would wake up.
Soon, she'd have to start anew.
A year passed since the death of the Western Lord. Word of his disappearance had spread throughout the land, but very few knew what had really happened to him. Izayoi was one.
InuYasha grew up quickly, much too quickly for her liking. She knew that he would be her only child and she hated that soon, he would be too old to need her. But she loved him so much, anyway and never spent a waking moment away from him.
He was despised by many people in the village and had virtually no friends. The children, even though they were too young to understand what he was, were not allowed to go near him by their parents. Izayoi sometimes saw a little boy named Itsuki who would sometimes sneak over to InuYasha for a quick game of catch before his parents caught on and dragged him away. InuYasha's favorite toy was a little red ball that had mysteriously appeared on their doorstep one morning. Izayoi had been cautious, but InuYasha had yelled in delight, snatched it up and immediately started bouncing it around the house. Within minutes, he'd broken a chair, half the wooden table and several wooden cups-into splinters. Izayoi had then forbidden him to play with it inside the house and banished him to the courtyard for an hour or so.
Izayoi was often aware that somebody was watching him while he played. She would turn around and see a flurry of white before whatever it was vanished from sight.
One day, she decided to see about it. As she spotted the same flurry in the trees outside the village, she hummed and started forward, her hands in her sleeves.
" Sesshomaru, reveal yourself." She said calmly. Two dark eyes appeared in the darkness of the trees and the tall demon stepped out, his face expressionless. InuYasha stopped chasing the ball when he saw his older brother and hurried over.
" Yeah! It's Sesshomaru!" he cried. But past experience had taught him that his brother was not fond of hugs, so InuYasha stopped in front of him and just looked at him with a big grin on his face. Sesshomaru could not look at him without thinking of the future when InuYasha would inevitably grow to despise him for what he was planning. If InuYasha was to grow into the demon he should have been, fighting would need to become familiar.
" Hello, little brother." He said. InuYasha went and picked up the ball, coming back over and handing it to him. " Will you throw this for me, big brother?" he asked. His face unchanging, Sesshomaru reached down, gently picked up the ball and threw it several meters away, the happy little boy chasing after it like an exuberant puppy. Izayoi smiled. " You're so kind with him." She said, which surprised Sesshomaru. " Define your meaning, Izayoi." He said calmly as InuYasha raced back over with the ball. Sesshomaru took it again and hurled it even farther. InuYasha loved to try and catch it before it hit the ground and the farther throws increased his speed and developed stamina. Izayoi watched her son for a second and then looked at the demon. " You visit us often." She said. " And InuYasha simply adores you. You even throw the ball for him, which delights him to no end. I'm quite certain that if you would do it, he'd chase after it for hours."
Sesshomaru watched as InuYasha came running back, panting, but excited.
" One more time! Please?" he begged. Sesshomaru took the ball, throwing it, knowing that 'one more time' would turn into several more times. InuYasha dashed after it again and this time, he disappeared over the hilly rise.
" I do this simply to see to his welfare." Sesshomaru said quietly. He looked at Izayoi. " Ordinarily, our father would see to it. But considering the circumstances, the duty falls on me."
Izayoi bowed her head. " I understand." She whispered. Sesshomaru was instantly reminded of his deep feelings for her. But he understood that she could never belong to another, not even a human. He had actually killed a human man who had shown interest in her, not out of jealousy, but of honoring the code of law. Izayoi probably didn't want to be with another, now. But he had no right in asking her, no matter how much it pained him. Besides, anyone who wanted her might try to kill InuYasha. That, he simple could not allow.
InuYasha came back again and Sesshomaru took the ball. " Last time." He said. InuYasha looked disappointed, but nodded. " Okay." He said. " Don't leave 'till I get back, big brother!"
Sesshomaru threw the ball as far as he possibly could, which was pretty far. But InuYasha was also quite fast; he would be back within seven or eight minutes, even though the ball had clearly gone over two miles.
Izayoi looked at Sesshomaru. " I can't believe how you've changed, Sesshomaru. I don' even believe my memories of you when we first met."
" I have reasons." He replied cryptically. Meaning, he still loved Izayoi, though he just couldn't tell her. He hadn't yet told her that he'd visited the night his father had died. Something told him she wouldn't appreciate knowing that.
Sure enough, InuYasha returned with the ball in hand and a small bird nesting in his hair. Izayoi laughed and carefully picked the squawking bird out, letting it fly away. InuYasha set the ball down and looked up at his brother. " I guess you haf'ta leave now, huh, big brother?" he said dejectedly. Sesshomaru, going against his plans for the pup, knelt down and put his hand on his shoulder.
" I'll return on the next full moon." He said firmly. It was right before InuYasha became human for one night. Izayoi was always careful to keep him indoors on that night and Sesshomaru often took after his father by spending that night sitting on the roof of their home until morning. When he would look through InuYasha's window and see white hair instead of black like his mother's, he'd know that it was now safe for him to leave for a time.
Sesshomaru turned around and took several steps away from them. Then, he glanced back once. " Take care." He mumbled. The bright sphere of light surrounded his body and he rose up into the air, slowly fading from sight. Just the sight of him doing that made Izayoi think of InuTaisho and brought tears to her eyes. But for the sake of InuYasha, she would carry on.
" Come," she said to him, taking his hand as he scooped up the ball. " Let us return home. It is getting dark and tomorrow is the new moon."
" Oh right!" InuYasha said. He followed along happily, humming as they went. Izayoi allowed her mind a few brief moments to think of InuTaisho and then, she carefully stored away all of their cherished memories together, in order to create new ones for her beloved son, the greatest gift that InuTaisho had given to her.
Sesshomaru hung in the sky for several minutes after he left them, watching them carefully. He knew that one day, the rage InuYasha would eventually develop for him would overpower his fond memories of him. InuYasha would eventually forget everything but hatred for his brother. But Sesshomaru forced himself to accept this, seeing as it was safer for both of them. Demons were not meant to have strong relationships with one another, and no matter how much he cared for his brother, he knew InuYasha would be so much safer that way. If InuYasha ever came to rely on him, and then something happened to him, InuYasha would have no one in the world and he'd be easy prey for other demons and humans. Sesshomaru couldn't bring himself to think of that. So, in the end, InuYasha would despise him, but he'd live longer for it. Sesshomaru, through his love for Izayoi, which would never fade, would strive to protect her son from harm-at all possible costs. At that moment, his father's words from that last night came back.
" Have you someone to protect?"
Sesshomaru closed his eyes. " The answer is yes. I, Sesshomaru, have someone to protect." He whispered.
With that, he turned away and flew off into the distance of the setting sun and darkening sky.
A/N: Well, that's the end, I'm afraid. Sorry. I know you all loved this story and I loved the reviews!!! I'm so happy that it was good as I worked on it and I truly appreciate you all for being patient with me during my struggles with it. I can't ask for anything better in readers. You all are truly THE best. Thank you.