By Miss Kagura
Epilogue — Good Morning

Five Years Later…

Sesshoumaru stared at his brother, who was covered head to toe in mushy rice mixed for the second pup he and Abi had welcomed into the world. The pup, named Touga after their father, laughed madly and used one hand to hold a wad of Inuyasha hair and the other to smear puppy food in it. When Inuyasha put the bowl down to save his hair, Touga grabbed it and threw it right on top of Inuyasha's head.

"That hat suits you," Sesshoumaru said.

Just when he thought it couldn't get any worse, a ball bounced off the side of his head and Katsu ran in and grabbed it. "Sorry, Dad, it was an accident," he quickly said as he bounded through the house undoubtedly only steps ahead of Koinu. "By the way, nice hat," he added.

Koinu quickly followed, stopping only to grab a piece of beef from the kitchen. He pulled a piece off and Touga ate it happily. "Good puppy," Koinu cooed.

Touga clapped and cheerfully said, "Puppy fed Inubaka!" He threw a handful of the mess at his father to show his cousin what he had been doing.

"Nice hat, Uncle!" Koinu said as he ran to escape from Inuyasha.

"Hey!" Inuyasha growled and stepped toward the baby. He slipped on the floor and landed on his back, and then stared up at the ceiling for awhile as he heard Koinu and Katsu bounding around the house the way their mothers always told them not to do.

Sesshoumaru sighed and said, "That was no accident."

"You think?" Inuyasha sarcastically spat. He sat up and used a cloth to wipe off his face. "Why did we have kids again?"

"Because making them is fun," Kagome chirped as she entered the kitchen. "Nice hat!"

Inuyasha picked the bowl up and threw it across the room at Kagome, purposefully missing her. Touga only found this funnier, well aware that he had quite literally driven his father crazy.

The pup clapped and pointed at Inuyasha. "Inubaka dirty! Bath time for bad doggy-daddy!"

Inuyasha stubbornly stood up, got a clean bowl, filled it with food, and sat down on the floor. He pulled the pup onto his lap, facing away from him, and used one hand to hold Touga's arms. The other hand he used to operate a pair of chopsticks. "You will eat this, because I ain't feeding you ever again if you don't. You'll starve."

"Inuyasha!" Kagome exclaimed.

Touga begrudgingly opened his mouth and allowed Inuyasha to put a little food in his mouth. He chewed slowly and swallowed, and then mechanically opened his jaws for the next bite.

Sesshoumaru took poured tea for him and his mate. "Both of your pups are monsters."

Inuyasha glared at Sesshoumaru. "What makes you say that?"

"They're yours. Katsu set you on fire for crying out loud," Kagome replied. "They're impatient, rude, like their father, and mischievous, like their mother. Hey, where is Abi anyway?"

Inuyasha hung his head. "Morning sickness," he whined.

Sesshoumaru and Kagome gave each other an amused look. "Another one? Someday, Japan's West will be run by your spawn," Sesshoumaru said, envisioning the adult version of the roguish pup. "Thankfully, I'll be dead when that happens. I win again, Little Brother."

Inuyasha's mood softened when Touga stopped struggling and happy munched on the food he offered. Familiar paternal warmth emanated from his heart to the rest of his body, and he smiled into Touga's hair. "That's right. You're just like your Daddy. The quickest way to make peace with you is to stuff your face."

He had always wanted a big family, but it had been out of reach for so long. Their family unit was becoming increasingly extensive and had grown unbelievably close over the years.

Inuyasha finished feeding the pup and carried him off screaming to their much needed bath, since both were now thoroughly covered in food, leaving Sesshoumaru and Kagome alone with their tea.

Sesshoumaru arched his brows and said, "My brother is going to be one of those youkai who produces dozens and dozens of offspring."

"You're just now figuring that out?" Kagome replied. "They'll all be little monsters, like Inuyasha. Genetics! I bet there's an 'Inuyasha Gene' he keeps on passing along."

"Your time and your idiotic sciences. Did it really take hundreds of years for humans to realize stupidity runs down family lines?" he asked.

Kagome frowned and playfully slapped his arm. "You're a real jerk sometimes."

"You're just now figuring that out?" Sesshoumaru answered in a mocking tone.

The taiyoukai glanced down at his mate, who had grown quite a lot over the years. Unsurprisingly, she was a model mother, although Koinu was sweet, shy, and quite well-behaved compared to his cousins. The real shock came when Kagome slipped into the role of priestess again. She was the taiyoukai-slaying subject of much legend after only a few years.

Sesshoumaru could remember one particular incident that made him realize that Kagome had grown into a mighty little priestess. He and Inuyasha were fighting a dragon taiyoukai like Ryuukossei and when he would hurl balls of energy at them, Kagome would hit them with her arrows, without fail. When the dragon made the mistake of calling Kagome a 'whore,' she flew over his head, and used her weapon to purify him into oblivion. There was nothing at all left to prove he ever existed when she was done other than her defiant scowl. Then, she rushed home to breastfeed Koinu, who was only a few months old at the time.

The taiyoukai poured another cup of tea and pushed it to the side of the table untouched by Touga's mess. Seconds later, Rin came bouncing into the room and sat down. "Good morning!" She crinkled her nose and frowned. "Ewww…you guys didn't let Inuyasha cook again, did you?"

"We need to find a cook that doesn't mind a dog bite now and then," Kagome said.

"Or, we could simply teach the dogs not to bite. Katsu's birthday is approaching, and I'm sure a set of Subjugation Beads would suit him well," Sesshoumaru said.

"You're terrible," Rin playfully replied.

Sesshoumaru's head bounced forward as a ball impacted him from behind. Katsu ran in and grabbed it, offering a quick apology. "Sorry, accident," he mumbled.

"I'm sure," Sesshoumaru said.

Just as Katsu tore out of the room again, Bakusaiga was hurled across the room and stuck in the wall mere centimeters from Katsu's face. He froze and turned to the taiyoukai with utter horror painted on his face. "Did you just throw Bakusaiga at me?!"

Sesshoumaru didn't even bother looking up when he replied. "Accidentally."

"What if you killed me?" Katsu squeaked.

Kagome and Rin simply ignored the exchange, as both knew there was no real danger. As the only human members of the household, no small amount of patience was required to deal with the youkai and hanyou they lived with. Kagome took another sip of her tea and then got up to help Rin make something that was actually edible.

"Poor Touga had to eat this. No wonder he made such a fuss," Kagome whispered.

Sesshoumaru glanced over to the giggling women and then back to his brother's son, who repeated the question. "What if you killed me?" he asked.

Sesshoumaru shrugged. "That's what Tenseiga is for. Accidents."

Katsu frowned and continued his flight, reminding himself not to anger his uncle, something he would likely forget before the day was over.

He was living peacefully in the same household as his brother, Inuyasha's assassin of a mate, the most powerful miko in all of Japan, and three children of varying species, age, and disposition. Even stranger, he loved it and had no desire to change anything. Only in their home could he have an entire day's worth of violence and excitement before he had finished his morning tea. Watching Inuyasha's pups inflict varying amounts of suffering upon him was also a major bonus.

Kagome left something to cook and disappeared in search of their son and Rin sat at the table across from him.

Sesshoumaru looked up to Rin, who was wearing an unusually bright smile. Fear spiked her scent as she slowly reached across the table with one shaking hand and took his. "Thank you," Rin said.

His eyes widened in confusion at the tears that welled up in Rin's eyes. "For what?" he asked.

Rin sniffled. "For giving me life, for protecting me, for teaching me, for jumping into Hell to save me…I couldn't list all the things you've done for me in an hour. You never gave up on me, even when I was ready to give up on myself!" she cried.

Sesshoumaru made the link between the big smile that was so quickly eclipsed by tears. There was only one thing that could make a woman act like that. "You're pregnant," he said.

"Yes!" Rin exclaimed, as if a heavy load had just been lifted off her shoulders. "How did you know?"

"You're acting like you've lost your mind," he calmly commented. "Congratulations," he said. The news had been long coming, considering that they had been mated for years and Rin expressed no small amount of glee when handling the pups.

The taiyoukai made a mental note to go for a very long trip to avoid being in the same house as Katsu, Touga, and two pregnant women. He would rather stand outside in the middle of a thunderstorm holding his Bakusaiga up like a lightning rod than hang around hormonal women and Inuyasha's pups at the same time.

Sesshoumaru took the last sip of his tea and headed to his office to do paperwork, having had his daily dose of excitement already. The most mundane things brought him satisfaction, and existing in that role where he was simply Sesshoumaru the father, mate, and alpha, he had softened quite a bit.

In the afternoon, he worked on teaching Koinu how to swordfight, although they ended up scrapping playfully instead. That attracted both Inuyasha and Katsu, and by the time the sun started to set, only Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru were still able to stay awake.

"I win!" Inuyasha said.

Sesshoumaru glanced to his side at his brother, who was laid out in the grass, equally unable to move. "Maybe in your dreams."

Inuyasha growled and closed his eyes. "I'll get you tomorrow," he yawned.

Inuyasha's eyes flicked open and he found himself staring at the Bone-Eater's Well.

Hadn't that been destroyed? How did he get here? He mentally screamed as he realized he knew the view all too well.

It had all been a dream!

He looked down at his chest, where Kikyou's arrow still held him to Goshinboku. It was cold, dark, and he was alone again. The fantasy burned through his lonely heart as he realized he had done it again. He sometimes sank so deep into his own imagination to escape the devastating loneliness that he forgot where reality ended.

He fixed his gaze on the only thing he had been able to see for so many years —the Bone-Eater's Well. Inuyasha knew its secret; it was built over a soft spot in the earth that allowed things that fell into it to disappear deep into the ground. He could still smell the remains of everything they threw down the well shaft, since the flesh and bones went on to nourish the earth and the vegetation, including the cruel tree he had been sealed to.

The Bone-Eater's Well was not magical, and it was not going to save him.

Goshinboku, fed by the flesh of youkai that the well swallowed, forced all of its malice, and false hope to Inuyasha by poisoning his mind and making him feel like he was free, only to rip him back to reality just when everything seemed like it would be all right. It grew taller, feeding on his misery.

Inuyasha wasted eternity by weaving these intricate stories and allowing himself to become lost in them. They were all usually quite different, although there were some similarities between them. He always got to have a family, and he always made peace with his brother.

He liked to imagine Kikyou's betrayal wasn't really her. He still couldn't believe it. She would never betray him! The evidence suggesting otherwise stuck out of his chest, but he still made his excuses for her. In his imaginary world, it wasn't Kikyou. It was someone disguised as Kikyou that caused her to do this to him, to sentence him to this hell.

Even he knew it made no sense. If someone really wanted him dead, they could have done it. Inuyasha knew why he hung there. No one even cared enough to put him out of his misery, and considering how little it took to drive people to killing each other in a period where Japan was steeping in pointless bloodshed, his continued existence was proof of how no one in the world cared about him.

Inuyasha knew he might be there for a very, very long time. And nobody in the whole world gave a damn.

He stared at the well, cursing it, but wishing somehow that it would open up and a beautiful girl would leap out of it and save him from his horrid destiny. With every day that went by, he wanted that second chance more and more, until his broken heart burned in longing and he just dreamt it all up again.

If he had another chance, he'd prove Kikyou didn't betray him.

If he had another chance, he'd do whatever it took to make friends.

If he had another chance, he'd understand that power wouldn't make him happy.

If he had another chance, he'd make things right with Sesshoumaru.

But, he didn't have that chance, and knew he never would. All he could do was open and close his eyes, and stare at the well. He couldn't even move his head to look away from it, so it became his savior as his mind became more twisted and sick, binding him to the one that would save him.

She always looked like Kikyou, and she always loved him. And yet, even in his own fantasy, he always lost her. He was unworthy, he was crude, he was wicked, and he knew it. He didn't deserve the thing that he wanted most. What he deserved was…exactly what he had been given.

He let his mind slip back into the life he had made for himself, and dreamt about the sons he didn't have again. They were so handsome, with his silver hair, standing tall for their father. And their mother was such a handful, but he loved her. Abi was beautiful and promiscuous, and she loved him back. He hands were callused from fighting, but she always handled her lover so passionately.

Inuyasha blinked as Abi dissolved, no longer real in his mind. He had never been touched by a woman before, never loved they way he imagined she loved him. No one would ever have touched him, no matter how long he lived, because he was a hanyou. He was dirty, the filth of two societies that could agree on nothing except how disgusting he was.

Inuyasha was miserable and ashamed and so, so lonely. He prayed everyday that some merciful hunter would find him and end his terrible excuse for a life. Never once had he felt happiness, and he had given up on ever even understanding what it meant. His mind was filled with sickness and wishes that would never be granted, and so many years of hunger, pain, and solitude.

So, with nothing left to do, Inuyasha stared at the well again, waiting for his poisoned mind to entrap him again.

He heard the sound of his youngest calling his name and closed his eyes, telling himself it was the closest thing to real that he would ever know.

"Doggy-Daddy! Wake up time!" Touga yelled as he climbed onto the bed.

Inuyasha opened his eyes and smiled. "Good morning."

And they all lived happily ever after.

The End

Please Review!

Author's Note: I'm sorry.

Author's Note Version 2.0: I don't think I've angered readers quite as much as I have with this ending, not even when I wrote a lemon oneshot between Inuyasha and Kagome's mother. This story has been bittersweet through and through, and I wanted to end it on that note, since it was such a strong theme. This journey was, for me, an opportunity to revel in the sick, dark realism that could exist in the characters lives. Their happiness, their anger, the lies they told themselves and the soul-shattering pain they had to endure just to finally understand what they needed...this ending packaged the whole story up under that twisted struggle to find happiness.

I wrote the epilogue eight times, and it never seemed right. I think sometimes that as authors we like to top off a story with a bunch of fluff, but it just didn't fit on this one. It was like spraying whipped cream on steak. This story was angsty and twisted and bittersweet, and slapping a fairytale ending on it just didn't work. It didn't even feel like the same story. I've read tons and tons of stories that end with a chapter describing their future children in far more detail than is necessary, or just basically explained what wonderful lives everyone lead. This story just couldn't end like that. It had to be like this.

Special thanks to Alanna-Sama, mangafreak007, siriushermionelover, TheMikoShivae. Tinabug, musicallady1, sayuri-girl, FluffyandKagome, Inuforlyf, TAJE, Crazy Yaoi Fangirl, Kibi.s2, no life king, dimplesland1992, llebreknit, .Smart.Ass.Punk., supersillee06, elvenarcher516, TruGemini, j.j. ryan, darknessofmyheart, kagsesslover14, kagome past and present, Amadoni, Cookie Defender, aimdiscord, ArizonaBay, helenluvsboo, toni juusan'ya, LadySafire, mangadreams, kittyb78, and aries vs. leo!