'Always with you'

Author's Note: It's the last chapter! I thought the end was really cute, and I hope you do, too. Please review; it'll give me an idea of what you think about the whole story. I decided that the next time I post a story, I'll post the whole thing, so don't expect one for quite a while. Enjoy!

"Here you go, Mother. Tea is ready," Sessho-Maru announced softly as he set down a teacup in front of his mother. But it was as if she hadn't heard him, for her eyes remained emotionless, staring blankly ahead and taking nothing in.

Sessho-Maru blew into his cup before sipping, enjoying its warmth coursing through his body and cleansing his mind. This ritual had gone on for many days now. At times, he thought he might of saw a flicker of recognition I his mother's eyes whenever he brought her tea. She would sit there, staring past him as he took his time to finish his tea. Once the cup was empty, he would get up and leave to visit his little flower friend. It seemed the small blue flower waited patiently for him every afternoon, and they would sit there, quietly in the meadow, taking in their ever-changing surroundings. Day by day, the air grew colder, the winds blew sharper, and the trees emerged in a dazzling display of fiery red, mellow orange, bright yellow, pleasant green, deep purple, and rich brown before the beauty faded and the leaves were only shadows of what they were before. It was then that Sessho-Maru took a fancy to jumping among the fallen leaves, and for a while, he enjoyed himself immensely.

He finished the last drop of tea and began to walk towards the door when an arm grasped his sleeve with a surprising strength. Sessho-Maru turned around and his eyes met his mother's. They were moist and full of feeling, and Sessho-Maru's felt his hopes rising as they held eye contact.

"Help…me…up…" she said in a raspy voice that was unused to speaking after such a long period of silence. But it seemed to hold a sort of desperation that compelled Sessho-Maru to do as she bade him to without question. She slowly rose on unsteady legs as Sessho-Maru supported her on his arm. Cautiously, yet determinedly, she took tentative steps forward, wobbling as she did so, and she nearly fell several times had Sessho-Maru not been there.

"The meadow…I have to see…the meadow…" she pleaded as she stumbled forward.

"But Mother," Sessho-Maru protested, "there isn't anything there anymore—"

"Don't…speak…" his mother cut in. "Keep moving…"

Slowly, but surely, they made their way outside. Sessho-Maru's mother clutched feebly at the now withered favorite flower in her hair as a cold breeze blew past them.

"Do you want to go back in?" he asked anxiously when he saw her shiver violently against the cold, but she merely shook her head. "Keep moving…" she repeated firmly, determination alight in her eyes. And so, they continued trudging on.

By the time they arrived at the now barren field, snowflakes were beginning to drift down gently, almost as if they were brilliant white blossoms falling from a blooming tree instead of the clouded sky.

"So beautiful…" Sessho-Maru's mother breathed as her eyes followed their descent. "Just like…when I first met your father…"

Sessho-Maru braced himself for his mother to break down crying once more at the mention of his father, but she only smiled at the apparently fond memory, lost in her past.

"It was on a clear, sunny day, right at this very spot. Did you know there was once an apple tree here? They were the most delicious apples I've ever eaten. Of course," she giggled, "they were the only apples I've ever eaten."

"What was Father doing here?" Sessho-Maru asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.

"Oh, his mother sent him here on an errand. It was completely by chance that I met him, as I don't always go here everyday. You should have seen him; I had to save him from being stranded in a tree." She giggled again, and her pale cheeks grew rosy. Sessho-Maru stared in wonder at his mother, looking almost healthy and herself again, at the prospect that the mention of his father could bring her such happiness and sorrow, and at the fact that his father was once stuck in a tree. "What was the errand?"

She stopped giggling and attempted to hide behind her sleeves, her eyes downcast. "It was…to pick a flower…"

"Your favorite flower?" Sessho-Maru asked excitedly. He could just make out a nod from his mother nodded her sleeves.

"Well…your father is still embarrassed by that memory, so I tried not to mention it…So when he asked me what my favorite flower was, I told him lavender instead," she admitted, but then grinned. "Now that I think about it, that was the same tree that you fell from."

"Oh! So that's why you told me not to tell Father!" Sessho-Maru exclaimed, ignoring the comment about the tree. Now it all made sense to him. His father's favorite flower reminded him of his mother, and his mother's favorite flower reminded her of his father. How ironic that they based their favorite flowers on the other's opinion.

Sessho-Maru stared down at the ground where his flower was. Who did it remind him of?

All of a sudden, the wind grew fiercer and lashed the snow against them.

"Mother! We have to go back!" Sessho-Maru called out, shielding his face.

There was no response.

"Mother!" Sessho-Maru cried out once more, fear gripping his heart. The snow had quickly risen up to his knees, and he feared that if they did not leave right away, they may not have another chance.

As he made his way forward, he caught a glimpse of her hair. He then bounded forward in an attempt to catch up, but once he saw the look on his mother's face, he stopped cold. It was not an expression to be afraid of, but rather afraid for, for it was one of serenity and tranquility, that held a bemused smile and a gaze that looked beyond what was in front of the eyes, but most of all, it held a sense of calm that showed no fear of and even welcomed whatever was ahead.

"Mother! Mother!" Sessho-Maru yelled desperately as he yanked on her sleeves to get her attention, and at first, it seemed like she did not hear him. Then, she gently removed his hands from her sleeves and told him, "Hush now, Sessho-Maru. Everything will be all right. Thank you for taking care of me. I've enjoyed being with you and your father."

"What are you talking about?" Sessho-Maru demanded with an alarmed expression. "Where are you going?"

"To rest," she replied. Sessho-Maru's blood ran cold.

"Don't go! You can't abandon me as well!" he protested fearfully, and then he whimpered, "Please…can't you stay with me?"

His mother smiled sadly, he expression pained, and she answered in a patient tone, "Sessho-Maru, can you understand that I can never be at peace while I am alive? While your father loves another?"

"Then kill her!" he proposed heatedly. "Kill her so that father can come back!"

She merely shook her head, staring at him disappointedly. "How would that help? Do you honestly think he will forget about her after I kill her? Do you think your father can love still love me after I killed someone he loved? How would you feel if your father killed me?"

Sessho-Maru stared down bitterly and shamefacedly. "But…can't you be satisfied with being with me? I can still take care of you."

His mother's expression softened. "Sessho-Maru, would you really want to take care of a broken demoness with no will left to live? I would rather that I die with my sanity intact and my son still alive. I don't know what I'd do if I continued living. It'd be a pointless, empty existence, and I don't want that, and I don't want that for you."

Sessho-Maru said nothing; he understood. "I'm not important enough for you to stay."

A hurt look crossed his mother's face. "Sessho-Maru…please don't think I'm abandoning you. I would never do such a thing. And now that I think back, your father would never do such a thing, either. He hasn't abandoned us. It was just that…I was so shocked…so hurt. My mind was clouded with anger and sadness; I did not see that he still loved me as well." She took the withered flower out of her hair and placed it in Sessh-Maru's. "A reminder that I will be with you."

"But it'll disintegrate," Sessho-Maru objected.

"Not if you keep it in here," she replied, pointing at his heart. Sessho-Maru stared at the flower, then at his mother's finger, and then at his heart before stroking the flower she gave him. She smiled warmly at him, although her face was blurred from the flurry of snow. "And tell your father that I still love him." With that said, she disappeared into the snowstorm.

Sessho-Maru stared at the spot where she vanished, unable to fully grasp that it happened. His mother was gone.

Unexpectedly, he let out a sob and crumpled into the snow, the tears freezing on his face. He couldn't understand this hollow feeling inside of him, as the last person he ever knew and loved was gone from his life. But she had just told him he was not alone. So why did it feel that way?

A firm hand rested on his shoulder. He looked up to see the solemn face of his father and saw that his eyes were moist. Sessho-Maru didn't realize how much he missed him until now, and he hugged his father tightly.

"She's gone," he whispered, the two words he dreaded to say. "She's really gone." He then remembered her last message. "She said to…tell you that…she still loves you."

His father embraced him back. "I know," he said. "I still love her, too." He then let go to take out something, a purple…flower, perhaps?

"Do you hear me?" his father bellowed. "I love you, too!" He then released the flower into the furious gale, and they watched it disappear as well.

"May your mother rest in peace," he murmured.

There was a moment of silence except for the howling of the wind.

"Can I live with you?" Sessho-Maru blurted out, surprising his father.

His father looked uncertain. "Yes, but…I'm living with a human, Sessho-Maru. Are you sure you want that?"

Sessho-Maru looked away bitterly. His father looked deep in thought.

Finally, he told him, "Learn to survive by yourself. Perhaps we may meet again one day. You know my scent, and I know yours." Sessho-Maru only nodded miserably. "Well then, good bye, my son. May you be stronger the next time we meet. And remember, you're not alone."

His father's image seemed to melt into the swirling snow, and before long, Sessho-Maru was by himself.

He did not know how long he had been laying there, with the snow softly brushing past his face. They were so soft, so delicate, so light as they covered him, and he wanted to stay like that forever…

"Ta-da!" Rin cried, showering him once more with flowers. When he did not stir, she wiggled a flower under his nose. Sessho-Maru twitched and sneezed.

When he was fully awake, he gave Rin an irritated glare. "Rin…" he growled.

"Rin! That was terribly rude!" Jaken reprimanded scornfully. "Do not treat Lord Sessho-Maru in such an undignified manner, especially after he agreed to stay here for the day." He wiped a sweat off his brow. "Whew. Can we leave now, my lord?"

"No, wait!" Rin pleaded. "Not yet! I still have to show Lord Sessho-Maru all the flowers!"

"What! Lord Sessho-Maru has no time for such—"

"Shut up, Jaken," Sessho-Maru cut in.

Jaken immediately fell into stunned silence.

Rin beamed and picked up several flowers and began rattling on about them.

"See this pink one? It's my mother! She's so kind and understanding…and this one! This yellow one is my big brother, because he's just as bright! And this purple one is my older sister, because she loves purple. This white one is my other big sister because she is so neat and organized. She was about to get married…" She paused.

"And the red one?" Sessho-Maru prodded gently.

"It's my father," Rin smiled sadly, "because he's so fiery and robust. I can't believe he's dead…I can't believe they're all dead…" She shook her head as if to shake off her sadness.

Sessho-Maru at all the flowers she gathered and recalled his mother's question to him. "Which one is your favorite?"

She grinned and pulled out a small, blue flower from behind her back. When he laid eyes on the flower, he froze.

"This one," she said shyly. "I like it because it reminds me of you. Do you like it?"

"Yes…I like it…" he answered, though his voice was shaky from holding back his emotions. That was it. That was who the little flower was.

It was him.

"Do you like the other ones, too?" Rin asked hopefully. "Because I was going to give this one especially to you, but I wasn't sure if you'd like it so I picked all these other flowers. But it'd be such a waste if you didn't like them after all…It seems so sad to just leave them there…"

Sessho-Maru wrapped her in a tight embrace.

"Rin," he told her, "I will always treasure the flowers you pick for me."