Another fic entirely inspired me to write this. I hope you enjoy it.

One Last Time

Shippo whistled softly as he walked through the forest, happy at the news and happier at his destination. The kitsune sported a lean build now and a handsome face with long, red hair. Time had been kind to him as he grew up. It had given his strength, looks, and a mate and a kit. He had eventually moved out of Kaede's village from his friends as he grew older, wanting to make his own way in the world. They understood. Shippo eventually came to make a den on the outskirts of Sesshomaru's territory, and he and the taiyoukai kept in touch.

The village came into view, and a few villagers stopped the harvesting of their crops and looked up. Youkai didn't often come near, but they relaxed. Shippo was welcome here, they knew he would cause him no harm. Many of their grandparents remembered him from when he was but a kit, and the few still alive still laughed and gave him candy if they saw him. Shippo had grown out of his sweet tooth but he ate every bit his old friends gave him.

He waved to the villagers as he passed the, entering the village and heading to a small, two-room hut at the northern end. It was small, inconspicuous, much like its inhabitant. The villagers knew Shippo well enough, but they only knew of him. They didn't know the full story of his youth and Shippo didn't mind. It was for that very reason they gave Inuyasha his valued privacy.

"Hey runt," Inuyasha grunted, looking up from the stew he was cooking over the fitpit of the hut.

"Yo," Shippo smiled, pulling back the curtain and sitting down opposite him. He never figured out how he did that, he always knew he was there before he entered.

"What brings you here, ain't seen you in years," Inuyasha coughed, covering his mouth with his sleeve before picking up a small brown sack.

"Got news from Sesshomaru," Shippo explained. Inuyasha nodded and sprinkled a bit of the spice from the sack in the stew.

"Yeah?" he asked, stirring the spice in.

"Rin's pregnant," Shippo explained.

"Keh," Inuyasha smirked. "So the old dog finally knocked her up. About time."

"Yeah, but there's a reason they wanted me to come to you," Shippo started, taking a breath. He waited while Inuyasha tasted the stew and nodded his satisfaction before spooning some into a bowl.

"Want some?"

"No thanks."

"So what else then?" Inuyasha asked. Shippo looked down.

"They agreed if it's a girl, Rin chooses the name, and if it's a boy, Sesshomaru names him. Sesshomaru wants to name him Toga, after your father. But Rin…if it's a girl…"

"What, what she gonna name him?" Inuyasha barked, annoyed as he lifted a spoon of stew to his lips.

"Kagome."

Inuyasha's face instantly darkened and Shippo cursed himself for not trying harder to be less blunt. Inuyasha snorted and bit into his meal; with a slurp, pulling the spoon out with a pop.

"Go ahead, it ain't my choice what she calls the kid," he said blankly.

"Inuyasha…" Shippo sighed. Why did he have to make it so difficult for him? It wasn't that he didn't like Inuyasha, just the opposite, he was his father, had been for years until he left. But coming here, visiting him, hurt.

"Wait wait…" Inuyasha lifted a hand to silence him and thought for a moment. Shippo waited patiently while he remembered. It could take a moment or two, could take a day. It had before. Inuyasha scratched his head, pushing aside the silver with a frown. "There's…oh yeah! Kagome had picked something out, for the first kid, a gift. It's in the other room."

"I'll get it," Shippo said quickly.

"I can get it myself."

"It's no trouble…"

"I SAID, I can get it!" Inuyasha roared as Shippo began to get up. Shippo obediently sat down as Inuyasha reached out a shaking hand and grabbed his cane from the wall, leaning on it as he pushed himself to his feet. "I may not…be a fucking hanyou anymore…but I'm not fucking useless!" Inuyasha snarled, standing up.

"I know," Shippo whispered, lowering his head to hide his flinches to every crack and pop as the old man stood up, his youkai hearing giving him far more detail to Inuyasha's condition than he would have liked. Inuyasha began muttering under his breath as he shuffled into the room where he slept. Shippo waited as he heard more muttered curses and the sound of things being moved. Finally, Inuyasha came back and held out a wrinkled hand.

"Here," he wheezed, sitting back down. Shippo stared darkly as he burst into another coughing fit. If only he wasn't so goddamn stubborn and let the village doctor look at him, or let one of the younger kids help him with his work as many had offered. Once again his pride was causing him more trouble than it was worth, as far as Shippo was concerned.

"Thanks," Shippo reached across the fire to take his offering. It was a necklace, woven out of shimmering white hair and lined with white and green beads. "The hair is mine, Kagome made the beads from clay," Inuyasha explained as his coughing ended. "I felt useless just plucking a few hairs but she said it was no trouble."

"I'm sure they'll love it," Shippo whispered, tucking the necklace away. "The hair shade almost looks yours again," he joked weakly.

"Nah, used to be silver…now it's just white," Inuyasha muttered, lifting a tuft of stringy white strands for their mutual inspection. Shippo's gaze shifted to the rosary around his neck. The beads had lost their power over him six years ago when the one who commanded that power had died, but he still wore them. Kagome had wanted to take them off, but Inuyasha refused. To him it was the only sign he could give her that he was hers.

He had tried. Shippo knew he had tried, as hard as he could. Inuyasha and Kagome had loved, deeply, even if he had never said the words she knew he loved her. They never had any children but wanted them, and Inuyasha bitterly resigned himself to sterility and a life of no children to carry on his name. It was just another failure to him. He had tried, kami had he tried, to give himself to her. And he did, as much as he was able to, as often as he was able to. But time didn't heal all wounds, some just stay open and exposed.

The hanyou had carried the weight of the world on his shoulders after Naraku's death. Kikyo, the well which was gone, his wish to turn his back on his brother who had finally accepted him, his wish to become human, opting for a mortal life with Kagome over her protests. The burden of war and loss and what he viewed as a mountain of failures he could never surpass crushed his spirit over the years. Not a single word of accusations ever reached his ears or left their lips. He did enough self-blaming to make up for all of them.

He and Kagome never wed, he had said himself that he thought it was stupid and pointless and he didn't see the purpose of an elaborate ceremony. And yet, Shippo knew he would have done it if she had asked it of him. If she had asked for the moon on a platter he would have spent the rest of his life finding a way to make a tray big enough and how to get it up that high. But in the end, she hadn't asked a thing of him. Kagome Higurashi did for him what she had always done; loved him, held him and stood by his side. For almost seventy years she loved him and tried to help him move beyond his guilt for virtually everything that was wrong in the world, his fault or no. And for seventy years the hanyou-turned-human had begun to emerge from his cocoon of dark memories and personal shields. He had talked of going to visit Sesshomaru and Rin in the summer and for once spoke of his brother with no malice or contempt in his voice.

Then, she was gone. Inuyasha simply woke up one morning, and Kagome didn't. Shippo hadn't seen him weep so openly in decades. Against all advice and offers, Inuyasha carried her himself to the Goshinboku and dug a grave, laying her to rest and burying her. The villagers were amazed that an old man could find such energy to do the task alone. Shippo remembered that day, the day reality finally sunk in. He had distanced himself from them, unknowingly of course, and had been away when Sango and Miroku had died.

But now he had a frontal view of Inuyasha gasping and panting, coughing more and more with every spadeful of dirt he dug. His aging bones and skin made a wide assortment of sounds Shippo could have done without. It was then he realized his father's fate, and his mother's fate. She was gone and her lover was going to follow someday. Shippo had been busy, finding his place in the world, finding a mate and raising a family and staking out a place for himself in Sesshomaru's court.

He had been so busy working himself into the world, he never noticed Inuyasha and Kagome were being phased out of it. Oh sure, he visited frequently. And they changed a bit now and then, a wrinkle here, a coughing-fit here, an arthritic hand there. Then one day he had come to visit to find his parents gone. In their place was an old corpse of a woman with long grey hair, being carried up a hill by an old man who looked ready to collapse and follow her into the beyond. Someone had flipped the switch and Shippo truly saw what had become of them for the first time.

It was then he had started visiting more often, at least once every cycle of the moon. He was all the hanyou had left anymore, Kilala had long since left after Sango died, Kagome was gone and no one else besides the youkai he knew were friends with him or even knew about him. The villagers knew of the beautiful miko in the strange clothing and the handsome hanyou that had saved them from evil. They all knew the tale, but none knew the true end and so none knew the great heroes the children imitated and ran around the fields with wooden swords and bows, were living in their very village.

Inuyasha had stayed. His plans to visit Sesshomaru ended. Shippo knew he was far too old to make the trip himself and would rather try it than accept his assistance. When he visited now the hanyou was just living day to day, eating food the villagers gave to him and just tending to his hut. Shippo knew he went out often to visit the grave, but beyond that Inuyasha hid himself from the world.

"I had it put away…" Inuyasha muttered, bringing Shippo back to reality. "It's like, decades old, we made it a long time ago. But we didn't think Sesshomaru was gonna take so long to get a pup."

"I know they won't mind," Shippo said softly. "I was gonna give them your fire-rat." Inuyasha had passed it to Shippo when he had left many years ago, as he had no need for it anymore. He still kept the Tetsusaiga of course, even if it couldn't transform anymore and was a useless piece of metal.

"Go ahead," Inuyasha nodded.

"Sesshomaru and Rin…were wondering if you could come see them, when the baby comes," Shippo continued.

"Huh…if I hear of a caravan passing that way, I'll come," Inuyasha shrugged. Shippo nodded. He knew he meant it, but as far-fetched and unreliable as that transportation method was, it was the only way he was going out there. Shippo could carry him and dash to the castle where Sesshomaru lived in a few hours, but Inuyasha would never tolerate it.

"I guess…see you," Shippo sighed, standing up.

"Hey," Inuyasha said, lifting his head. "You remember what tomorrow is right?"

"Of course of I do," Shippo nodded. "Seven years to the day now."

"Yeah…stupid old wench…" Inuyasha smiled wryly. "You wanna stick around?"

"No thanks," Shippo shook his head. "I visited her last month."

"Keh, that ain't no excuse," Inuyasha glared. Shippo silently agreed. Inuyasha visited her at least once a week, if the villagers told the truth.

"Alright, bye," Shippo waved and left the hut, clenching his eyes shut. Seeing Inuyasha in that state, ever since he had realized what he had become. Maybe, just maybe, if he could get the stubborn old man to his brother's castle he could connect again, find something else in this world besides his adopted kitsune son to cling to. But Shippo knew better. He walked out of the village with a dark expression, as he always did when he left.

- - - - - - - - - -

Inuyasha woke up that night and turned over. He grabbed his cane and pushed himself to his feet, sighing. That done, he reached down and grabbed the long, slender box by his bed. He tucked it under his shoulder and shuffled out of the hut, heading out of the village. It was deep in the night and no lights or sounds came but for the moon and the occasional snore from a hut. Inuyasha walked past the fields and slowly began up the hill, taking deeper breaths. The climb got harder every time, he knew that much, but he made it all the same.

He crested the hill and rested for a moment, leaning on his cane and sucking in wheezing breaths. After several minutes, he lifted his cane and resumed his journey, finally stopping at the Goshinoku. He looked up, wrinkled face crinkling in a soft smile.

"Seven years…" he whispered, lowing his head. "I figured it was time…" he took the box from his arm and slowly knelt down, wincing at an audible crack from his leg, and opened it. "I only ever had this because of you…" he explained, placing the rusting Tetsusaiga before the tree. "It was always yours…just like me."

His offering made, Inuyasha shifted and turned, leaning back against the tree. He exhaled a breath of chilly air and sighed. He could have, should have done things differently. Killed Naraku before he had reached the well, realized why he was going where he had gone, using his wish to set things right instead of blindly making himself human. He had wanted a mortal life with Kagome. He could have wished for immortality, for both of them, could have wished the well back, could have wished any number of things that now made his true wish seem short-sighted and foolish.

Deciding to go back in the morning, he leaned his head and closed his eyes, allowing himself a nap until morning.

- - - - - - - - - -

"Inuyasha…"

Inuyasha murmured something and turned.

"Inuyasha…"

He mumbled and opened his eyes. White floral wallpaper met his gaze, and he frowned as he felt soft cotton beneath his fingertips. He looked down to see bright pink, and with a shock, he knew where he was.

"Inuyasha…"

Finally registering who was calling, the old man turned over in bed.

"About time," Kagome teased, crossing her arms. Inuyasha stared as she leaned back against her desk, smiling softly at him. She was in her sailor fuku again, as young and vibrant and beautiful as they day she had first emerged from the foliage and jumped into his arms against the Goshinnoku.

"Kagome…" he whispered.

"I've been waiting…" she said softly. "I'm so sad to see you, but…it's all going to be alright now."

"Am I…" Inuyasha stopped himself, realizing he knew the answer.

"I'm sorry," he said instead. "For…everything. I couldn't save Kikyo, I couldn't save the well, I couldn't save kami knows how many people…and I couldn't keep you with me…"

"I never blamed you…" Kagome shook her head, raven tresses bouncing slightly. "Inuyasha, there's no more pain. No more guilt. There's nothing anymore. But love…"

"I don't deserve your love," he muttered bitterly, turning onto his back and away from her.

"It's my love to give and it was always yours and yours only," Kagome scolded gently. She moved to stand closer, and reached out a slender hand. "Take my hand, Inuyasha," she whispered. Inuyasha turned his head and looked down at the offered appendage. An old, wrinkled hand reached up and wrapped cracking fingers around hers.

Inuyasha's eyes went wide and his mouth dropped in a gasp as energy flooded his body. His back arched off the bed as his skin, pale and with the veins showing underneath, darkened to bronze. His hair fluttered out underneath him, lightening to bright silver and the tangles ironing themselves out. His dirty grey tunic and hakama turned bright red as the tunic split open on the chest to reveal a white kimono underneath. Violet eyes stared at the ceiling in awe as they lightened to bright purple and shifted into deep yellow.

Inuyasha fell back on the bed, amazed at the newfound revelation surging through his mind. He turned and stood up, staring down at Kagome.

"I…I…" he stammered. Words failed him. It was gone. All of it, gone. The guilt, the pain, the self-loathing and the lack of self-reflect over every failure, the large and the irrelevant, he had made. Like a shimmering speck of light, the hardships floated out of his body and vanished, leaving nothing in their wake. Nothing, but for a single blinding ray of light, illuminating every corner of his soul in its glow. Inuyasha licked his lips.

"I…love you…Kagome…so much…" he whispered, the warmth of the light making him say the words he had never been able to say in life. Kagome smiled and lifted a hand to cup his cheek.

"I know," she replied. Inuyasha ducked his head then and kissed her, relishing the sweet taste after so long of living without her. Kagome put an arm around his neck as his hand wrapped around her waist, moulding her small body to his. Tasting all she had to offer and all he had been afraid to take, he felt warm tears slide down his cheeks. Nothing was left in his tortured heart now but bliss. Pure and utter happiness, and joy and love. The small chains the harsh world had thrown around his heart had shattered into nothing and released him.

"I've missed you…so much…" he confessed, pulling back.

"I've missed you too," Kagome nodded. She turned her head and lifted a hand. Inuyasha looked to see the door of her bedroom open to a shaft of bright white light, and Inuyasha ignored the tears of happiness streaming freely down his face as the glow within warmed him anew. "They're waiting for us…for you…" Kagome explained. Inuyasha took a small step forward.

"Who is?" he asked, staring at the light. Kagome came up beside him and took his hand again, entwining their fingers.

"Everyone."

Inuyasha looked down at their hands, then back into her gorgeous face. With a shared smile and soft sigh, he squeezed her hand.

"I'm ready."

The hanyou and miko stepped forward, hands bound together as they walked into eternity.

fin