A/N: Thank you so much for the reviews. I really can't believe that this story has come to an end! Way back when I first posted it, it was more of an experiment than anything, just to see what kind of reception it would get. I'm really glad that I kept going with it because it turned out to be better than I expected it to. I'd also like to point out that it's pretty much the first story I've ever updated regularly, so look at that, y'all are putting me on the path to good habits! I hope you enjoy the conclusion!
Even after five years, the Higurashi Shrine was still a peaceful and beautiful place. Taisho Kagome stood on the second to last step and surveyed her childhood home with something akin to pride in her gold-flecked brown eyes. The well house had been re-painted and repaired, the walkways had been completely torn out and laid anew, and their cheerful little house had been renovated over the years until it was nearly unrecognizable - yet, it still retained that simple sense of home that Higurashi Kimiko had tried so hard to provide. Even the Goshinboku, still as strong as she remembered and bigger than ever, seemed to wave at her in greeting as a wind stirred the branches.
Her right ear swiveled at a distant sound, and she glanced in the direction of the well house in time to see the door slide open. Higurashi Souta stepped out, holding a broom in his hands. He was much taller now, she saw, surpassing Kagome by a good four inches, and all of the awkwardness of youth was gone, replaced by broad shoulders and a lightly muscled body. Her presence went un-noticed as Souta turned back to the well house and held out a hand. Miho poked her head out of the well and said something to him that made Souta laugh as he helped her out onto the pathway. Suddenly, Miho's nose twitched, and her head snapped around to face Kagome.
"Kagome-oba-san!" she exclaimed.
"Nee-chan! You're back!" Souta dropped his broom and ran towards her. Kagome laughed as he scooped her up and spun her around. The motion made her dizzy, but it was worth it to have the chance to hug her little brother again after so long of being apart. "When did you get back? Why didn't you tell me that you were home? Where's Nii-san?"
"One question at a time," she scolded playfully, reaching out towards Miho when Souta finally set her back down. She hugged the younger girl gently before stepping back and smiling at both of them. "In order, we got back early last night. I didn't tell you because I wanted to surprise you. And Inuyasha had to go see Sesshoumaru, but I expect he'll be along in a few minutes. Those two still can't be in a room for more than a couple of hours before they start fighting." The affection in her voice made Souta grin as he slung an arm around her shoulders.
"How was Italy?" he asked eagerly. "And France? What was the United States like?"
"Beautiful, inspiring, and overwhelming, in that order," Kagome replied, brushing a few strands out of hair out of her face. "I'm glad to be home."
"Why don't you come in and have a drink with us?" Miho suggested. "You look tired, Oba-san."
"Sure. I'd like that. It's not like I have anywhere else to be," she kidded. After their wedding, Kagome had made the decision to not return to high school. She didn't fit in there, and it was pointless for her to try. However, that didn't mean she'd given up on her education; she'd gone on to do home-schooling, and she'd actually ended up graduating with the rest of her class. Inuyasha had put his foot down on any more school after that, and suggested that they travel the world, instead. He'd become fascinated with the idea that, in the modern century, people could travel far and wide fairly easily. Granted, it hadn't taken much convincing on Kagome's part to see the world, especially when Seiko and Matsu had agreed to come along. She didn't know what she wanted to do with her life, and there were still years left for her to figure it out.
Kagome was pleased to see that the inside of the house looked much the same as it had when her mother and grandfather were alive. She sat down at the western-style table and looked around appreciatively. "I love what you've done with the place, Souta. Mama and Jii-chan would have been impressed."
Souta blushed. "It hasn't been easy," he admitted shyly. "The money from Nii-san is more than enough, and the people he hired are fantastic, but… Sometimes I swear I could still see them here."
Kagome reached out and put her hand over his. "I admire you for staying here," she said quietly. "I'm not sure that I could have."
"Sure you could," Souta said, flashing her a weary smile. "You can do anything, Nee-chan."
"I concur," said Miho, placing a platter of cookies on the table. She added three tall glasses of fruit punch and sat down beside Souta. The way the two of them looked at each other was not missed by Kagome, who hid her grin with her glass of punch. "Do you think you'll be staying in Japan?"
"I don't know. Probably, for a while. I can't really fly right now."
"You can't? Why not?" Souta asked quizzically.
Miho stiffened and let out a low gasp, finally recognizing the subtle change in her aunt's scent. "You're not…"
"Oh my god!" With a cry of joy, Miho leapt out of her seat and started dancing around the kitchen. "I can't believe it. Yes!"
"What?" Looking between the two of them, Souta furrowed his brow. "What's going on?"
"I'm pregnant," Kagome said simply.
His jaw dropped as a look of complete shock spread across his face. He stared at her in stunned silence for several seconds. "You are?" he said at last, sounding rather dazed.
"Yeah." She rested her free hand on her stomach with a small smile. "I'm a few months along, so I probably would've been okay to fly for a little while yet. But it was a fight just getting Inuyasha to agree to let me come back here on a plane now. There's no way he'll let me fly until the babies are born, and even then, it will probably be a while."
"Did you say babies?" Souta blurted. Miho stopped dancing and turned.
"Did I forget to mention I'm pregnant with twins?" she asked innocently, laughing when Miho gave another strangled yelp and hugged her for a second time.
"I'm going to be an uncle?" Souta muttered under his breath, shaking his head. He'd known that it was coming sooner or later, but he still wasn't prepared for the idea of Kagome being pregnant. Yet now that he knew, he wondered how he could have possibly missed the signs. There was no discernible bump, but she had a glow to her eyes and a kind of quiet joy that hadn't been visible before.
"How did Inuyasha-oji-san react?" Miho asked, bouncing back into her place. "And Shippou?"
Kagome's eyes danced at the memory. Inuyasha had gone into a kind of shock that took him a good fifteen minutes to snap out of. He'd remained in a state of disbelief for several hours afterwards, like he kept expecting Kagome to turn to him and say that she was just joking after all. Shippou had been absolutely thrilled at the idea that he was getting younger siblings. There was certainly no worry about sibling rivalry there! Both of them had become even more overprotective of her than before. It was enormously frustrating and yet incredibly endearing all at the same time.
"He's very happy," she said at last. "They both are. Everyone was. It means that Onee-chan and I will be having children within a few months of each other. I'm happy about that." She shrugged. "And honestly, you can only travel so much before you start getting tired of it."
"Is that so?" A new voice inserted. Inuyasha was standing in the doorway, looking at her with a raised eyebrow. "I'll remember that the next time you decide you need to go to Italy to shop."
"That's totally different," Kagome said with a grin, rising to her feet. She walked over to him and deposited a kiss on his cheek. "Done with Sesshoumaru already?"
"Bastard will never change," Inuyasha muttered.
She giggled fondly, thinking that Sesshoumaru wasn't the only one who would never change. "I just told Souta and Miho-chan our news," she said.
Inuyasha's amber eyes softened and he rested a possessive hand on her stomach. Part of him was nervous when it came to having pups around. He'd never had much in the way of paternal care himself, so it wasn't like he had a role model to look up to. By the time Shippou had joined their family, the cub had already been a couple hundred years old, and really, was quite capable of taking care of himself no matter how much he tried to convince Kagome otherwise. So it was nerve-wracking, but there was another, stronger part of him that was just excited about the new additions to their pack.
"I just came to see if you were ready," he said.
Her fingers twitched automatically towards her pocket. "I am," she answered quietly. "Souta, Miho-chan, why don't you guys show Inuyasha around the shrine? I bet he'd love to see the improvements that you've made."
Souta gave her a curious look, but stood up, clearly recognizing that she wanted to be alone for a little while. "Sure. C'mon, Nii-san."
Once she was sure that the three of them were gone, Kagome turned and made her way back outside. A cool summer breeze was blowing, causing the white sundress she was wearing to flutter around her legs as she walked over to Goshinboku. She looked up at the great tree, remembering all of the things that had happened beneath its watchful eye. Inuyasha's sealing. Their first meeting. Her parents' proposal and wedding - and then the wedding of her and Inuyasha. Kimiko's death, and two years ago, her grandfather's death as well. Her smile tightened slightly and she sighed. The Goshinboku had seen it all… and now it would see the end.
From her pocket, she drew forth the shining pink jewel. In five long years, she hadn't made a wish on the shikon no tama. At her request, the others had spread rumors saying that the jewel had disappeared when Naraku did, which eliminated most of the youkai or humans who may have otherwise tried to pursue it. Those that did come looking for a fight quickly received one. It wasn't that she didn't think they could continue taking care of it, but as long as the shikon no tama existed, she lived in fear of the day that another Naraku would be spawned. It was time to lay the shikon no tama to rest.
With a deep breath, Kagome held the shikon no tama to her chest and threw all of her miko senses free. She had become significantly more powerful over the years, no doubt due in part to the fact that she had absorbed what Kikyou and Midoriko had to give on that day. Their combined power had taken her power in directions that she had never known existed. Her body tingled with feedback as the shrine became blanketed in a sea of warmth, and on the other side of the house, Inuyasha, Souta, and Miho all stopped what they were doing at the feel of the gentle touch.
"Midoriko-sama, Kikyou, I'm here," Kagome whispered. Her eyes were shut, so she didn't actually see them arrive… but she felt it. The world changed ever so slightly, like a shiver running through the air, and when she looked up, there they were. Both of them looked exactly like they had five years ago - though to be fair, so did Kagome.
"Hello, Kagome," Kikyou said with a regal nod.
"We were wondering when you would come home," Midoriko added with a fond smile.
"I'm sorry for taking so long. I didn't know what I needed to do back then," Kagome explained, smiling at them. For all of the heartbreak and pain that the two mikos had caused her, she felt relieved to see them again, like she was greeting long-lost sisters. "And I'm not sure my power was strong enough to bring you both to me at the same time. I wanted you here."
"Have you decided what your wish will be?" asked Midoriko.
"I've thought about it a lot," she admitted. "I had a hard time thinking of something to wish for. Everything I could want seems so trivial to what I already have, and I'm worried about what the ramifications could be when it comes to wishing on the jewel."
Midoriko was watching her closely. "Sometimes to get something, you have to sacrifice something of equal worth," she agreed.
Kagome nodded. "That's exactly what frightens me. So… I think…" She looked down at the jewel and then held her hand out in front of her, with the shikon no tama resting on her palm. Kikyou reached out and put her hand over top of the jewel, and then Midoriko placed her hand under Kagome's. Their support made her feel warm both inside and outside. "On three, okay? One… two…"
Three voices rang out in perfect unison.
"We wish for the shikon no tama to lose all of its power, and for us and the whole world to be free from it forever."
There was no bright, shining light. Actually, there was barely any reaction at all. One moment the jewel was there, and then next, it flickered and slipped from between their fingers. By the time it struck the ground, the fabled shikon no tama was nothing more than a clear, round little ball with the slightest hint of pink to the surface. Midoriko reached down and picked it up. Her fingers closed around it as a glowing smile spread across her face, and she raised her eyes to Kagome with gratitude shining in her gaze.
"Thank you, Kagome," she said softly. "I've been waiting for this moment for centuries. I'm free of the shikon no tama. No more eternal battling; I can finally rest. Thank you. For your help, I will give you all that I have left." The jewel gleamed brightly as she pressed the last of her restored power inside. "Take care of yourself and your family. Good-bye."
"Good-bye," Kagome called out. The jewel hit the ground for a second time as Midoriko vanished. Kikyou looked down at it and then knelt and picked the ball up.
"It's nothing more than glass, now," she remarked. "Excluding the trace of Midoriko's power, that is. Will you keep it with you?"
She looked at it thoughtfully, weighing her options. Kagome had hated the shikon no tama for so long that part of her wanted to just throw it away. But perhaps now it could be more than just a cursed object; it could be a symbol of the two greatest mikos to have ever walked the Earth. "I suppose. It holds no danger now. No one could use it now except for a miko, and anyone who tries to taint miko power is fighting a lost cause. I suspect that it would probably destroy any youkai that was foolish enough to try."
Kikyou glanced at her. "You should be proud of yourself."
"Eh?" Kagome blinked, startled at the sudden change in subject, and wondered whether that was meant to be a compliment or some kind of backhanded insult.
"I meant it in a good way," said Kikyou, rolling her eyes. "You've succeeded where I failed." There was a hint of bitterness to her voice, and the way she dropped her gaze to Kagome's midsection suggested that she wasn't just talking about the shikon no tama. Kagome flushed and unconsciously placed a hand on her stomach.
"Save it," the woman replied. "I didn't come here to make you feel badly about your life with Inuyasha. I won't lie and say that I don't dream about what might have been, but…" She sighed. "In retrospect, I think that you are much better for Inuyasha than I ever was. As much as it hurts to admit that, I can be honest."
What could she say to that? Kagome licked her lips, yearning to offer some form of comfort to Kikyou, but unsure of how to go about doing that. Her lost expression made Kikyou roll her eyes for a second time, but there was a little bit of a fond smile lingering around her lips as she closed her fingers around the jewel. A pale blue light shone around her hand, and Kagome gasped as she felt a strange wrenching in her chest. She opened eyes that she didn't even realize that she had closed and found herself staring at the jewel, which was now tinted a pale shade of violet, and looked nothing like the shikon no tama at all.
"What...?" she said blankly, unconsciously rubbing her chest. The ache had come from deep inside, at a place where she couldn't reach, but the feeling was fading fast. "Kikyou, what did you do?"
"Now you have the rest of my power," Kikyou replied, her smile morphing into a smirk as she grabbed Kagome's hand and forced the jewel into it. "I wasn't lying when I said that you already had most of it... I had to borrow a bit of it back to put everything inside of the jewel. But it's tied to you, now, and no one will be able to use it against you, not even another miko. Think of it as an additional source of power to protect your family." Her voice was filled with an affection that Kagome didn't even know Kikyou could feel, much less express.
"You... But Kikyou... I... You're... You're leaving?" Even though she'd been expecting it, particularly after Midoriko's departure, Kagome couldn't help feeling lost. She could feel the power humming inside of the jewel, and although it would meld easily with her own power, it was different from anything she had sensed before. It sang to her in a way that was ultimately comforting.
"I'm not even supposed to be here, remember?" said the older girl. Her form was growing faint, though she was disappearing more slowly than Midoriko. "I died a long time ago, Kagome. If it hadn't been for Urasue and her games, I would still be at peace." She smiled ever so slightly, her dark brown eyes glittering. "Though I cursed that witch every day of my existence, I now find myself grateful for her interference. Without her, I never would've have had the chance to meet you. Take care of Inuyasha for me, won't you?"
"I will," Kagome promised, a single tear slipping down her cheek. She'd been at odds with the jealous-and-bitter clay Kikyou for a long time, and she was glad that she'd gotten the opportunity to see the real Kikyou – the woman that Inuyasha had loved and lost. "Good-bye, Kikyou."
Just like that, she was gone, and Kagome was alone, with only a violet marble in her hands to ever prove that the two of them had been there. She lifted a hand to her cheek and brushed away the tears, then looked down at the jewel with a fond expression. Thanks to that small but precious gift, she would always have a part of Kikyou and Midoriko with her; their legend would never die as long as Kagome was alive. Slowly, she found herself smiling as she began drawing her power back into herself. As hard as it had been to say good-bye to the two mikos, she knew that she had given them what they had wanted the most: the ability to rest in peace.
"Kagome!" Having felt the gradual disappearance of his mate's power, Inuyasha felt safe in rounding the far end of the shrine and walking towards her. He knew better than to interfere when Kagome was working with serious miko power - she had nearly purified him once by accident, and the scare had kept her from so much as touching him for weeks, much to his annoyance - but he couldn't hold back any longer. Kagome turned to look at him with a quizzical expression as he hurried over to her, holding out his cell phone.
"What's wrong?" she asked curiously.
"It's time," Inuyasha told her, unable to hide his excitement. "Matsu just texted me."
Her breath caught as golden eyes widened. "It's... it's time? Now? Oh my god!" Kagome slipped the jewel into her pocket and grabbed the phone. Sure enough, the text from Matsu was brief and to the point: Seiko had gone into labour. She looked up with a glowing smile. "I can't believe it. Inuyasha, we have to get to the hospital!"
"What's going on?" Souta called out. He and Miho had followed behind Inuyasha more slowly. Kagome spun around and beamed at them.
"Onee-chan's in the hospital," she squealed. "It's time."
"O-Oh. Really?" Souta's eyes grew large, and he couldn't quite hide the grimace. He knew a lot about Seiko and Matsu from Kagome's repeated tales, and on the few occasions that he'd met them, he'd grown to like them. But the thought of Seiko - or of anyone - having a baby was nothing short of terrifying. Miho glanced at him and choked back a laugh, clearly picking up on what was going through his mind.
"You two go on ahead. Call us when Seiko-san has the baby, okay, Oba-san?" she said.
"We will. Come on, Inuyasha, I don't want to miss a thing!" Kagome grabbed his arm and started dragging him towards the stairs. Inuyasha rolled his eyes but followed her willingly, falling into step beside her. Once they were far enough down the steps that Miho's excellent hearing wouldn't pick up on their conversation, he stopped Kagome with a touch to her shoulder.
"Kagome, what happened with the shikon no tama?" he asked quietly, unable to keep the question inside any longer. Thoughts of the shikon no tama had often plagued him during their travels. He'd always been a little bit on guard even during their most relaxing times, always watchful for someone that might be a little too interested in his mate and the treasure she guarded. Even though rumours of the shikon no tama's disappearance had spread far and wide, there were some youkai and humans who were too desperate to believe them. Many times during the past five years, Inuyasha had urged her to make a wish and make the shikon no tama disappear for real, but Kagome had always refused with the promise to end it when she returned to the Goshinboku. That promise had carried him through more than one battle, and he could only hope that she had been able to follow through with it.
She stilled and twisted to look back at him. "It's gone, Inuyasha," she answered softly, one hand stealing into her pocket. Gently, she stroked the jewel and felt a burst of affection when a soothing pulse of warmth traveled up her arm. It was tempting to keep the jewel all to herself – after all, it had been meant solely for her – but there hadn't been any secrets between her and her mate for over five years, and she intended to keep it that way. Kagome pulled the jewel out, took his hand, and dropped it inside. Inuyasha frowned, puzzled at first, and then recoiled when he felt the buzzing warmth the jewel emitted.
"What?" he blurted, amazed and a little frightened. "Kagome... what is this?"
"It's what's left of the shikon no tama," Kagome said honestly, allowing him to drop the jewel back into her cupped hands. "Once it was purified... Midoriko-sama put her power inside. Kikyou did the same. It's little more than a collection of miko power now. No one else can use it except for me."
He regarded the small marble with suspicion. "You're sure that there's nothing of the shikon no tama left inside of it?"
It was a valid question. Kagome tilted her head. "Let's see. I wish that I had an ice cream."
Inuyasha tensed instinctively, his eyes darting around the stairs. But nothing happened, and Kagome's fingers parted to reveal that she was still holding the violet marble, which looked completely unchanged by her wish. The power inside hadn't even risen to the surface. Slowly, he relaxed, breathing a soft sigh of relief, though he continued to eye the little marble with a healthy amount of distrust. He wasn't sure that he liked the thought of Kagome carrying around something that had once been the shikon no tama, but he recognized the stubborn glint in her eyes. It had been a gift from Midoriko and Kikyou, two people that Kagome had grown to idolize, and nothing was going to make her let go.
"Just be careful with it?" he asked.
Her face softened, and she squeezed his arm as she slipped the jewel back into her pocket. "I will, I promise. If I ever sense anything the least bit dangerous from it, I'll get rid of it straight away."
Knowing that was the best he'd get, Inuyasha nodded and wrapped an arm around her waist as the two of them continued the rest of the way down the steps. Their car was still waiting at the road for them, and it was a short journey to the hospital. Kagome barreled straight up to the fourth floor, where she knew her sister would be, and once she was there it wasn't at all hard to find Seiko. All she had to do was follow the sounds of yelling, cursing, and a particularly interesting description of what would happen to Matsu if he ever touched her again. Biting back a smile, Kagome pushed the door open and walked in, leaving Inuyasha lingering in the doorway until he was certain it was safe. He wasn't afraid (exactly) but Seiko possessed an excellent arm and had the strength to throw hard enough to hurt even a hanyou's thick head.
"Onee-chan!" she called out. Both Seiko and Matsu turned to look at her. Kagome had to bite back laughter at the sight of the abject relief on Matsu's face. There was also a bruise on his right cheek, no doubt courtesy of a particularly painful contraction. "We came as soon as we could. How are you doing?"
"Alright, I think," Seiko said, releasing her painfully tight hold on Matsu's hand. "We haven't been here long, but the doctor said it probably won't take much longer anyway. Apparently, I'm progressing fast." She made a face and shifted with discomfort. "Not fast enough if you ask me."
She made no comment, but surveyed the room silently, taking in the weariness in Seiko's face. "Inuyasha, why don't you and Onii-chan go get something to drink?" she suggested at last. Matsu had expressed a desire to remain in the delivery room during the birth, but quite frankly, her brother looked like he was about to pass out on the floor. He'd never been good at dealing with Seiko when she was in pain, and she suspected that his patience levels were probably running on empty.
"Sure. Come on, Houshi." Inuyasha beckoned to Matsu. Without protest, Matsu kissed Seiko on the cheek and quickly disappeared out the door, leaving the girls alone. Kagome moved over and sat down beside Seiko in the vacated chair.
"How has he been?" she asked once she was certain the two were gone.
"Miserable," Seiko replied, rubbing a hand over her face. "He's been hovering worse than Inuyasha these past few weeks. I know he's just doing it because he cares, but… I was so glad when you said you were coming home, Kagome-chan. I wish we could have gone to Italy with you."
"Me too," Kagome said, patting her sister's hand with sympathy. Seiko had been looking forward to visiting Italy for a while, and she'd felt almost guilty visiting the magical city without her. "It sucks that you can't fly during your last trimester, but I doubt you would have enjoyed yourself anyway. But we'll go back someday. Maybe we can take the kids with us."
"I'd like that." Leaning her back against the pillows, Seiko sighed and then grimaced with pain, her hands flying to her stomach. "Oh god. I think another one is coming."
Kagome held tight to Seiko's hand as the older woman gasped, moaned, and panted her way through the contraction, all while trying not to wince. Because she was a hanyou and her children would be as well, her own pregnancy would not last as long as a human's would. She was four months pregnant and in another three, she would be ready to deliver. Time was going by much faster than she would have liked; she was not looking forward to the actual process, and Seiko's pain was only making her that much more nervous, though she made a fervent effort to hide it as Seiko's body finally went slack against the bed.
"Fucking… hell…" Seiko hissed as the door was pushed open. A young kitsune entered the room, wearing a cheerful smile and carrying a clipboard.
"It's time to check you again," she announced. "How are you doing, Seiko-sama?"
"I've been better," came the low reply.
The doctor just chuckled and stepped up to the end of the bed. Kagome looked away politely as she lifted the sheet and felt around. "I think it's just about time."
"Really?" they said together.
The kitsune smiled broadly. "Yes, really. Congratulations, Seiko-sama. You're about to be a mom."
A couple of hours later, Kagome walked down to the waiting room, where Inuyasha was sitting on the couch staring off into space and looking like he was having a difficult time with staying awake. For a moment, she hung in the doorway, silently observing him before he took notice of her presence. Her mate hadn't changed physically in the past five years - on a hanyou life scale, five years was akin to about five days - but mentally, he had grown up even more, and she enjoyed the rare, fleeting moments when she caught sight of the childish, stubborn hanyou that a headstrong, foolish young girl had once fallen in love with.
"Inuyasha?" she said softly. He blinked, and his head snapped around to face her. Kagome crossed the room and sat down on his lap. Before he could ask, she told him, "Everything's fine. The birth went perfectly. Onee-chan and Onii-chan have a beautiful baby boy. He's amazing." Her throat closed up unexpectedly and she swallowed hard.
"Kagome?" His sensitive ears had detected the hitch in her voice.
"I'm okay. It's just…" She trailed off, uncertain of how to put it into words. Knowing all of the pain and misery Seiko and Matsu had suffered, and not just during the birth, the sight of the exquisite joy in their faces as they held their newborn son was almost more than she could bear. Kagome had gotten a brief glimpse of the child before she left the room to give them some privacy, and knowing that the baby would never have to deal with the curse of the Kazaana had been overwhelming. Matsu's face had been streaked with tears when he leaned down and kissed his son for the first time, and she knew that he had been thinking the same thing.
"Just?" Inuyasha prompted, and she jumped, realizing that she'd drifted off into her own thoughts.
"Just… Amazing, that's all," she answered at last. "I can remember traveling and thinking that we were never going to get here. Sometimes I was so sure that we would die during the battle that I never dared to dream about having a life with you."
Inuyasha wrapped an arm around her waist. "Don't think about that bastard anymore. He's dead and gone."
"I know." She still woke up every morning and thanked god for that fact before she did anything else. It would have been horrible to have brought children into the world and known that their existence could be threatened by Naraku. Kagome sighed and started to lean against her mate, but stiffened suddenly, a low gasp spilling from her lips.
"Kagome? What's wrong?" Worried, Inuyasha pulled back to look at her.
"They kicked," Kagome said breathlessly. Grabbing his hand, she yanked it against her stomach. Inuyasha went to speak and stopped, his jaw dropping at the gentle fluttering beneath his fingers.
"You… They…" he sputtered.
Kagome laughed and kissed him. "They're moving," she said with a brilliant smile, beaming at him.
"Onee-sama?" Rin poked her head into the room. "The nurse said you guys were here. We're going to go visit Seiko-chan now that her parents have seen the baby. Do you - what's wrong?" She asked, startled by the sight of Kagome grinning like a loon and Inuyasha looking perplexed.
"Rin-chan, they're kicking!" Kagome squealed.
Rin was across the room like a shot. Laying gentle hands on Kagome's abdomen, she gasped and giggled at the sensation. As though the pups had registered the additional attention, the skin under her fingertips was fluttering like mad. "They sure are. It won't be much longer now."
Somehow, that wasn't quite as frightening a thought as it had been before. Kagome smiled to herself and stood up, hauling her dazed mate along with her. The two of them tagged along behind Rin as she led the way towards Seiko's room, which had a lot more occupants than when Kagome had left. Seiko's parents, Yukio, Sesshoumaru, Rin and their newest pup, Souta, Miho, Ayame and Kouga were all standing in the room. Miho winked in Kagome's direction as she and Inuyasha entered, and Kagome shot her a smile in response, wondering how the girl had gotten Souta away from the shrine.
"He's lovely, Seiko-chan," Ayame was saying, smoothing back the baby's soft, downy hair. "Do you have a name for him yet?"
Seiko nodded and exchanged a smile with Matsu. "I think we're going to name him Mamoru," she said. "In the hopes that he'll grow up to be every bit the strong protector that his Uncle Inuyasha is."
Inuyasha choked and didn't say anything for a moment, seemingly overwhelmed. Finally, he stepped forward and looked down at the little bundle, examining the flushed skin and clenched fists. Dark eyes opened and peered up at him. Slowly, he reached down and ran a single claw down the baby's face. "If he's anything like his parents, he'll do fine."
Matsu smiled and laid an arm around Seiko's shoulders, every inch the proud papa. Kagome stepped closer, leaning against his other side, and watched as Seiko coached Inuyasha on holding a human baby for the first time in his life. She couldn't quite hold back her smile in spite of her best efforts as the clearly terrified hanyou gingerly took the child and cradled him. There had been a time - many times, actually - when she had been certain that they weren't live to see the end of Naraku. But they had, and with every day that went by, their future was looking brighter than ever.
The end. Please review!