Epilogue: Between Gods and Devils

"Stop that infernal laughing, Shippo," came the imperious tones of Mattaki, but his demand was for naught, because even as the kitsune tried to choke off his laughter Inuyasha took it up, practically rolling on the floor.

Mattaki stared at them for a moment in consternation, then looked at Sesshoumaru, a deadly light sparking in his eye at the hidden amusement he could just see in his son's eyes. "So you think this is funny, eh, Sesshoumaru? I bet you've been planning this for some time, haven't you?"

His son simply looked at him blankly, just as he always did. "Was it not you who said, 'paybacks are a bitch'?" he asked coolly, giving his father stare for stare.

Eyes narrowing, he returned, "And who is to say that I will even allow you this 'payback', eh? I could simply refuse to move from this spot, you know. Then where would you be?" his tone getting louder to override the laughing hyenas.

The males little pissing contest abruptly came to an end as Kagome, voice tight with pain, pointed at the door with a look of fury on her face. "Go! All of you, out!" She turned her glowering stare on her mate, who was opening his mouth to protest, and her fingers began to glow pink. "That mostly means you, Mattaki! I can't believe you – starting an argument over that stupid one-uppmanship thing you two have going - while I'm in labor!" she shrieked.

The males could all see the anger and pain in her eyes and immediately dragged a protesting Mattaki from the room, not surprised when a barrier went up around it as soon as they were out. And then Sesshoumaru turned with a smirk to look at his sire.

"That is how I can be sure you will move, father," he said smugly, greatly enjoying the dawning expression of understanding on his face.

"You... you sneaky little bastard!" Mattaki breathed, stunned at his son's ploy. "You knew that if you got me into an argument she'd get mad and kick me out! Oh, it's on now, boy. Just you wait..." he trailed off ominously, already plotting his counter-strike.

Shippo and Inuyasha just continued laughing, enjoying the long-running battle between the two immensely. They could hardly wait to see what Mattaki came up with in return. They were still laughing when their youngest brother Touga entered the room.

He shook his head and sighed as he eyed his brothers laughing figures and his father's angry pout. "Mother kicked you out, didn't she?' he asked, though it was really a pointless question as it was perfectly clear that was what had happened. He shrugged after a moment as his sire turned to look at him. "Oh, well. You don't need to be in there stressing her out anyway, you know, otou. I still remember when Shizuko* was born. You nearly drove her through the roof with your pacing and growling at everyone and whatnot."

Inuyasha grinned widely and put an arm around his youngest brother. "You're right about that, little brother. I think Sesshoumaru did your mom a favor, actually, with this little scheme of his," laughing again at the scowl on their father's face.

"Indeed," Sesshoumaru intoned dryly, also remembering how crazy their father had gotten at Touga's birth, though he was hard pressed not to smirk widely when an unimpressed Shiori grabbed her mate's fluffy white ear and exhorted him to quit his inane giggling already. The yelp his brother released brightened his eyes with pleasure.

"Disrespectful whelps," Mattaki growled, glaring at all his offspring inimically and ignoring the byplay. You'd all better watch your backs...

While Mattaki was contemplating revenge on a wide scale Kagome was busy bringing their third child into the world – and wondering why she hadn't learned her lesson with the first two. "I'm never letting him near me again!" she growled out, to the amusement of the midwives. They'd heard that one before.

The one near her head pressed a cool cloth to her face and let her have a sip of water as the contraction waned, though she was careful to keep it a small sip, much as Kagome disliked that and wanted to down the entire glass.

"Come, Kagome-sama, you know you do not mean that," she chided gently. "You've said that all three times now, and yet here you are."

Kagome glared up at her. "Yes, and I'm contemplating on the reason I didn't learn my lesson those first two times right now. This time I mean it!" she got out on a yell as yet another contraction crested over her.

"Yes, yes, Kagome-sama," she said soothingly, though she was still smiling knowingly. "We know you are serious this time. But you must put those thoughts aside and concentrate on bringing this babe into the world. You know you will be very happy to meet your newest little one."

She glared at the midwife though she didn't say anything, since she knew the woman was right. She'd be even happier that the labor was over once the child was born, however, and continued right on cursing her mate out as contraction followed contraction.

Fortunately, perhaps, for Mattaki's male bits - which Kagome had been threatening to take off towards the end of her labor - this being her third child the labor went much quicker and before she knew it she was holding her newest child in her arms – another daughter. She knew Mattaki would be ecstatic, since female inu were rare and their children, while technically hanyou, didn't present that way. Anyone not knowing would take them for full youkai – and be terribly confused when realizing that their mother was human.

Tearing her gaze away from her sleeping babe, which Mattaki always insisted was to be called a pup, she smiled wholeheartedly at her mate, her anger and threats completely forgotten in the joy of meeting her child. "Look, Mattaki, another daughter! She's so beautiful..." she went back to staring and cooing at her child as her mate approached quietly and with a sense of wonder in his eyes.

His nose was already busy twitching, taking in the clean, powerful scent of his newest pup, awe taking him over at the sheer purity of her aura. This child carried her mother's power, unlike the others, and he found he wasn't surprised to find that the babe was dark-haired and fine-featured, her ears more rounded than a youkai's though with a sylvan point to them.

"She looks like you," he breathed.

"No, she has your features and my coloring. But her eyes..." she shook her head, bemused, and watched her mate's face as he growled softly at the pup, who immediately turned to look at her father.

He gasped, startled.

Both of their other children had the golden eyes of their inu heritage, but this child... did not. She had eyes of the lightest, most crystal blue he'd ever seen on anyone, human or youkai. Her gaze was direct and piercing yet otherworldly, even as an infant, and he knew then that this child was something special. It radiated from her as her aura bumped up against his, instinctively knowing her father and responding to his growl. Whether her appearance was human or not, it was clear that her inu blood was strong.

"She's... she is..." he tried to articulate, and Kagome nodded.

"Yeah," she sighed. "She's beautiful, isn't she?"

"How could she not be with you as her mother?" he asked, a rather besotted smile on his face as his glance flicked up at her from where it had rested on their child.

Kagome blushed, because she knew at that point she was anything but beautiful – hours of painful labor tended to make a woman sweaty and messy.

But before she could answer her mate's observation a rap against the doorframe netted Mattaki's attention and he called out, "Come in," in a soothing voice so as not to disturb his daughter's sleepy snuffling against her mother's chest.

The door slid open and a gaggle of beings almost fell into the room; Inuyasha, Shippo, and Touga making enough noise to wake the dead as they rolled into the room, followed by a still small Shizuko, Sesshoumaru and Rin, as well as Shiori - who was glaring at her giggling mate - at a much more decorous pace... and decibel.

"Silence!" Mattaki hissed, and the three rolling around on the ground wrestling each other froze. "Your newest sister is sleepy, and I'll not have you three idiots disturbing her!"

With the sex of the newborn thus announced the group all piled close to the bed to get their first glimpse of the family's newest member. When Kagome pulled back the blanket swaddled around the babe just enough for the group to see her, several gasps were heard, as was Sesshoumaru's trademark, "Hn." They all watched as the pup sniffed and then turned to look their direction, and several comments were made as her eyes captured all their attention. Even Sesshoumaru seemed to be enraptured by his sister's crystal stare.

"Her soul remembers eternity," Sesshoumaru said softly after a moment; surprised, Mattaki looked at him.

"What do you mean?"

"It is why her gaze is so profound, even as an infant. Her soul – it remembers the true shape of things."

Kagome nodded – she understood what he was saying though his rather poetic turn of phrase surprised her. Just then, her child burbled and let out a small whine, and after already giving birth to two inu children she knew that sound.

So did the rest of the group save for Rin, and with their usual noisiness the mob moved back out of the room, Rin holding a sleepy little Shizuko's hand.

As soon as the room was clear Kagome opened her yukata and put the pup to her breast, watching with a quiet smile as her baby fed. "You were right all that time ago when you said that you couldn't regret having your sons, even if they died before you," she finally said softly, barely above a whisper. She didn't look away from her newborn to see the sharp look her mate shot her. "The thought of losing them... Touga, Shizuko, and now this little girl..." she sucked in a painful breath and blinked to keep the tears away, "... it hurts. But I couldn't regret having them." She finally looked up with teary eyes but a small smile. "We need to name her."

Mattaki looked down at his newest daughter, a surge of love and protectiveness washing through him with all the power of a force of nature. My little girl... He caught a flash of those oddly knowing crystalline eyes of hers, and said, "Minori."

Kagome blinked, and then nodded at the very appropriate name. Truth... yes, it fits. "Minori. Her eyes will always see the truth, she will never be blinded by falsity," Kagome said formally, basically blessing her child as she lay contentedly sleeping now that her first meal had been consumed.

The moment was broken as Kagome moved and wrinkled her nose with pain, her shoulders slumping a bit as her exhaustion finally caught up with her. Mattaki noticed and expertly took the infant from her, setting her to sleep in her little basket, and then helped his mate lay back in the futon to rest.

She smiled sleepily up at him, blinking drowsily. "Are you happy, Mattaki? You have no regrets about how your life has turned out?" she murmured, barely awake still but for some reason needing that reassurance. Her mate just looked at her, astounded that she would need to ask such a question, especially after so long together.

"Just what do you think I would have to regret, Kagome?" he asked her, surprise in his eyes as he gazed at her. "I have five beautiful, powerful children, a wonderful life, and the most important thing of all – you. What more could anyone ask from life?"

Her smile began to soften as she drifted off to sleep, a, "I'm glad," puffing through her lips on a sigh as her eyes finally closed and consciousness left her behind.

Mattaki chuckled a little at the sight of her like that, unable to help the softness in his eyes as he looked at her. She looked like an innocent little girl with her inky lashes laying against sweetly flushed cheeks, her plump, rosy lips just slightly parted. But she was far from a child, and certainly wasn't innocent any longer.

No... I have no regrets about how my life has turned out. The only real thing I'm sorry about is the now bad blood between Satori and I. For Sesshoumaru's sake I wish it had not been so. But I could not bring myself to love her, she who was so cold and arrogant to all around her. And I was not willing to allow her behavior around those I care for any longer.

He was just glad that Sesshoumaru was as unaffected by it as he was. He showed no interest in being around his mother much, and that was of course mostly because of Satori's reaction when he'd announced his decision to mate Rin. The female had blown her normal cool, actually ordering Sesshoumaru not to dare mate a weak human wench. Sesshoumaru had coolly informed her that he would do as he pleased, and if she did not like it then to go away and stay away, because he would not tolerate her attitude upsetting Rin anymore than his father had tolerated her behavior with Kagome.

He'd paused at that, looking contemplative, and then revised his words, remembering what he'd been told of his mother's visit to his father after he'd been brought back and the resulting divide it had placed between he and Kagome.

"Actually, I will tolerate your attitude less than father did. If you upset my mate I will kill you."

And then he'd turned and walked out, the whole thing being re-told to Mattaki by Inuyasha, who'd happened to be present when Satori had descended on her son with all of hell's fury. But Sesshoumaru was an immovable rock against her rushing tide, and finally her fury had been worn out and her son had simply dismissed her from his life without any seeming regret.

Even now, so many years later Sesshoumaru had only seen and spoken with his mother rarely, keeping her away from Rin entirely.

He wondered idly then, when one of his sons would make him a grandfather... he was kind of looking forward to that. So far, however, neither had shown any inclination towards having pups of their own, Sesshoumaru remarking to his question on the subject one day that as far as he was concerned, he and Kagome were breeding enough for all the inu.

Kagome's cheeks had burst into flames, but she couldn't deny it – she'd been pregnant with Minori at the time. Three pregnancies in a two hundred year time frame was apparently considered fast by youkai. But she had certainly given her mate an earful later that night over the fact that when Sesshoumaru had made his totally embarrassing observation, he had preened with pride and smirked widely, then said, "Jealous, boy, at my obvious virility? Afraid that you and your mate couldn't keep up?"

Mattaki chuckled again at the memory of his son's response and his mate's suddenly red cheeks and scowling expression. When she'd turned that glare on him he knew positively that Sesshoumaru had shuddered, because such a look on the good-natured Rin preceded great trouble for the one earning the look.

"I can produce four in one go, if you wish to see evidence of my virility, father. It would be no problem for me to 'catch up', as you put it."

Obviously Rin had disabused him of that notion, because Sesshoumaru never made such a statement again.

As for Inuyasha... well, he'd been mated less time than any of them, and he and Shiori just weren't ready – they wanted time to spend just to themselves, and Mattaki could hardly begrudge him the same thing he'd wanted with Kagome.

Still, it would be nice to have grandchildren, and he had the suspicion from the looks Rin had given her mate upon seeing the newborn that perhaps grandpups were not far off, at least on that front.

With a large smile he crept onto the futon next to his now deeply asleep mate and curled around her, pushing his nose into her neck and nuzzling the soft skin with a contented sigh.

No... I could never regret how things turned out. Dishonorable as it was, Inuyasha's actions actually brought all of us greater happiness then we would have had otherwise. I would have remained dead, and he and Kagome would have been very unhappy as mates.

Sometimes... great good can flower from bad roots.

He sighed again and allowed his eyes to fall closed, following his mate and new pup into the world of sleep, a small smile still on his face.

The future never looked so bright as it did right then as he left the waking world for the one of sleep, and the smile stayed with him all through the night...

Even when he was abruptly woken up by a loud, piercing cry from a not so contented pup who was demanding to be fed and changed at the top of her lungs.

"Well," he said ruefully, blinking sleep from his eyes just as his mate picked Minori up, "there's certainly nothing wrong with her lungs, is there? Sesshoumaru probably heard her over on the other side of the palace." His eyes narrowed at that thought and then his smile widened into an evil smirk. "Good pup," he murmured to the still squalling child as Kagome went about changing her soiled diapers. "Wake your nasty brother up... he deserves it."

Kagome just rolled her eyes as Minori, almost as if heeding her father's words, raised her voice even louder and continued to yell.

"If Sesshoumaru's grouchy when we all get up, you can deal with him," she admonished, giggling softly as he scrunched his face up at her. She let out a relieved sigh when Minori stopped screaming the moment she latched onto a nipple. "She really does have strong lungs," she murmured, smiling down softly at her baby. "We won't have any problems hearing her, that's for sure."

Mattaki just nodded as he raptly watched his child nursing, her question from earlier still lingering in his mind as his subconscious kept enumerating all the blessings that had been brought into his second chance at life.

But always at the forefront of them all was his mate...

That future she'd once feared so much had become bright and filled with joy, and he wouldn't give any of it up for anything.

He was where he'd always been meant to be...

With Kagome.


A/N: And done! This one went from a one shot to a monster, didn't it? But I'm glad I finally found time to finish it off. Hope everyone enjoyed, and thanks for following along with me on the roller coaster ride this story became!


*Shizuko-quiet child