Sesshoumaru set his quill down on his desk and sighed, relaxing back on his cushion and looking out the wide-open shoji into the gardens that had been planted around this area of the palace by his irrepressible mate.

Kagome had proved to be an irreplaceable boon to him in so many ways over the years since he had mated her, and he could honestly say that he had never before known the slightest bit of comfort or happiness 'til the night he had finally taken her as his in every way that counted.

That night was still fresh and untainted by time in his memories and he revisited it often in his thoughts, even as he often opened the special, locked cabinet he'd had made to his specifications and looked on the painting he had done of her as she had been that night. Her fair beauty had been warmed by silks of scarlet and framed by black cloth of the same silk and he was glad he'd thought of painting her that way.

No one besides he but she herself had even seen the painting, and no one ever would – he was not willing to share that image of her open and abandoned to him with anyone else. It was too precious, too private and perfect to do so. He had spent years believing even he would never see her thus, and sometimes he still had trouble believing this wasn't all some sort of glorious dream.

If he ever were to wake and find himself still trapped by that dreadful bitch Yue he was certain that he would instantly wither away with the most intense grief – the same grief that any thoughts of losing his mate engendered within him.

But it wasn't a dream, a dream brought about by his years of painful longing – no, this was the joy that his life now was. Now he was not trapped within a few areas of his palace in order to avoid the presence of a mate he'd never wanted, but free to roam wherever in his home he wished – and he did just that quite often. Usually with Kagome, as he disliked being away from her for any reason even with the spiritual closeness afforded them through their bond. He wanted to be able to see her all the time. It was a deep, unending need. He needed to see her to believe she was really there, and that need had not abated in all the years since their mating. He was beginning to understand that it never would.

Even now he would be at her side – had he not been chased from the birthing rooms by the midwife and her assistants when he became too unstable to control himself due to the pain his laboring mate was suffering. He could feel every bit of it thanks to that same bond, after all, and he found himself agreeing quite heartily with what women had always said about laboring to deliver a child. It was most assuredly much, much more painful than anything he'd ever felt before, and he knew that if he hadn't been getting a lesser version of the agony his mate was going through the Western Lands would have already been destroyed. The next time he heard a male laugh at his pregnant or whelping female and state that she was just exaggerating the pain, he would make sure they lost a limb or two.

He snorted and then allowed his mind to wander back to the original path his thoughts had been on before that little detour.

It was good that his child was coming now as opposed to tomorrow, because tomorrow would not have been so good – the palace had geared up to prepare for his brother's mating. He was hosting a feast in their honor, and Kagome would have been devastated to not only miss it but interrupt it.

Yes, he was actually hosting a feast in his brother's honor, as strange as that may seem.

His mind wandered over how the current circumstances had come about.

About a year after his mating to Kagome, Inuyasha had shown up at his palace and asked to see her. At first he had been inclined to turn his brother away. After all, how important could his little mate really be to his half-brother if he'd stayed away for an entire year – and that after not seeing her for sixty? However, when he'd demanded an answer from the whelp to just that question, his fury had been drained away when the boy had answered. He had stayed away, he claimed, to give them time to bond and become close – and for his brother to become comfortable with their bond and realize that he, Inuyasha, was no threat to it.

He'd been understandably suspicious of such an answer at first – but Inuyasha had scented of total honesty in that moment, and finally he had relented and allowed the hanyou to visit with his mate.

Kagome had been happy enough to see him, and after that visits had been frequent. After a while he had gotten to know his brother much better than he had ever thought to and realized that he was no longer a boy, but had grown up and changed a great deal. He'd become someone that he could almost... like. And so he had offered to take his brother under his wing, even training him personally once Inuyasha had agreed.

He'd been surprised to see that he hadn't needed as much of that training as he'd thought – he'd already trained himself quite a bit and had actually gotten over most of his bad habits on his own. Now, Inuyasha was someone he could actually say he would not be ashamed to fight beside. Not that he'd say it out loud, of course. He still had his pride, after all.

He winced as he felt the tenor of Kagome's birthing pains change, and when he sent a surge of reassurance through their bond he felt her return love and the knowledge that it was almost over – her pains had changed as it had become time to push their child from her body. He was left breathless and with nothing to say; all he could do was send a sense of excitement through the bond as that emotion flooded his mind and body and pushed everything else out. He could hardly wait to see his new pup – hanyou or not.

Still, he knew that it would be some little time yet, and forcibly going back to his previous thoughts he stood and walked over to the doors into the gardens before stepping out of them and down into the garden itself, letting the fresh air and beautiful scents wash his tension away.

Wondering where Inuyasha was as well as Gin he flared his aura out, seeking theirs, and was surprised to find them in the dojo together. After a moment's thought that surprise drained away. Inuyasha was probably trying to work off the tension of his imminent mating, and his son was most likely simply finding whatever he could to hold back his excitement at finally having a sibling.

There would be no division in his house at the birth of a hanyou pup – both of his pups, unlike he and Inuyasha, would grow up together and with the knowledge of what it was to be pack. And he was glad of that fact.

Ginkoutaishii had actually been a bit jealous at first, not wanting to share Kagome with a sibling – and a sibling who was Kagome's full child, as he was not. He had been acting very much out of character, and Sesshoumaru'd had no idea of what was wrong with his son – but Kagome had, and she had been the one to take the boy aside and speak to him about it. Afterward, with the assurance of also seeing how her treatment of he and even Shippo had not changed one whit with the impending birth of this child, he had settled down and even become excited at the thought of having a younger sibling.

Wandering aimlessly through the gardens as he awaited word of his child's birth, he couldn't help the quick smirk that flashed across his face as he thought of Shippo. The young male was quite popular with the females, his dashing personality grabbing their attentions very easily. But he was still a bachelor despite all of that, content to work his way up through the ranks of the army with his also formidable military genius. Before long he would be a General, and the youngest one to ever attain that rank, too. He was particularly brilliant at finding ways to incorporate his now very powerful - due to his fourth tail - kitsune magic into battle tactics, and anytime he was sent out and placed against an opponent it was a sure victory for the West, for he was undefeated – whether in war or even in personal combat except by he, himself.

He smirked at the thought – even Inuyasha hadn't been able to beat the young male, and the times he himself had fought Shippo the kitsune had simply grinned his irrepressible grin when he inevitably lost and shrugged, saying that he was what kept him from becoming overbearing and arrogant about his skills. He shook his head at that thought, amused, because the truth of the matter was that it was Kagome that kept him from getting overbearing and arrogant and no one else. Like every other being of even modest intelligence, if the truth were to be told – and that included him as well. His mate could certainly be terrifying when she wanted to be, there was no denying that.

Of course, it went without saying that Inuyasha's mate-to-be was just as dangerous and terrifying when needed, and he had no doubt that she would be able to keep his temperamental brother in check. Kagome still had the power of the kotodama, but she was reluctant to continue to use it because it was no longer her place. When she had tried to take it off of him, however, he had refused, as had his mate-to-be, Mine – he had told her of his unstable blood, and both wished to keep the kotodama on him for use as a last resort, so to speak.

Mine was a full-blooded inuyoukai, a powerful female who was fairly highly ranked in his army, but as with most other youkai she had at first had no idea of what Inuyasha's youkai blood could at times cause. And though it was less likely now than it had once been that he would be in such desperate straits as to have his youkai blood become so dominant again what with his training and his even greater strength in the here and now, it could still happen. Once Mine had been made aware of the potential problem she had also agreed that it was best if Kagome keep those beads in place. Just in case.

A sudden increase in the already incredible pain his mate was experiencing had his eyes going crimson and his fangs elongating as his instinctual side began to overpower his control – he could feel the pain almost as much as his mate could, which was why he had stayed away from others – his control was very thin and he was drenched in sweat with trying to function through the pain. That was why he'd tried losing himself in his memories – it had been a rather vain attempt to stop this very thing. While his instinctual side knew this was a natural pain, a good pain that meant the birth of the pup born of his love for his mate, it didn't at this moment care – she was in pain and he did not like anything that caused her pain.

He clenched his eyes closed as he tried to fight off the now overwhelming pain and regain his usually impeccable control so that he did not destroy his own palace by taking his true form while inside its confines. But despite his own high tolerance for pain, it was the rush of love and faith from his mate when she realized his struggle that ultimately gave him the strength to fight off the fog in his brain because of said pain. As his eyes once more calmed to gold he was again left stunned and breathless at his mate's formidable strength and her unfaltering courage and determination.

She was in agony. He could feel it, and yet she had the strength to not only notice something outside her own exhaustion and pain, but to bolster him enough to calm him down once more. Unable to help himself he sent her his own unending and undying love and some of his strength through the bond, knowing that it was almost over – his pup was even now breaching its mother's body and readying to take its first breaths. Turning from his wanderings in the garden he hurried to the birthing room, moving faster than any of his subjects had ever seen - though they all had the intelligence to get out of his way, knowing that he was heading for his mate.

By the time he arrived at the room he had ordered set aside as a birthing room the doors had been opened wide in welcome to their Lord and he swept inside. Impatient now to see his mate and make sure she was okay he strode swiftly to her bed, even though he could feel through the bond that she was fine although absolutely exhausted. He could feel her elation as well, and it fed his own rising excitement.

He would never forget his first sight of her holding the tiny bundled form of their pup to her chest and looking down at it with a glow in her eyes. And despite her mussed form, sweat-drenched and wan-looking, she was so beautiful in his eyes at that moment that she made his heart ache with the glory of it.

"Kagome," he murmured in relief – both of her pain and his own sharing of it.

She turned at his uttering and looked up at him with adoration in her softly glowing eyes, and smiled, a wide, uncomplicated and beautiful smile. "Look, Sesshoumaru... our baby! She's beautiful and so perfect. She looks just like you!" she exclaimed softly, once more looking down at the bundle-wrapped form of their... daughter. She sighed, and then lifted the pup up to him as he arrived at her side.

Her? A... female. That was something that for some reason he had not expected. The truth was, female inu were rare, and he'd just assumed for some reason that this pup would be a male, just like his heir. The fact of the matter was that his line had only produced three daughters in as many millenia. But he wasn't disappointed – no, he was elated. A daughter!

He sat down on the bed as the healers and midwife worked around him clearing the afterbirth and straightening the room. Once he'd settled his pup on the thick, soft, sheets he was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to see his daughter. Would she resemble his brother with the ears that Kagome had always loved so much?

As he unwrapped her carefully he found that she did not. In fact, his mate was right – she looked just like him, all her markings, the crescent, everything even down to his ears. The only thing different was her eyes – they were blue like her mother's. Confused, he sniffed so as to take in her scent and memorize it, and was shocked to realize that she didn't scent as a hanyou at all. She smelled just like he and his son, and as he took in the feel of her aura and her youketsu he was stunned to realize that she was quite strong – just as strong as his son and heir.

"Kagome," he murmured in awe, looking up to meet her satisfied and happy eyes, "she is not..." he trailed off, simply unable to voice his confusion and awe.

But she smiled, understanding what he wanted to know, anyway.

"She's not hanyou. But she does carry some of my reiki," she added after a moment. "Enough so that no miko or houshi will be able to hurt her unless they are more powerful than me."

"But how is this possible?" he asked, just so confused and proud and still trying to take it all in even as he re-wrapped his perfectly formed pup and cuddled her close, nuzzling into her softly rounded cheek emblazoned with his own refined, magenta cheek stripes.

His mate of twenty years shrugged. "I suppose because my own body is now closer to youkai than human with my youkai-like health, extended youth, and undefined longevity, your blood simply added enough to mine to bring her into being as she is. But it doesn't really matter – what matters is that she's here, perfect and as beautiful as her father and brother." She smiled almost wistfully as she watched her mate rumble soothingly to their daughter, all while running his clawed fingers gently through her already rather long silver hair and sighed, content. "I'm glad she looks like you – I had hoped she would."

"She has your eyes," he replied, unable to look away from his pup.

"All babies have blue eyes. Hers might well change," Kagome returned. She was about to say something else when noise from the door drew her attention, and she smiled in tired welcome to Ginkoutaishii and Inuyasha as both peeked in hopefully. "Come in, both of you," she said, motioning them over. Her smile widened as they rushed over almost clumsily.

Sesshoumaru finally looked away from his newborn daughter and up at his son. After a moment he lifted the infant to give her to her brother, who took her with a natural ease that most human males didn't have when around newborns. As the young male stared down in wonder, their father said, "Welcome your sister, my son. She is pack and to be protected at all costs."

Both Ginkoutaishii and Inuyasha were surprised at his words, also having expected a male, but not in any way disappointed – both were delighted, in fact.

"What are you going to name her, father?" Ginkoutaishii asked as he smiled down at his softly cooing sister and rumbled in welcome to her, making her smile up at him and rumble in return. He grinned at the tiny sound, as did his uncle.

Sesshoumaru was silent for a moment and then he looked at his mate, wishing her to approve his choice. "Yuzuki," he said softly. Motioning for his son to hand the child to him, he held her up for her family members to see when his mate smiled in acceptance and said, "This child's name is Yuzuki."

"Yuzuki," everyone else replied to finish out the small naming ritual.

"Gentle moon," Kagome said quietly, looking at her child almost pensively where she was nestled in the crook of her father's arm protectively. "It's beautiful. And perfect, too."

And indeed it was. Everyone there could feel the child's immensely strong aura – and its gentle wash as it wrapped around them all, leaving all of them calm and feeling content and happy. Look like her sire she may, but she was definitely her mother's child.

It was of course Inuyasha that broke the contented quiet. "Oi, wanna let me hold my niece now? And tell me why she smells and looks like a full youkai?" He snickered, then. "Shippo's gonna be pissed he missed this – that's what he gets for volunteering to head training missions, the idiot."

The kitsune had offered to lead any training missions with alacrity last week and was not due back until late tonight. It had been his way of getting away from the suddenly once more unstable Inuyasha. By contrast, Mine was completely calm.

Kagome shook her head as she laughed helplessly, and Sesshoumaru sighed inwardly as he carefully handed his daughter to his brother with a narrow-eyed glare and a warning to be careful, which Inuyasha immediately took offense to.

"Keh! As if I'd hurt my own niece!" he glared back at his brother for a moment before finally looking down and getting a good, long look at the pup as his nephew crowded close. He immediately melted as she cooed at him, an instinctive, soft growl breaking from his chest as he gave his own welcome and acknowledgment to the tiny pup. "She's so beautiful," he said softly as he stared down at the babe in wonder. "Keh. You're gonna have to beat the males away from her in droves when she grows up," he said to his brother, who growled at the thought, all three males in the room in that moment agreeing silently to keep every last one away from her – no matter how they had to do it. Inuyasha had completely forgotten his question about her lack of hanyou features and scents as he watched her watch him.

The bonding moment was broken by Yuzuki herself, who put up a cute fuss and nuzzled her uncle's chest looking for a meal. "Oi, pup," he said gruffly, "you ain't gonna find your dinner here." After nuzzling the little girl for a moment he stepped forward carefully and handed her to her mother, then immediately grabbed his nephew by the arm and practically dragged him from the room. "Come on, boy, time to go," he growled as they left the room and the door slid shut.

"Hey! I wasn't ready to leave yet!" protested the young inuyoukai prince, and Inuyasha laughed.

"You really wanna stay in there while Kagome feeds your sister?" he asked as he continued pulling the reluctant form of his nephew away from the room. "I don't think your father would allow it even if Kagome would. There's just some things a brother can't help his sister with – and this is the first one," he chuckled.

It took the boy a moment, but then he blushed deeply and stopped fighting his uncle's hold. Both Sesshoumaru and Kagome couldn't help but be amused as their voices faded away, and Kagome pulled open her yukata to put the babe to a breast that was heavy with milk.

"Are you happy, my sweet?" Sesshoumaru finally asked after watching his pup feed for a few minutes. Though he could feel her joy through their bond, he still felt compelled to ask.

"Happier than I ever thought I'd be," she answered with a loving smile at him and a pulse of adoration through said bond. "I thank kami everyday for their blessing in giving us to each other. And I will never regret the circumstances that brought us to each other, either."

He knew she was speaking of the well closing and trapping her here, and her loss of her family in the future. Though now it didn't matter since she would live to see that era again, at the time it had happened she hadn't known that. He was touched by how much she was willing to give up, even unknowingly, to be with him. He would give up just as much, he found with no surprise, to be with her.

Eyes softening on her, he reached out and took her hand from where it supported their feeding daughter and squeezed it without pulling it from its important task. "I also, would give anything to be here with you, Kagome."

It was all he said, but Kagome understood everything that was left unspoken and smiled tearfully at him. After a moment she turned her attention back to their infant, who was fussing again slightly, needing to switch breasts.

Latching on to the offered nipple immediately with a tiny grunt the little pup began feeding greedily again, watched indulgently by her parents.

Sesshoumaru almost wanted to laugh with the irony of the pup before him. His mother had forced him to mate that heinous wench Yue so many years ago, believing that any pup Kagome would bear him would be not only hanyou, but weak. But the tiny pup impatiently rooting at her mother's breast was anything but weak. Her youki flared around her in strong whirls and tides, and it would only grow stronger as she grew into her full stature. And as for the hanyou part... well, she didn't look hanyou nor did she smell hanyou.

On top of that, the scent of purity coming from her proved that mating the miko had actually strengthened his line – Yuzuki was immune to any attempt to purify her unless the person attempting such was stronger than Kagome – which wasn't happening.

Yes, Yuzuki was every bit as strong as her brother – and she had an advantage over him with her mother's blood and power flowing through her veins. It was a protection that his heir didn't have – while the attackers would have to be very strong, his son could be overwhelmed if enough of those with reiki or houriki attacked him. Yuzuki would just brush such an attack right off.

It caused an uncomfortable feeling inside him – but Kagome picked up on it just as she always seemed to know what he was thinking. Even the closeness of their bond couldn't explain it fully, but that was a thought for another day.

"I can bind my blood to Gin's to protect him in the same way, Sesshoumaru," she said, smiling at him sympathetically. She knew that he had often wished that his heir was also her pup by blood, though she treated him just like he was her child. And she knew that Gin himself had wished the same – he'd said it often enough. But while his true origins couldn't be changed, she could protect him as her blood would do naturally for her daughter. "That's what I've been studying for the last year – I've been searching for a spell to do just that, and once I found it I had to be able to perform it correctly. It's not a spell for a beginner, that's for sure. But I'm ready, and I can do it after I've recovered from birthing this little one." She looked down with love at their pup, who was now mostly finished with her first meal and was slowly falling asleep, her suckling slowing as she drifted off. "It will be as close to making him my son as we can get."

Pleased and relieved, Sesshoumaru met his mate's gaze with those emotions swimming in his eyes. "This will certainly please Gin," he acknowledged. "And it pleases me, as well. My son will be safe from purification by all those rogue miko and monks now running through the lands trying to rid the world of all youkai." Sesshoumaru himself didn't have to worry about such – their bond would protect him from any chance of purification, as well. It was only his son that had been at risk. His brow furrowed. "What of Shippo – and Inuyasha and Mine?" he asked, thinking it odd that she had not mentioned sharing her blood with the others. As much as she loved them all, it was strange for her not to extend to them an offer of protection such as this.

She grinned as she took their pup from her breast and settled her in the little bamboo basket that had been set beside the bed for her. She didn't miss her mate's interested stare at her now much plumper breasts. It made her flush with pleasure that he would still be so attracted to her now fuller curves.

"I intend to offer them the same chance," she admitted as she slowly wrapped her yukata back around herself, cutting off her mate's view - to his displeasure as he finally met her eyes. She chuckled at the petulant look in them at his loss. "Come on, Sesshoumaru, stop pouting. While I've healed my body from the labor, I'm too tired to receive you tonight. You'll just have to wait 'til tomorrow."

A soft sigh coming from lips thinned with displeasure Sesshoumaru merely nodded, then reached out and tucked a rebellious strand of raven hair behind his mate's soft, rounded ear. His expression softened as he took in that weariness on her face and in her eyes.

"Sleep then, little mate, and I will watch over the both of you. Rest deeply in the knowledge that I will be protecting you, my love," he smiled slightly at her sleepy nod, her lids already falling over blue eyes dulled a little with her body's need for rest.

"Mmm, 'kay," she mumbled, already mostly asleep. "Love you, 'Shoumaru," she added, her voice slightly slurred as sleep softened her ability to speak.

Pulling the covers over her he turned and gently picked up the basket that held his precious daughter. He moved around to the other side of his now sleeping mate and climbed onto the futon with her. He would wait to take them from the birthing chambers and into their own until Kagome had slept for at least a little while.

Sitting back against the wall, he settled the basket on the bed before him and stared down with wonder in his eyes at his beautiful little 'gentle moon'. She was everything any inuyoukai family could want, and he felt a distant echo of that bitterness he'd felt towards his mother for so many years surge up in him as he looked at her beautiful features and allowed her potent but gentle aura to caress his own, even in sleep and just newly born recognizing her sire's aura.

So many years lost for nothing, mother, he thought, almost spitting with the poison still buried deeply inside him towards those who'd made his life such a hell for so long. Even you could have found nothing wanting with my pup – except that she isn't a hateful, aggressive, self-centered and tainted bitch. No... she carries the soft heart of her mother if nothing else, though she also carries all the great strength of her inuyoukai heritage. I choked on the bitterness I felt for you and the others for sixty years, and all for nothing more than your inability to see beyond your prejudice.

He sighed, flicking a glance up at his mate as he did, then looked back down at their sleeping pup. Truthfully, it was a prejudice that I myself almost drowned in, coming so close to never allowing myself to see the worth in my mate because of it. As that knowledge settled into his heart and mind he shook his head and felt much of the bitterness he'd held finally melt away. For truthfully, how could he blame her completely for something he himself had once been guilty of?

Oh, he would always blame her for what she had done in forcing him to mate someone he despised, but... he could not honestly continue to blame her for things he was also guilty of believing.

His heart lightened considerably as he sat in that bed watching over his newest pup and the mostly human woman that had given her to him. Fortunately for him he'd let go of his hatred and prejudice, and this was his reward.

It was a reward that was worth everything, just as his father had told him it was all those years ago.

I am no longer bitterly yours, mother – I am no longer yours at all.

He looked up at the commotion coming down the hall and smirked – then motioned for the male now framed within the doors to come in, though silently. As the kitsune caught his first glance of his sister, Sesshoumaru stood and slid the doors into the room shut quietly...

And the last little bit of lingering bitterness faded away as his pack became whole once more with Shippo's return to the palace, never to be felt by him again.


A/N: And done! Just a little bit of romance and fun to welcome in the New Year in Sess/Kag style. Hope everyone had a good time reading this!