Kagome leaned back against Inuyasha's chest and yawned. The dinner Kaede prepared had been wonderful. There was plenty to eat, which was good because she hadn't had lunch and Inuyasha, as always, was starving. Shippo launched himself at her as soon as he knew she had arrived - and promptly announced to everyone that she smelled like 'Inubaka all over'. With a great deal of blushing on both their parts, and a proud smirk on Inuyasha's, they informed the group that they were a mated couple. Kaede offered them congratulations and a blessing. Sango blushed and gave Kagome a teary hug. Shippo pouted and insisted she would take the hanyou's side from now on - to which Kagome promised she would always defend him as long as he deserved it. Miroku leered and made lewd insinuations. He spent most of the meal unconscious due to simultaneous blows from Inuyasha and Hirokatsu.

Kagome snuggled deeper into the warmth of Inuyasha's chest and let out a contented sigh. It had been awful - those months away from him. There were times when she contemplated any means to get away from the emptiness that filled her in his absence. She tightened her fingers on his and smiled, turning her face into his nagajuban and whispering, "Totally worth it."

"What's that?"

She grinned and leaned back to see his face, careful to keep her balance on the limb they sat on. She wasn't really concerned about falling from the Goshinboku; Inuyasha had ahold of her, and he would always keep her safe. His eyelids drooped a bit, but he didn't look tired. A fang protruded over his lower lip in a sweet doggy-smile. He was so exotically beautiful. All of the pain she had been through, wondering if he loved her, waiting for him to get over Kikyou, even the months isolated in the future, they had been worth living through as long as she got Inuyasha in the end. And she had him. Instead of explaining that, she said, "The dinner. I thought it would be much more awkward, but it feels good that everyone knows. And they are all happy for us. I knew they would be, but still...it's nice." She gave him a one-armed hug and squeezed their hands where their fingers were laced together.

"Keh. It would have been worse if the monk were awake." Inuyasha's eyes narrowed. "I'll make it clear before we set out again that he needs to keep his hands and eyes to himself."

"And his perverted comments?"

"He better!" Kagome giggled at his adamant insistence and he gradually lost his scowl in place of a small smile. He stroked her hair with his claws. "There is a rumor of a shard to the east, but it can wait for-"

"We can go," Kagome interrupted. "As long as you don't mind eating breakfast with Mama so we can tell her the news. And I need to grab my bag. We can leave right afterwards." She knew he was probably shocked that she was willing to go without a fight, but there were few things that could ruin the good mood she was in at that moment. She would end up going on the hunt anyway, and leaving right away would make Inuyasha happy. If he was happy, then she would be too. Well, for the most part, anyway. She required a few other things as well.

"You'll want to talk with her. We'll leave the day after tomorrow," Inuyasha said decisively.

"Oh? Think I can't help but blabber? It will take me a whole day to run out of things to say, huh?" She managed to make her tone sound insulted, but she was struggling not to laugh at the chargin on his face.

"Noooo, I didn't-"

"It's okay," she kissed the corner of his mouth gently and chuckled. "I do talk a lot, and this is something Mama will want to discuss in-depth. I was just teasing you."

"Keh, I knew that." Inuyasha hrrumphed and Kagome pressed a second kiss to his jaw, then a third, before he relaxed. "You can get some more ramen while we are there."

"Hmmm. Yes, I need supplies. I'll see if I can get into the clinic, too. For, ah," she blushed and ducked her head into his chest. It didn't seem to matter that she had seen him naked, and vice versa, and that they had done things together that, well...really great things together. She still couldn't look him in the eye and talk about contraception. "That medicine to make sure I don't get pregnant right away." They sat in silence for a while until Inuyasha's halting words broke it.

"You don't mind, do you?"

"Mind what?" she asked sleepily.

"That our children will be half-breeds, less than that even." Kagome couldn't help herself, she slapped him across the chest - hard.

"Do not ever call our children that again, Inuyasha no Togao! They won't be less than anything," she lost some of her anger looking at the shocked expression on his face. He really is worried that our children wouldn't be accepted. "They'll be perfect," she whispered. She smiled gently and brushed her fingers over his cheek. "You better get used to it, because I won't let anybody talk down on a hanyou - not even you."

"You think you can tell me what I can call myself?" He growled, a teasing tone in his voice that warmed her heart.

"Nobody talks bad about my mate," she growled back and snapped her teeth at him.

The following passage is rated MA, and can be found on my website.

Use the link on my profile page, or web search Susan Amund.

"You're sure he got the message?"

"He'd have to be an idiot not to understand," Sango rolled her eyes and blushed. Kagome had linked their arms together, and for once they strolled at a leisurely pace rather than being rushed by a grumpy hanyou. She spared their leader a glance. Inuyasha walked at the front of the group, steadfastly ignoring Miroku's winks and obvious throat-clearing. Shippo sat on the monk's shoulder, occasionally glancing back at the women. He often grinned, and Sango knew he was excited about whatever surprise he and Miroku had planned for the inu, but Sango also knew he looked back so often to reassure himself that Kagome was still there. He had been badly affected by her prolonged absence and it would take time for him to trust that she would not leave without word again.

"You were using step two though, right?" Sango nodded at Kagome's quiet inquiry, feeling her face heat up even further. "Well, then as much as I hope he gets it, you can't always trust that a man is paying attention when you have your tongue on his ear."

"Have you…" Sango wondered out loud. Both women glanced at Inuyasha, his furry ears flicking and rotating madly, no doubt unable to avoid eavesdropping on them. Kagome turned so red Sango was worried her hair might catch on fire.

"Later," the priestess whispered, "when we can talk alone." Inuyasha glanced over his shoulder at her pointed comment. Sango was caught at the edge of a smoldering stare between the new couple. For a moment, she was filled with a tense mix of embarrassment, envy, and a twist of desire that had her wondering if she could ever receive such a glance from her own beloved - without having to interrupt it to smack away an offensive hand.

"He sent me flowers," she announced quietly. Kagome raised her eyebrows and smiled, and Sango felt a rush of girlish pleasure that was unfamiliar and rare for the slayer. "It came with a poem." She studied the monk's back to make certain her was occupied before she withdrew the carefully folded rice paper from her sleeve. Kagome read it quickly, sighing with romantic longing that stroked Sango's pride.

"It's beautiful."

"And there was this," Sango continued. She displayed the little origami dove, and had to quickly hide it again when Kagome's squeal of excitement made the others turn and stare. They waited impatiently for the males to return to their pace and other interests before continuing. "So what do I do now?"

"Well…" Kagome drew out the sound. "You could tell him how much you liked the gift and ask him to walk with you after lunch. We are getting really close to the stream we usually stop at. Or," the miko smiled wickedly, despite her continued blush, "you could move on to step three."

"Step three!" Sango squeaked. The others stopped walking again and turned to stare. Sango was very aware that she had probably never squeaked before in her life. She turned her face to study the trees and smoothed her hair self-consciously while they waited for the group to begin moving again. "I don't think I can do step three," she confided.

"It's up to you, Sango. I know that isn't probably something that...well, I...I mean, your time is more...conservative than mine. But if you do plan on-" Sango followed Kagome's sharp glance to Miroku. The monk had bent his head to allow Shippo to whisper in his ear. "If you plan on marrying him one day, hopefully soon, then the only way you should feel bad about this is if you make yourself feel bad."

"It's…" Sango bit her lip in trepidation. "You promise it is nice - he'll like it?"

"Dear sister," Kagome's eyes twinkled. "He'll love it. And it can be nice for you too, trust me." Sango took a deep breath and considered Kagome's opinion. Despite being older than the priestess from the future, she trusted Kagome to be knowledgeable on many things that were unfamiliar to her. More than that, she trusted her friend, the sister of her heart, to advise her on matters that only women could talk to one another about. Matters which she could bring up to no one else. She had no mother, no other sisters, no other female friends. She had always respected Kagome's future-knowledge as well as her guidance. She followed Kagome's gaze to the inuhanyou who led them. Especially now that she has...experienced so much first hand. Sango blushed at the thought, both eager to speak with Kagome alone and so flustered at the pending conversation she could barely move. Perhaps she should continue with the plan. She hadn't needed the stick, as it were, for more than two days. Miroku had been behaving himself admirably. She only needed to muster the courage to -

"Hey mutt! Where's my woman?" Koga appeared in the path, just a few feet from Inuyasha, in a swirl of dust. "Oh, no," Kagome sighed. Sango stared blankly for a moment, before recognizing the low deadly growl rumbling from Inuyasha. The wolf youkai didn't seem to notice it, nor the way Inuyasha's hands were splayed - claws rapidly extending. He spotted Kagome and waved. "Kagome, are you ready to leave this dog turd and become my mate?"

"You better do something quick before-" Sango didn't get a chance to finish warning the priestess before Inuyasha snarled and lept at Kagome's persistent suitor. His claws slashed and his teeth snapped, circling the youkai until he faced the group. His eyes had turned pink, and his fangs stuck out over his lip. Sango sucked in a breath, she had never seen Inuyasha transform so readily. Koga seemed to always step just out of reach, turning and taunting the hanyou.

"This is ridiculous, someone is really going to get hurt," Kagome huffed. Sango turned to stare at her in shock. Although there was a trace of real concern in her voice, the miko sounded more irritated than anything. Exactly how accustomed has she become to Inuyasha's youkai?

"What's the matter, dog breath? Finally figured out she wanted me all along?" That would be Koga's last mistake, Sango was sure. Laying claim to the mate of another youkai was almost always a challenge to the death.

"My mate," Inuyasha snarled. He lunged, claws extended, to rip Koga's adulterous heart from his chest.

A cascade of acorns fell on his head.

Sango stared, completely dumbfounded. The feeling didn't last long as Shippo began laughing so hard he fell off Miroku's shoulder and rolled in the dust. Sango's mouth fell open in shock. It had all been a kitsune trick. She noted rather numbly that it had been excellent, magic far beyond what Shippo's latest attempts had revealed. He must have been practicing. Inuyasha did not seem to appreciate the little prank nearly as much.

"You little fucker," he snarled. The red had mostly disappeared from his eyes under the wild onslaught of tree nuts, but his anger was still palpable.

"EEP! Kagome!" The kitsune ducked behind the miko and Kagome rolled her eyes, again.

"Shippo, if you can't take the consequences of your own tricks, you shouldn't pull them," she admonished. Sango was surprised, again. Kagome hardly ever took Inuyasha's side in such arguments. Miroku started. Shippo whined in fear. Inuyasha was overcome with a pleasantly surprised smirk. Kagome sighed. "Sango, why don't you and the others get a fire going and we can break early today. Inuyasha," she interrupted his protest before he could make any sound, and, again to Sango's consternation, did not 'sit' him. "I think we need to have a talk. Privately." The hanyou got a gleam in his eye and nodded sharply. As Kagome turned off the path to walk with her mate into the woods, she whispered, "Training takes time."

Sango considered her friend's words and sly wink carefully as she followed the monk to the clearing ahead. Kagome and Inuyasha still fought like little children, she surmised that they might always do so, but they were also both happier and more confident and centered than she had ever seen them. I want that. She called to Shippo to gather wood and strode past Miroku, calming declaring her intention to wash up and ordering him to get fish for lunch.

She was at least twenty feet in front of him before she heard the monk start moving. "As you wish, dearest Sango," he answered in a strangled voice. Sango couldn't restrain her triumphant grin, although her face felt like it was on fire. Her hand was warm too, but that was less from mortification and more from the ghosting sensation of Miroku's backside when she squeezed it.