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This chapter is over

He's not coming home

Her heart in her throat

She falls to the floor

 

He struggled to keep his focus on the path in front of him with the distraction of a flailing girl in his arms.  She needed him to protect her and she was trying to keep him from doing so. Their mad flight through the forest had begun with the end of their quest.  The battle with Naraku. They'd almost lost Sango. Miroku was beside himself with worry as well as pain from his own injuries. The youkai that had helped them - Sesshoumaru as well as Kouga and his clan - were on the watch for him, but he couldn't let them catch him.  Nothing could stand in the way of his goal. Getting Kagome home. He had to take her to her mother.

Kagome continued to scream and kick in his hold, almost hoping that he would drop her so she could stop him somehow.  He'd lost his mind. She wasn't sure why this was different than before, but she knew this was not the hanyou she'd known for years carrying her to the well.  This was a youkai on a mission. Everything was such a jumble. The battle was over, they were safe now. She just needed to bandage up her friends, her adopted son, and everything would be fine.  And yet Inuyasha was acting as though ten Narakus were chasing them. “Inuyasha! What is wrong with you?!” He didn't respond. “Where are you taking me? We need to go back to Shippou, he was hurt!”

“Kit's dead.”  It was the first thing he'd said to her in hours and it was the worst thing he could have said.  Slowly she began to shake her head. He held her tighter but didn't speak again.

Kagome's mind went numb and she stared at the twitching ear on top of Inuyasha's head.  Dead. Shippou was dead? “No, no, no...” she whispered, over and over until it rose into a scream.  Her kit couldn't be dead. It was impossible. He'd been away from the battle, he'd been safe. But he came in at the last moment, as Naraku was dying, she'd seen his tail twitching nearby.  Inuyasha held her closer but remained silent as she wailed into his shoulder. Nothing he could do or say would bring back the runt and he wasn't going to lie to her and say there was. She pleaded with him, screamed at him and fought him, wanting to go back and hold her son.  “Take me back, Inuyasha! Take me back!” He didn't respond. His breathing got rougher as he struggled against his boiling blood. His cargo wasn't helping, her wailing and tears making his instincts go wild. Protect, comfort... make it better!

But he couldn't make it better, not even if he tried.  The well came into sight and Inuyasha struggled to keep Kagome from throwing herself out of his arms as he stood on the lip of the well itself.  The last thing he needed was her injuring herself too. The time slip opened as he stepped off the edge. There was a deeper chill this time and the inuhanyou wasn't sure if it was from the heat of his blood rushing through him or if something was wrong.  When they arrived on the other side he couldn't worry about it. He had to get Kagome into her mother's arms and quickly.

For nearly two days she did nothing but sob.  She fell asleep from pure exhaustion a few times but as soon as she woke again she would cry.  Inuyasha had scared the daylights out of her family when he brought her in, her mother terrified that she was hurt and then realizing that he did not look the same.  She sent Souta and her father-in-law into the shrine while she tried to determine what was going on. Her daughter was too distraught to speak to her and Inuyasha didn't seem entirely capable of speech.  When Kagome had finally fallen asleep the first time, she pried the inuhanyou away for a moment to explain a few things. Learning the kitsune kit her daughter had cared for and loved for over two years was dead had been nearly as deep a blow to her as it was to her daughter.  “Dead. How?”

“Naraku,” he growled.  He closed his eyes, trying to keep his transformation at bay.  “He got a hold of him at the last moment. Tried to steal the life from him to stay alive.  There was nothing I could do,” he snarled. Kagome's mother sucked in a breath before making an extremely brave move.  Inuyasha was so surprised that he couldn't resist as she gently pulled him into a hug.

“I'm so sorry.”  It wasn't what she said, or how she said it that broke him... it was the acceptance of him and knowing he too was in pain that did it.  Inuyasha fell against her and let his grief out. His tears fell silently, but it released the tension he had been holding in, the tension which had been driving him to the edge of his control.  Mama Higurashi said nothing more to him, simply allowing him to take comfort from her like she knew he needed and her daughter was currently unable to provide.

He pried himself away, embarrassed and blushing, when he heard Kagome's hiccuping sob.  With a parting nod to her mother, Inuyasha entered her room and gathered her to him. She resisted at first, still angry with him for taking her away, but soon she simply broke down into unintelligible, body-wracking sobs, allowing him to hold her against him.  He tried to growl softly to comfort her, hushing and rocking her when that didn't work. She cried herself hoarse and then cried herself back to sleep.

After a full day had gone by, he and her mother had taken turns watching and holding her.  Inuyasha had dug very deep and found patience he'd never had before, but even he needed rest.  He'd suffered wounds as well. His flirt with a transformation had healed most of them fairly quickly, but he was exhausted and he too needed sleep.  That didn't mean he got any. Kagome's hoarse sobs when he left the room kept him awake and holding her in her room meant his full attention was on her.  Venturing through the well had been a thought, but he wasn't sure what to expect over there and he wasn't sure he should go back in case he couldn't come back for Kagome.

The afternoon of the second day, Kagome finally stopped crying.  Inuyasha had thought it a blessing until Kagome's mother pointed out what this development meant.  Silence. Complete, stony, dead silence. Most of the time she simply stared off into space, never focusing on anything or anyone.  Inuyasha quickly realized that this was not the change he'd hoped for.

 

She shuns every memory

Every letter and call

Just to get through each second

She is slowly shutting off

Almost a full day passed with Kagome remaining completely silent.  Sometimes tears would come and go, yet no sound would leave her. She had been running a fever for over a day now and she looked incredibly pale.  Inuyasha was stricken by the idea that he might lose her too if she got even more sick. But the fever waned and eventually they were able to get her to eat and drink again.  It was very little and it took a lot of effort, but she had something in her system. Kagome's mother urged him to sleep, as he hadn't slept in days, but he refused at first, unwilling to leave Kagome alone when she was awake and not wanting to sleep when she did in case she woke up.

Finally he fell asleep out of pure exhaustion and Kagome's mother kept watch over her daughter while the hanyou slept.  To see her look so dead was terribly painful. She wondered if her own face had been as stony when they told her that her husband had not survived.  She'd had her children to think about, Souta wasn't even born yet and Kagome was only six, and it had pulled her through. Kagome had lost her child.  Mama Higurashi looked over to where her daughter's protector slept, curled on a futon beside Kagome's bed, one ear twitching slightly.

She still wasn't sure what exactly it was about him that made her trust him so completely with her daughter.  When he came into her house, looking absolutely feral and holding a sobbing Kagome, she still trusted him. His concern over her baby girl, his dedication to her, was unwavering.  He forwent sleep and food to watch over her. Higurashi-san was well aware that he could have left, gone through the well into his own time. But he stayed. She only wished her daughter had the same view of him.  Oh, Kagome loved him and trusted him with her life... but not her heart. And Kagome's mother knew that was what her daughter would truly need in the coming days to deal with the loss of her son and the hole it would leave in her life.

Hours later, Inuyasha awoke looking groggy and a bit irritated.  Mama Higurashi fought the urge to giggle at him. Somehow in his sleep he'd managed to completely muss his hair and one of his ears was flipped inside out.  A jaw-cracking yawn from him caught Kagome's attention, the first sound to do so in days. Her mother watched, holding her breath, as Kagome slid from the bed onto her knees, coming face to face with the hanyou.  He stared at her, confusion and hope in his eyes. Her eyes were more alive, but still full of sorrow. One small hand lifted, smoothing out the rumpled ear and surprising Inuyasha, before she reached further to smooth out his hair.  Blinking several times, he continued to stare at her. “Inuyasha,” Kagome whispered. She fell against his chest, where he caught her, but there were no tears.

Kagome's mother smiled softly and left without disturbing the two.

Inuyasha held his dear miko close and just listened to her breathe.  There was a deep sadness still lingering in her scent, but he could feel the immense weight of the initial pain was lifting.  He was going to get his Kagome back. He knew it was going to take hard work, patience and a lot of compassion, but he would bring his Kagome back into the world.

 

The sun felt too bright, too warm on her face, but she endured it.  Inuyasha looked ready to blow up if he was stuck in the house one more minute.  He hadn't left her side in four days except to use the bathroom. She appreciated his concern, but she knew he was getting stir crazy.  So she finally agreed to go out into the yard and allow him to breathe. He complained about the smell but she could see he felt a little better.  She watched him wander around, sniffing trees and other things, from the blanket he and her mother had laid out for her under the Goshinboku. She had to admit, despite the memories it brought, the power of the tree made her feel better.  

Inuyasha came upon one of Souta's soccer balls in the yard and Kagome couldn't help the small smile that lit her lips as he moved it around with his foot a few times.  He was trying to look nonchalant about it but she could tell he was curious. Souta had tried to get him to play a few times but Inuyasha had always found a way around it.  Now he looked like he wished he'd taken her brother up on it. “You kick it. Not too hard,” she warned, thinking of his youkai strength, “into that.” She directed his attention to the red-framed goal sitting beside the house.  He stared at it thoughtfully, tapping the ball a few times with his toe before pushing it toward the net with his instep. Kagome smiled a little more to see him trying and sat back to watch him figure it out on his own.

After several successful attempts on the goal, Inuyasha decided it wasn't worth his time anymore.  “It's too easy,” he related as he came back over to where Kagome was taking in sun. She laughed a little at him before launching into a more elaborate explanation of how the game was played.  “There's that many on the pitch at the same time, going after the same ball and they don't beat each other up?” he questioned. Kagome grinned at the way his head cocked slightly to the side.

“They sure try sometimes.  But no, hurting each other is not the point of the game.  It's about teamwork. Accomplishing a goal together,” she finished in a soft tone.  The sad edge that lingered in her scent intensified for a moment, forcing Inuyasha to close his eyes in response to the strong sadness it brought up in him as well.  Placing a tentative hand on her knee, the scent receded, allowing him to breathe again. When he opened his eyes, he found Kagome staring up at him. "I'm so sorry Inuyasha," she whispered.  "I've spent all this time so wrapped up in myself, I didn't even realize you were..."

"Hush wench, I'm fine."

The flare of anger in her scent caught him off guard completely.  "Don't pull that with me! Quit being such a tough guy! You're... you're hurting too."  Her voice finished in a whisper, her next words even softer than that. "Share it with me so we're not hurting alone.  Please."

Despite his resolve before to help Kagome through this by being strong, he couldn't ignore her pleading face, the tears that gathered in the corners of her eyes.  "Kagome, I..." He couldn't find the right words. How do you express the loss of a child, even if that child wasn't yours? While Kagome had seen the kitsune as her child, in need of her protection, love and care, he had come to be a little brother who looked up to him, annoyed him and drove him to further his strength to protect them all.  But he'd failed, hadn't he? He hadn't been able to protect Shippou and it had cost him his life. In failing to protect the kitsune kit he had also failed Kagome. He had caused her this pain she was feeling. "I failed," he finally murmured. The look on her face made it clear she was about to argue so he cut her off. "I couldn't protect him.  I wasn't strong enough to... fuck!" He stood, pacing alongside the blanket. He continued to curse himself, becoming increasingly agitated.

Kagome looked on in disbelief.  Her hanyou truly blamed himself for what had happened.  As if any of them could have known! Her own grief set aside, she noticed how worn he looked.  His face was drawn and his mouth tight. She had only ever seen Inuyasha like this once. After Kikyo's death.  Had Shippou become that important to him too? Kagome gasped as Inuyasha's face contorted into a grimace and jagged purple stripes appeared on his cheeks.  His eyes were closed and so she couldn't tell if the transformation was complete or not. She couldn't take that chance. The young miko stood abruptly, wrapping her arms around the inuhanyou's waist.  "It's not your fault, Inuyasha. You were protecting me!" He halted as soon as she touched him, frozen in place by her hold. "It's not your fault," she cried again. A faint shaking in his form made her hold him tighter.

Kagome could only hold on as a howl ripped from his throat, a mournful sound that raised all the voices of the dogs in the nearby neighborhood.  Clinging to him as he let out his grief, the young woman continued to sob into his chest, knowing he needed to release his sadness just as she had.  He had been holding it back for the last four days in favor of being strong for her. Now that she had asked him to share his pain with her, she feared they may be swallowed by it.  "Kagome," a sob not her own. Looking up into his face, she was surprised to find his markings still in place while tears streamed down his cheeks. Raising a gentle hand, she held one cheek in her palm, wiping away tears with her thumb.  Inuyasha closed his eyes, embarrassed.

"Don't turn away from me," Kagome murmured.  "I'm here for you, like you were there for me when I needed you."  Inuyasha's eyes opened wide, staring down into her sincere and tear-stained face.  He had never doubted that Kagome's heart was big, but she never ceased to amaze him.  He leaned down without thinking about it, pressing his lips to hers to acknowledge the comfort she offered, to offer some in return.  She easily accepted his kiss, melting into his frame, the softness of her body soothing his upset and the openness of her soul soothing his own.

 

Where's her sweet revenge?

Who will she blame?

Where's her freedom now

How can she reclaim it?

 

The air of the feudal era seemed heavy, oppressive, as they exited the well.  It didn’t help that they’d said goodbye to her family, just in case. The odd feeling they both had this time while traversing the time slip made them glad they’d done it.  Inuyasha set Kagome down in the grass as they surveyed the area around the old wooden structure. “He's here.” Kagome glanced up at him and stayed as still as possible. They had discussed before they came back that it was likely that Sesshoumaru would be there, ready to put him down if necessary.  “So's the wolf,” he muttered.

“Kagome?  Are you alright?” the very same wolf called as he parted the shadows from under the trees.  She nodded, but stepped closer to her hanyou's side. He had also mentioned it was likely that whoever met them at the well would try to separate them to make subduing or killing him easier without harming her.  She wasn't going to let them do that. “Kagome, why don't you come with me, alright? The dogs need to have a talk.” Surprised that Koga was somehow in league with Sesshoumaru, Kagome looked nervously up at the stony inuhanyou beside her.  His eyes, still slightly red-tinged, were focused on a particular spot in the trees. Despite his focus elsewhere, his arm wrapped around her waist protectively.

She looked back at Koga.  “You guys don't have to do anything.  Inuyasha is fine. We're both fine,” she told him.  He faltered a moment, his eyes going to the same spot as Inuyasha's.

“The miko speaks truthfully.  The hanyou is keeping his transformation at bay, but he is in his right mind, if one can call it that.”  The expected figure melted out of the trees, gliding into the well clearing. “You have finally returned to face your reality.”

Inuyasha growled lowly.  “We needed time.” Sesshoumaru seemed to contemplate this but said nothing.  “Where are the others?”

“In the village, keeping vigil over...”  Koga trailed off into silence, seeing the grief that filled Kagome's face.  “Come on. They didn't want to do anything until you came back.” Inuyasha waited for the wolf to turn, heading toward the village before he moved to follow, keeping Kagome as close to his side as was comfortable.  Sesshoumaru fell into step on his other side.

“Tenseiga did not work,” Sesshoumaru said in a quiet tone.  “It would appear his soul is intended elsewhere.” Inuyasha didn’t turn to acknowledge what his brother was saying, stricken that the kami would be so cruel and yet grateful that his brother had even made the effort.

The silence in the village was nearly as heavy as it was by the well and Kagome felt like she was struggling to breathe.  Sango limped out of Kaede's to greet them, the tears in her eyes not helping Kagome hold it together. “Kagome-chan.” She seemed unable to voice anything else, glancing at Inuyasha with a calculating look before going to her friend and embracing her.  “I'm so sorry,” she whispered. Kagome nodded jerkily, still trying to hold back her tears.

With a motion from Inuyasha, the slayer moved back and he turned to the miko at his side, taking hold of her shoulders gently.  “Are you sure you're ready for this?”

“No.  But we have to.  He's our... my son.  Our friend.” His eyes fluttered shut at her slip, reminded all too easily how close they had come to being a family.  A family he had failed to protect. Opening his eyes again he saw the worry in her features. She wanted to ask him if he was ready, but didn't want to embarrass him in front of his brother or the wolf.  He gave her a small nod, putting his arm around her waist to enter the hut. He was glad that he had. Upon seeing the kit laid out on a blanket in the middle of the room, preserving ofuda circling him, Kagome's knees buckled and he had to keep her upright.  “Shippou,” she whimpered. He helped her to his side, gently letting her down onto her knees.

Watching his dear miko so brokenly try to touch her kit was more painful than the first few days in her time had been.  He could see that she wanted to lift him into her arms and hold him as though he were only sleeping but she hesitated. Miroku, kneeling across from her, had a similarly pained expression on his face to his own.  “Kagome-sama.” She didn't acknowledge him, her tears finally falling down her cheeks. Inuyasha knelt behind her as she broke down, gathering her into his chest and futilely trying to calm her down.

She struggled from his hold, gathering Shippou into her arms and cradling him against her.  “I'm so sorry, so sorry sweetie. I'm sorry...” she whispered over and over as if to comfort him.  Inuyasha felt his hands shaking, wanting to touch the kit as well. Finally he gave in, resting his hand on Shippou's head, pressing his face into Kagome's shoulder.  She turned to him, touching her forehead to his cheek. “Why? Why him?”

“I... I don't know Kagome.  I'm sorry. It should have been me.”  

His whispered words set her tears off again but they were quieter this time.  “No. No one deserved this.” She leaned down and placed a kiss on the kitsune’s forehead.  She lingered there for a moment, tears landing like raindrops on his pale cheeks. “Goodbye Shippou-chan.  I love you,” she murmured against his cold skin. A gasp left her as the weight in her arms suddenly disappeared, his form turning to light.  Everyone in the hut turned surprised eyes up to see the ghostly image of the kitsune smiling down at the miko and hanyou. “Shippou?!”

“Thank you, Kagome.  I can find my parents now.  I'll always love you.” His eyes turned to the hanyou.  “You too, baka. Keep an eye on her for me, ok?” Inuyasha could only nod dumbly.  “Bye everyone,” he whispered as he faded, his light shooting through the roof. The scent of Kagome's tears filled the room as she stared after the light.  The broken look on her face was too much. Inuyasha felt that same pressing urge to protect her that he felt when he first realized the kit was dead. His youki flooded the hut, snapping everyone's attention to him.  He snarled at the two youkai trying to enter and Sesshoumaru barred the wolf with his arm.

Kagome gasped, clinging to his suikan.  “Inuyasha! Inuyasha, no,” she cried. His eyes seemed unrecognizable, the stripes on his face fading in and out of existence.

“Stay back or he will kill you.”  Koga's face showed his doubt despite his arrogance.  He was sure he could have taken the mutt without his shards.  But even the mutt's older brother, who he wouldn't jump into a fight with willingly, seemed cautious.  “Inuyasha, your mate is safe. She needs comfort, not protection. She is in no danger here,” he said, his voice commanding.

Inuyasha could hear the words, felt their truth, but he couldn't give her the kind of comfort she needed here.  Turning to Kagome, he pulled her into his arms. “Move,” he snarled through lengthened fangs. His older brother almost imperceptibly hesitated, then stepped out of the way.  Kagome shot him a nervous look. “Do not follow.” Koga looked like he was about to protest, but a sharp growl from both inuyoukai quelled him. Swept up by the hanyou barely keeping control of himself, Kagome held tightly to his shoulders as he marched out of the hut and through the village.  She wasn't absolutely sure where he was taking her, but she could guess.

The boughs of the Goshinboku were full of green leaves, the shade making it cooler there than it had been in the village.  Inuyasha tucked them into the roots, his back against the trunk, and held her in silence. “Inuyasha?” He didn't respond and wouldn't let her budge to look him in the eye.  One large hand gently but firmly pressed her head against his shoulder while the other remained around her waist. “Inuyasha, koi, you can let me go, I'm not going anywhere.”  He seemed to jump at the endearment, finally letting her turn to look at him. The markings still remained on his cheeks but his eyes looked more normal. He turned their golden depths on her, searching her face for something.  Tears slipped down her cheeks, but she was trying to prove to him that she would be alright. They would be alright.

“How can you even look at me?” he growled, no anger in his tone, just sadness.  “He's gone because I couldn't...”

“Stop,” she interrupted him tearfully.  “You have to stop blaming yourself. Shippou doesn't blame you. I don't blame you.”  She choked back a sob. “The only one to blame for any of it, all we've been through these last couple years, is Naraku.  We destroyed him and now he'll never take... never take anyone's child from them again.” Inuyasha hugged her fiercely, rocking her back and forth as he had when he'd first gotten her home.  They cried together for a while before Kagome felt his lips softly touching her cheek repeatedly. She tilted her head, awed when his kisses continued toward her chin and then finally her mouth.  Suddenly needing to show them both that they were alive, she kissed him back. He groaned under her frantic assault, his teeth nicking her lip. Kagome didn't let him pull away to inspect it, her tongue touching his lips to open him to her.  He responded in kind just as easily, his hands beginning to roam. Kagome shifted, straddling the inuhanyou while her fingers dug into his hair. His large hands went to her bottom, pulling her against him sharply. They both pulled away to hiss at the contact, flushed cheeks and glazed eyes.

Without words between them, there was a decision made that there were far too many clothes covering them and that they needed to be removed as soon as possible.  Kagome gasped at the feel of his calloused fingertips on her skin, Inuyasha releasing a growl of pleasure when her hands found the knot of his hakama. Soon that too was gone and there was not a scrap of cloth left between them.  Inuyasha's tongue found all the nooks and open plains of skin that he could reach, the scent and taste of his mate too delicious for words. Her head tipped back and her hips grinding against his own nearly made him lose it before they'd really begun and he quickly slipped inside her.  Kagome cried out sharply at the intrusion and he stilled at the realization that he'd hurt her. “K'gome,” he murmured, kissing her shoulder while holding her close. She took several deep breaths before whispering that she was fine. He didn't believe her for a second, moving his hands to her hips and helping her lift herself upward.  A shocked breath left the inuhanyou when she rose up at his encouragement, only to slide back down. A deep rumble in his chest made his pleasure clear.

Kagome continued the motion he had set, trying to ignore the stinging pain of being stretched so suddenly.  Whispering her name over and over in an apology and a plea, Inuyasha's eyes were half-lidded. Their golden color let her know that, while he was not altogether himself, he did know what was going on.  He even knew that he was leaving her behind, lifting her to set her on their clothing and pressing down into her at a completely different angle. She gasped, letting her hand trail down to tease herself higher.  Inuyasha's eyes widened to stare, his hips moving faster as they both felt her grow wetter. It took only moments before they both came apart, laying panting together and Kagome softly sobbing into his shoulder. Inuyasha kissed the top of her head in a show of affection and sympathy.  He too was overwhelmed by the very big thing they had just done, the weight of it hitting them as the heaviness of their grief started to fade along with the high from their coupling.

“Inuyasha?” Kagome questioned, her hands going to his cheeks.  He tried to smile for her a little, kissing her nose before nuzzling it with his own.  She smiled in return, letting out a small laugh. “I love you,” she whispered. He buried his nose in her neck and held her close, unable to say the words in that moment, but needing to show her that she was not alone in her feelings.  “I know,” she whispered, confirming why he so adored this woman.

 

He wipes the sweat from her face

as she moans in pain

A tiny helpless life

comes as if to say

 

Kagome moved slowly through the tall grass, looking for her mate.  He'd gone off into the woods some time that afternoon and no one had seen him since.  She knew that he was upset about something, she just didn't understand what. Extending her aura allowed her to sense something, but it wasn't Inuyasha.  She continued to move closer to what she felt with her bow at the ready. “You would shoot your mate's only family, miko?” Kagome released a breath and let her shoulders relax.

“That isn't funny, Sesshoumaru-sama,” she replied as she turned to face her brother-in-law.

“You are looking well,” the taiyoukai complimented with a raised eyebrow.  Kagome glanced down before putting a hand on her very rounded tummy. “The pup will arrive soon.”  Nodding at his statement, Kagome let a small smile lift the corner of her mouth.

Kagome eyed the taiyoukai curiously.  He had been spending a lot of time near the village recently.  The added protection made her feel a lot safer, but it was odd to feel that way because he was nearby and not because he was miles away.  “Have you seen Inuyasha?”

Sesshoumaru lifted one brow before glancing in the direction she had been heading.  “He passed by here. He is agitated.”

“Yes, I know.  I don’t know why though.”

“He will be a father soon.  Perhaps he is… unprepared.”

Kagome laughed.  “No one is truly prepared to be a parent, Sesshoumaru-sama.”  The serious look he gave her - well, more serious than his usual face - made it clear he was getting at something more than just new parent jitters.  “You think he doesn’t want to be a father?”

“It is more likely that he does not feel he knows how.  He never knew our father.” He glanced over her. “Your father is also deceased, is he not?”  She nodded. “He has no real model to follow.”

“I never really thought about it that way.”

Sesshoumaru snorted.  “Mothering comes more naturally to females.  You in particular are well suited to motherhood.”

Kagome couldn’t help the grin that lit her face.  “Are you complimenting me, Sesshoumaru-sama,” she teased the taiyoukai.  He huffed at her, but didn’t deny it. Instead he motioned for her to move ahead of him in the direction he knew his brother had gone.  When they were within scent range, the taiyoukai left her to find her mate on her own, knowing better than to invade on their personal moment.

“He didn’t touch you, did he?” Inuyasha snarled.

Kagome sighed, moving into the clearing where he was leaning against a felled tree.  There were several more like it about and she guessed that it likely hadn’t been a clearing before.  “Of course not. Your brother barely tolerates me,” she exaggerated. “Are you feeling any better?” she asked.

“Keh,” he muttered, lifting his golden gaze to her.  The jagged purple stripes that lined either cheek still made her heart race sometimes, but she was getting used to seeing him this way.  For some reason, after their mating, the markings had not disappeared. In fact, more had appeared on his wrists, hips and ankles. His eyes remained golden and he still had his signature puppy-dog ears, but he was clearly stronger and they had no real explanation.  He was still struggling with his new power, the rise in his youki often catching him off guard. “What are you doing out here? You should be at home with your feet up, not traipsing around the woods alone.”

Kagome fought the urge to growl at him.  “I’m pregnant, not eighty,” she reminded him.  “I brought my bow.” He uncurled from his position against the log and stretched a moment before approaching her.  His kosode was slightly open, his suikan hanging at his waist. She could see the marks on his chest where splinters of wood had likely cut him has he angrily felled trees.  Brushing a soft hand against his chest, she felt his youki greet her like a pleased dog, rubbing against her aura. Kagome smiled up at him, lifting her chin in a demand for a kiss.  Her inuhanyou complied without complaint, softly growling in greeting. “What did the trees do this time?” she eventually asked, keeping her tone gentle while she traced the marking on one cheekbone.

She was unprepared for the sharp snarl and the way he backed away from her.  “Fuck.”

“Inuyasha.  I know something is bothering you.  You can’t hide that from me. Let me help if I can.”

He was clearly reluctant, but he didn’t deny it this time.  He would tell her. He paced a few circles before coming up to her and helping her into a sitting position by one of the felled trees to make her more comfortable.  “This… change. All this strength. It’s great for… for protecting you and the pup…” He hesitated. “But I can’t always control it. I react without thinking. It’s like I’m back to being a pup myself, learning what my youki can or can’t do.”

Kagome nodded slowly, thoughtfully.  She had wondered if this was part of the problem.  “The Tetsusaiga is not helping?” He shrugged. “Perhaps you need to train with it some more, like you had to at the beginning.  Maybe it’s not used to your new strength either and it doesn’t realize it needs to catch up to you.”

Inuyasha stared at her.  “That’s… actually brilliant, Kagome,” he said, surprise in his tone.

“Thanks,” she replied dryly.  She loved him, she really did, but sometimes he was a total dunce.  “Now can we go home, or do you intend to help Yusuke and Jiro build their wives huts?”  Inuyasha looked around as if noticing the trees he’d taken out for the first time. He uttered a “keh” and helped her to her feet.  She leaned against him, frowning when he shied back almost imperceptibly. “Inuyasha?” she breathed, confused. She thought back to when he’d kissed her earlier and then now.  What had changed? She glanced down and realized her very present belly had to have brushed him. Was her mate… afraid to touch her? Was he disgusted by her? His nose was twitching when she looked up at him again and his eyes suddenly looked pained.  “You… don’t want me to touch you?”

The hurt in her voice drove him to respond, gathering her hands in his.  “No. No, that isn’t it at all.” He rumbled to comfort her, but found it was not having the desired outcome.  “Kagome… What if I hurt you? What if I hurt the pup?” Kagome nearly collapsed as relief overtook her fear. So that was the root of the problem.  Inuyasha’s hands went under her forearms to keep her upright, a terrified look on his face.

Kagome changed their position, gently leading his hands to rest on either side of their child.  He tried to pull them back, but she wouldn’t let him. “Feel this. This means that I am well into the third trimester.”  He scowled down at her for a brief moment before looking at her belly more closely. Despite the growth in size compared to her nonpregnant state, she was still very small to him.  His hands looked huge on her, terrifying in their clawed, striped, long-fingered lethalness. “This is our child. Our family. He or she is pack,” she murmured to him. His ears perked at her use of terminology he better understood.  Family was something he was still learning. Pack was instinct. “You won’t hurt us.”

“You’re both so fragile,” he explained.

Kagome shot him a look.  “So fragile that I only traveled all across Japan several times over - mostly on foot - battled evil youkai, ningen, and the dead daily.”  

His golden eyes blinked at her, all innocence.  “You weren’t pregnant then.” Kagome resisted the urge to punch him in that cute nose of his.  

He wasn’t the only one having trouble with their reactions…  

“Inuyasha,” she sighed, pressing her hands to his cheeks while his hands still rested on her stomach.  “I get why you’re worried. But that should be pushing you to train harder, gain control, not hide away in the woods creating new clearings.”  He rolled his eyes. She saw the “keh” freeze in his throat when she gasped softly. His eyes locked on her belly and he almost pulled his hands away until he realized it was the flutter of movement under his hands that had caused her reaction and not anything he’d done.  The pair stood in awed joy for a while as their child moved, kicking and shifting.

“Thank you, Kagome,” Inuyasha breathed after a while.  She only smiled.

 

Here is your sweetest gift

Take this moment it is safe

Its true, pure, and beautiful

In return for all of your pain

When Kagome started feeling contractions early in the morning, Inuyasha had a moment of panic. No matter how much they had talked through it, how many things they had prepared for the arrival of their pup, knowing they were actually on the way made it real. He would be a father soon. 

Kagome had gone about her morning routine with only momentary pauses to breathe while Inuyasha fought the urge to hover over her.  She’d already threatened to use an ofuda on him if he didn’t quit being her shadow. “I’m making porridge, Inuyasha. I’m going to eat some of it.  Then I’m going to finish folding the laundry. Alright?” He ducked his head at her tone and wisely stayed out of her way. When the contractions were closer together, she finally told him to go get Kaede as she put water on to boil and set out their cleanest towels.  Inuyasha had never run so fast in his life. Kaede didn’t appreciate him trying to rush her and sent him over to collect Sango first before he was allowed to come back for her. By that time, the old miko had her supplies in order and allowed him to hoist her on his back.

Inuyasha had bucked all tradition and the ridiculous superstitions that he was not meant to be in the room with his mate when she gave birth to their child.  He had no intention of leaving her to struggle through it without him. Despite knowing he had no way of actually helping her aside from being present, he felt he had to be there.  Kagome had explained that in her time, it was actually less common for the father to stay out of the room. He was a man ahead of his time.

In the midst of it, though, he almost wished he was more traditional.  The sounds of Kagome’s pain as she tried to breathe through contractions, and then the groans she couldn’t contain when it came time to push, kept his ears laid flat to his head the entire time.  Holding her hands as she paced earlier on, cradling her when she could no longer walk, bracing her when she had to balance on the balls of her feet while crouching… He felt useful but so terribly inadequate.  He couldn’t take away her pain, he couldn’t protect her from it. He had caused it.  Kaede had offered for him to leave on several occasions, but he remained steadfast, gritting his teeth as she muffled a cry in his kosode and keeping up a soft murmur of encouragement.  Hours later, Kagome was reaching the end of her strength, but Kaede told her it wouldn’t take much more. “Kagome, Koi? You can do this,” he breathed in her ear. “I know you can. I can see ears, just like mine, just like you wanted, but you gotta help the pup the rest of the way.”

Kagome let out a sob, but nodded.  She gripped his sleeves in whiteknuckled hands and grit her teeth as she managed give one last good push when a contraction almost stole her breath.  A moment later she fell to her knees and there was a squalling that could not be mistaken. Their pup was born and breathing on their own. Kagome sobbed into his chest, gasping for air and clinging to him.

“She’s beautiful, Child,” Kaede laughed, cleaning up the wailing pup before giving her to Sango for a moment.  The old miko helped Kagome through the afterbirth and then finally, blessedly, she was able to hold her child. With Inuyasha’s larger frame curled around her, they gazed into the tiny, wrinkled face of their baby girl.  Kagome couldn’t help her continuing tears as she whispered soft words of welcome. Inuyasha was in awe of the tiny life that they had somehow created and his Kagome had brought into the world. Her hair and ears were still wet, but it was clear that she favored him in that regard.  The shape of her nose and eyes was entirely Kagome. Even with how puffy she looked, and her slight discoloration, he could tell that she would be as beautiful as her mother.

The elder miko and slayer finished tidying up, helping Kagome get somewhat clean before excusing themselves to let the new parents bask in the warmth of their joy.  “Kagome,” Inuyasha sighed, “she’s… I can’t believe it.”

“She’s perfect, isn’t she?” she responded, lightly petting one tiny silver ear with her fingertip.  The pup whimpered a moment, nose wrinkling as she turned her little face toward Kagome. It took a bit of whimpering and whining on her part before her parents picked up on the fact that she was seeking out food.  Kagome flushed at baring herself in front of Inuyasha this way, but he didn’t hesitate to help support her arms as she cradled the pup and directed her to what she was after. “Thank you.”

“Keh.”

They muddled their way through the first few hours of being parents with Kaede occasionally checking in on them to make sure everything was going well.  “Have you decided what you will name her, Inuyasha?” He looked down at the sleeping infant in his arms and over at his sleeping mate. He nodded, but remained silent.  Kaede smiled a little and gave the hanyou the peace and quiet he seemed to need to process the drastic change in his life.

She was tiny, even tinier than he thought she would be.  He realized that most of the babies he had seen in the past had to have been at least a few weeks old before he set eyes on them.  Newly born and slowly turning a light pink, his daughter was the most precious thing he had ever seen. In the soft quiet of the hut, with her tiny grunts and Kagome’s gentle breathing, Inuyasha allowed himself an emotional moment with tears hanging on his lashes.  He had a family. Kagome and he had created this tiny life and had become the family he never thought he’d have. He had attained a dream he never even knew he wanted.

For so long, he had been told that he shouldn’t even be alive, let alone find a mate, have a family. Up until relatively recently, he believed it himself.  Inuyasha stared at his mate more closely. She had changed his mind like no one else ever could. She had accepted him, youkai half and all, without question.  She showed him he could be proud of who and what he was. Kagome had shown him that he deserved love and that he was capable of caring for others. “I love you and your mama very much, Izayoi,” he whispered for the tiny hanyou’s ears alone. She let out a squeaky sigh and her ear twitched against his lips.  Inuyasha smiled through his joyful tears.


Eyes wide and heart warm
She sees him in her face
If you watch the way the world gives back
In circles you will trace

 

Watching her toddle from one side of the room to the other, Kagome grinned.  Inuyasha could barely suppress his smile as Izayoi stumbled into his arms, giggling.  Their little silver-haired pup had been up on her feet unaided for almost a week now and she was getting steadier every day.  Kagome suppressed a laugh when her mischievous baby snagged one of her father’s ears and yanked. The older hanyou yelped, but managed not to drop her on his head, growling in a scolding tone.

“She’ll only think it’s funny until it’s one of her ears getting pulled,” he grumbled.

“If you keep reacting to it, she’ll keep thinking it’s funny.”  Kagome scooped the baby off of her father, nuzzling her tiny nose.  “Right baby? You think it’s funny when Otou makes that sound, don’t you?”  Izayoi gave her a gape-mouthed grin with her six little teeth showing. Six little teeth that she had to very quickly learn were not for biting Mama when she was feeding.  A single instance of being unlatched, set gently on the floor, and told “no” in a firm voice had made it so their smart pup never bit her again. Her mate on the other hand…  Inuyasha growled as he nipped the nape of her neck as both invitation and warning. If she didn’t initiate on her own, he would. “You need to wait until she’s asleep,” Kagome murmured, taking their daughter to the other side of the hut and nursing her until she drifted off in her arms.  Settling her into her bassinet without waking was always a challenge. Kagome often equated it to disarming a bomb.

As soon as her hands were completely free of baby, they were filled with firerat as her husband scooped her off her balance and into his arms.  His lips were on hers a breath later and Kagome swallowed a squeak of surprise. Very quickly they were on the other side of their small hut, muffling moans of pleasure so as not to wake Izayoi.  Inuyasha liked to make a game of it, smirking down at her as he tried everything to get her to make noise. Kagome scowled at him a moment before a particularly hard thrust had her clamping a hand over her mouth and breathing heavily to suppress a whimper.  Her nails tracing down his spine had him biting his lip almost hard enough to break the skin, one fang leaving a particularly deep indent as he fought back a moan of his own. Two can play that game, she thought with a smirk.  It took him a moment to recover before he retaliated, leaning down to lick her ear.

“You better come quick or we’ll have to wait until later,” he hissed.  As she turned to peek at the bassinet in fear of the baby waking, her husband made a point to nip her neck as he delivered another hard thrust which made her gasp sharply, thighs squeezing around his hips to still him as she tried to reclaim her control.  Inuyasha chuckled darkly in her ear, the sound sending a thrill through her. “Oh, I’m sorry, was that too much?” no apology in his tone at all. Kagome kissed him, using her tongue to draw him in until he was so distracted that he missed her fingers going for his ears.  The first rub jolted him and the second had him losing his previously measured attitude, his hips wildly pumping into hers until he couldn’t hold back any longer. He groaned low into her shoulder, gripping her backside so that they were locked together as he rode out his orgasm.  “Dammit, woman,” he growled, “that ain’t fair.”

“No one said it had to be fair,” she murmured, huffing a laugh when he snuffled her with his nose.  He made a face, silently communicating that he didn’t like that she was left unsatisfied. “Sango asked if I wanted her to watch Izayoi later.  We can go to the hot spring if you can get us there fast enough,” she said leadingly. The eager light that entered his golden eyes made her grin.  “Alright Puppy, I’ll ask her if she’s still willing to babysit.”

Two hours later, they walked together down the village path.  Izayoi alternated between wanting to be carried and insisting she walk on her own.  Inuyasha hovered over her more than he would want to admit, making Kagome smother a laugh.  He was the most amazing father but he was embarrassed to accept the compliment. “Mama!” Izayoi called, catching her full attention.  Kagome gasped at the very familiar image before her. Her silver-haired, downy-eared hanyou toddler stood holding a large leaf on her head and an intensely pleased look on her face.  All Kagome could see was a russet-haired kitsune kit in that moment. Her knees nearly buckled at the intensity of the grief that hit her, but Inuyasha proved how in tune with her he was and caught her around the waist.  Kagome fought a smile onto her face and knelt down to snuggle her sweet girl. “Mama?”

“You found such a big leaf, didn’t you?” she quavered.  “Mama and Otou should tell you about your brother, Shippou. He played with leaves all the time.”  Inuyasha seemed to catch on to what had happened and curled his larger frame around the two of them until Kagome felt strong enough to stand.  Despite her initial protest, Kagome insisted on carrying Izayoi the rest of the way to Sango and Miroku’s hut. The toddler settled into her mother’s chest, sensing her upset and offering comfort in her own way.  The dual set of purring warm bodies slowly brought Kagome out of her fog and she nuzzled the small silver ears under her chin.

“Do you still want to take her to Sango?” Inuyasha whispered.  Kagome nodded resolutely. They needed the alone time and Kagome needed to snuggle her husband and have a good cry.  Just not in front of their precious baby. “Alright.”

Sango happily accepted the duty of caring for Izayoi, blushing and patting her barely rounded belly.  “Good practice, right?” she said with that mix of excitement and terror that Kagome knew all too well.  “You two go on, we’ll be fine here, right Izayoi-chan?” The tiny hanyou tossed her parents a skeptical look before Miroku came out with his staff, jingling the rings and instantly fascinating her.  Inuyasha and Kagome took the opportunity to escape.

Once they arrived at the spring - in record time - Kagome took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  Inuyasha didn’t rush into trying to seduce her, sensing her need for a moment to breathe and relax. Once she had slipped into the water, hair piled on top of her head, he followed suit, again giving her space until she gave him a signal that she needed him.  Her arm reaching out while her eyes remained averted was enough. He scooped her into his embrace and simply held her as she silently sobbed into his neck. He made soft shushing noises, growling in his chest. “I got you, Koi. I got you,” he assured her.

“It just hit me so hard, you know?  She looked just like him for a moment and I couldn’t believe it.  They look nothing alike!”

“I know.  Doesn’t mean the feeling wasn’t the same.”  Kagome hiccuped. There went her gruff hanyou mate saying something so perfectly insightful.  And he was completely right. It was the emotion, the expression on her little face in that moment, that had so struck her as Shippou.  “I… I don’t know if you remember…” Inuyasha sighed and pulled her closer again for a beat. “Sesshoumaru said that the tenseiga didn’t work on the kit.  That his soul was probably needed somewhere else.” Kagome blinked. Given what had happened between them that very day and that Izayoi had been a result of that, it was not hard to guess what that might mean. “Even if… even if that’s what happened, she’s different.  She’s ours.”

Kagome smiled through tears.  “Yea. She is, isn’t she?” A few sniffles.  “She’s definitely yours,” she laughed, snagging a silver ear and gently rubbing.  She sobered a moment. “He said he would be able to find his parents.”

“Well… maybe he did.”  Tears welled in her eyes again but they were strangely relieved tears.  It was a comfort to think that Shippou had returned to them in some way but that they still had their very own daughter to hold and love in his absence.  They were a family, just like he had always wanted.