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Iris in Bloom by thetroll

Chapter 1

Kagome sat before the graves, petting Kian as she tried to calm down.

Her last human friend had died. It had been hard, watching Sango age and die, but though she hadn't thought anything could be harder, she'd learned that living, alone, after her friends had passed was infinitely worse than watching them die.

Kian mewed and she did her best to smile through her tears.

Kirara had joined Kohaku as he continued the yokai slaying tradition of his clan, but they'd returned once a year to meet up with Sango and spend the winter in the village. One of those visits had coincided with the birth of Kirara's litter of three mewling, squirming kittens, and they had eased her loneliness, for a time. When the time came that they were old enough to be separated, Kian had refused to be removed from Kagome's side.

That was when Sango had explained that the fire-cats chose their companions. Kirara had chosen Sango long ago, when Sango had been a little girl, but when Sango had retired, Kirara chose to go with Kohaku instead. And now, Kian had chosen Kagome.

"She had a good life," Shippo said, putting a clawed hand on her shoulder. "We'll see her again one day."

Kagome put a hand over Shippo's, surprised by how much bigger he'd gotten over the last fifty years. Though Shippo had visibly aged, Kagome had not, and the kit who had once been the size of a human child now towered over her in his adult form. "I know," she said, sniffling, "and her and Miroku's children and grandchildren are still here. They're her legacy."

Shippo nodded as they studied the two graves of Kagome's closest friends. Miroku had passed first, slipping away two years ago during a particularly brutal winter. He'd caught a cold that stubbornly refused all of Kagome's fevered attempts to fight it and in a matter of days was gone. Sango had begun to fade after that. Losing Miroku had been hard on her after so many years together and she'd slowly given up. It was no surprise to anyone when she'd grown ill and eventually passed. In Kagome's mind, her friend had died of a broken heart.

Both had survived well into their seventies, a rarity for the time period, and Shippo was right. They'd had a long, good life.

But it was still hard to lose them both.

"I should be there next to them," Kagome said after a moment, feeling the tears begin to fall again. "I still look like a young woman, Shippo, but I should be wrinkled and old and I'm not. I'm..." She stopped to take a deep breath. "Humans aren't meant to live like this, Shippo. I can't keep watching my friends die."

Shippo sat down beside her and it was odd to see such a sorrowful look on his normally chipper face. "Perhaps you weren't human to begin with, K'gome," he said, falling back on the old nickname. "Or maybe it's an effect caused by the jewel." 

She shook her head, unwilling to consider the why when it changed nothing, as Shippo added, "All yokai live this way, K'gome. It's why so few are willing to befriend humans. Just look at Sesshomaru-sama. Even he couldn't hide how he felt when Rin died."

It had been a few years since Kagome had last thought of the girl who'd once followed Sesshomaru around. When Rin had come of age, she'd met and married a wealthy son of a silk merchant who specialized in producing the fine clothing daimyo and their families wore. She'd moved in with him and at first had visited frequently but as the years passed and children came along, the visits grew more and more rare until finally, they'd stopped altogether. 

They'd only learned of Rin's death through an accidental encounter with Sesshomaru who had just received the news himself. It had been Jaken who'd blurted out the news, furious they'd interrupted his lord on his journey to her grave.

"I don't want to lose anyone again." Kagome cuddled Kian close, drawing comfort from his warm little body. The kitten was only a few years old and hadn't even reached adolescence yet, but Kagome's heart bled at the reminder that one day he'd grow old and die, too. 

.

Shippo eyed his friend, understanding her pain but feeling helpless to alleviate it.

Shippo patted her back as she'd done to him when he'd been a kit, hoping the gesture would reassure her. "Where's InuYasha?" he asked, looking around as he realized the hanyo's presence was missing.

Kagome shrugged. "I don't know," she told him quietly. "He up and left right after Miroku died and we haven't seen him since."

Shippo growled but kept his thoughts to himself. InuYasha had never been the most reliable of people, but he'd gotten worse over the last few years. Abandoning his wife was a new low for him, but not one that surprised Shippo. Shippo himself would never leave his wife, but InuYasha was a whole other brand of stupid.

Still, Kagome need comfort, not Shippo's rage. "I'm sure it was hard on him, watching his human friends die," Shippo said lamely. 

Kagome shook her head. "It's my fault," she told the kitsune quietly. "He wanted a big family, but no matter how hard we tried, I never conceived. He left because I failed him."

Privately, Shippo suspected the lack of conception was InuYasha's fault, but he kept his thoughts to himself. It would only hurt Kagome more to learn that inuyokai couldn't conceive unless their whole heart was in it, something that Shippo doubted had ever been the case with InuYasha. The hanyo had already given part of his heart to Kikyo and was probably fearful of losing anyone else, including quarter-yokai children that would die long before he did.

"Come visit," he urged, deciding a change of scenery would do Kagome could. Kagome had spent too long living amongst humans when she didn't have the lifespan of one. Staying there longer with them, watching more of those she loved died, would only harm her further. She needed to live amongst his kind, where she could find a proper mate of her own. InuYasha had never been a good mate and now that he'd abandoned her, she was free to find a better life for herself.

But who should he try and set her up with? He mulled over the question but decided to seek his wife's input before he made any decisions. She would, after all, know a woman's needs better than he.

"Soten is worried about the delivery, anyway, and having you there would help," he added, hoping it would convince her when he saw the protest forming on her lips.

As he'd hoped, Kagome finally looked at him. "She's due?" she asked and he almost sighed aloud at the look of relief on her face. 

"Our first." Shippo puffed out his chest as he spoke with pride. "She's convinced it's a girl."

"A thunder kit." Kagome chuckled. "You two are in for a surprise."

Shippo rolled his eyes. "Frankly, I'll be happy if I survive through the delivery. She's already made Koryu and I rearrange the entire house twice. She's convinced it's not safe enough for a baby, never mind that he or she won't be crawling or walking for a while yet."

"Alright. Let's go save you from your mate." Kagome smiled but he could still see the sorrow lingering. Still, he chose not to say anything about it as they made their way back to his home.

.

"Kaiten, no! Do not zap your sister. Kaiten! I mean it! Don't make me call your mother," Shippo threatened in exasperation as Kagome did her best to hide a laugh.

Shippo gave her a dirty look as his son gave his father an innocent expression, pretending for all the world that he had not been about to zap his sister. Considering Kaiten was just a few months old, he pulled off the innocent look rather superbly, despite the fact that they'd all seen the electricity fizzling in his hand a moment earlier.

"Twins," he ground out, throwing his hands in the air. 

"If you think this is bad, you should have seen Soten as a baby," Koryu said, puffing smoke as he tickled Shippo's daughter, Miten, with his wings. "She was quite destructive." Koryo yelped a moment later and Shippo and Kagome looked over to see that Miten had grabbed a wing and begun munching on it. "Just like that," he wheezed, trying and failing to get away.

Kagome scooped up the little girl, too young to begin crawling still but not too young to give her 'aunt' a toothy grin that showed off several sharp baby teeth, and pulled her away from the temptation of Koryu's wings. "It's your fault for teasing her with your wings while she's teething," she admonished the small red dragon.

Koryu huffed but didn't argue. "Toothy brat," he groused but the smile he gave the flailing baby in Kagome's arms was lovingly affectionate.

The two babies resembled their mother far more than their father. Both had Soten's dark hair and facial features and if it wasn't for Shippo's bright eyes, she might have doubted he was the father. As it was, the babies had a mix of their parents' yoki and abilities, at least as far as could be demonstrated by their young age.

As Kagome took Miten on a short walk, rocking her, Shippo scooped up Kaiten just as his wife returned from her trip to locate more toys for their growing children.

"Did they behave themselves?" she asked, pressing a kiss down on their son's forehead.

Shippo snorted. "Of course not. They take after their mother."

Soten glowered at her husband. "Me? I seem to recall a certain kit not wanting to share anything."

"You attacked me!" Shippo protested, ducking as his wife playfully slung at him. "And hey! Watch it! You might hit Kaiten."

Soten rolled her eyes. "Please. I've been fighting since I was a little older than him. I think I know how to avoid hitting my own child, Shippo." She looked over to the door Kagome had slid open to take Miten on a short walk at the sound of Kagome's quiet laughter. "I'm glad you brought her here, Shippo. She's been doing better."

Shippo followed his wife's gaze. "I've been thinking..." He trailed off and caught Soten's curious expression. "I think Kagome would be a good mother."

It was Soten's turn to snort. "She can hardly have children on her own. Unless..." She folded her arms across her chest. "I'm not about to let you hunt down InuYasha for her, Shippo. He's done enough damage."

"Hey!" Shippo protested. "Do you think you married an idiot?"

Soten raised a brow as if daring him to argue.

"I wasn't talking about InuYasha," Shippo continued doggedly ahead, deciding to ignore his wife's blatant challenge. He wanted her advice and he wasn't going to get it if he played her game. "She deserves better than him."

Soten seemed to understand immediately. "And so you want to find her someone better."

At Shippo's nod, she continued, "So you want my advice on who. Well, that's obvious. Who else is better than InuYasha's own brother?" She grinned in satisfaction. "He's better than InuYasha in every way. He's perfect." She clapped her hands together and Shippo had been married long enough to recognize her plotting expression.

Shippo stared at his wife, convinced she'd lost her mind. "You want to pair together Kagome and... Sesshomaru-sama? Have you lost your mind, Soten?"

Soten patted her husband's cheek. "You and I both know I'm the brains here, dear. Just leave this all to me."

Shippo was suddenly very, very afraid of what his wife was plotting but if there was one thing he'd learned, it was that nothing and no one could stop Soten once she had an idea in her head. He only hoped she'd succeed—for all their sakes.

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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