A/N: Hooray! After nearly a year and a half this fic is *finally* finished ^_^ I'd originally planned to end it in another way, but the joke is wearing thing and I fear it's time to wrap things up. Will Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru achieve final victory over their dreaded enemy? Will they ever live the whole thing down? Read on, and find out.
Inuyasha whimpered and buried his claws in the soil, trying to ignore the ache in his arms and just concentrate on digging. He'd spent a lot of time thinking about going to Hell in the past (who wouldn't, with Sesshoumaru as a brother?), but he'd never dreamed he would see it so soon. His mother had yelled at him. His father had yelled at him. The court women had yelled at him, Jaken had yelled at him, and then his mother had come back and yelled some more. Heck, even Sesshoumaru had yelled at him, which was interesting because he seemed to recall that his brother was the one who'd started the whole mess in the first place. And to top it all off, they were being forced to reconstruct the garden from scratch, and worst of all, listen to Jaken. He didn't see how things could possibly get any worse.
"Here, brat!" Jaken shrilled, stepping out of the garden house with a large bucket. "Take this seed grass and spread it over there! I want all that land planted by nightfall, or no dinner for a week!"
Okay, now it was worse.
"This is all your fault, you know." He growled, turning to his sibling. Sesshoumaru was busy tearing out the charred remains of his father's rose bushes.
"Oh, shut up." the full demon replied sulkily. He was moving slowly, as if his legs had turned wooden, and it didn't look like his arm was working too well. Dad musta gotten harsh with the biting. Inuyasha thought, and thanked the gods for small favors. At least he was still too little to Stand Up and Take it Like a Demon, which was parent-speak for "come here so I can bite you." For once, Inuyasha didn't mind being the younger brother.
"Well, at least we won…right?" Inuyasha added somewhat more charitably, noticing the unusually dour expression on his brother's face. It was kinda disturbing to see his brother so lackluster, especially since they'd just got punished. Usually, Sesshoumaru was fuming at the injustice of it all, and plotting double-time to find a way out of their duty.
"She really hates me, doesn't she."
"Huh?" Inuyasha dropped the bucket of grass seed, momentarily distracted. "What's that supposta mean?"
"Yasuka really hates me, doesn't she." Sesshoumaru continued, rocking back on his heels. He looked…upset, for some reason, and that upset Inuyasha even more than his previously quiet manner.
"That's what you wanted." the hanyou reminded as he reached for a fistful of seeds.
"Yeah, but…" Sesshoumaru's eyes grew distant. Yasuka had come up to them in the middle of their initial Punishment, pink hair disheveled, and given them a Look worthy of even Sesshoumaru's mother. They'd tried to avoid her, but she darted right AROUND the pole they were hiding behind and grabbed Sesshoumaru full on the ear. Then she'd lifted herself up to her full height, pink eyes flashing, and belted:
"HONORLESS COWARD! I HATE you!! I hope you drop dead! And you can KEEP your stinkin' flowers!!!!"
Inuyasha could STILL hear her scream ringing inside his skull.
"You're still mad about that?" the hanyou asked skeptically.
"Well…" Sesshoumaru paused, then tore at some branches furiously. "I wanted her to go away, right? But I didn't want her to hate me."
Inuyasha gave him a Look.
"…okay, well, not hate me enough to be mad at me, just hate me enough to leave us alone."
Inuyasha blinked. "I don't get it."
"I just…" Sesshoumaru scrubbed one hand through his silvery hair, making it even muddier than it already was. "She called me a coward." He scowled, and a glimmer of his former confidence flickered to life. "Nobody calls me a coward."
"Yeah!" Inuyasha squeaked, happy to see his big brother back in action. "She told you to drop dead too!"
"Yeah…" Sesshoumaru murmured, and suddenly he was quieter again. "Do you think maybe we pushed things too far?"
"Too far?" The concept was foreign to Inuyasha.
"…never mind." The full demon said softly, and went back to his task.
"Grrr!" Inuyasha huffed, and turned back to spreading seeds. Sesshoumaru being melancholy was almost as bad as Sesshoumaru pissed off. Neither state was easy to live with, and both of them were as likely to bite you as answer your questions. He heaved a heavy sigh. Honestly, sometimes he thought perhaps he should take over the leadership of their little pack.
I coulda been the big brother! Inuyasha thought grumpily. I just wasn't born first.
A glimmer of pink flashed at the edge of his vision, and he nudged his brother hard.
"Hey, there she goes." he observed, pointing across the complex to the women's quarters. An unmistakable mop of pink hair bobbed in the entranceway, and Yasuka made as if to step inside.
Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed.
"She called me a coward." he said, and a branch snapped beneath his fist. "She said I have no honor."
Uh-oh… Inuyasha thought, grappling about for anything he could use to restrain his partner-in-crime. Revenge was the last thing they needed right now, since Jaken was hell-bent on getting the garden replanted before nightfall and Dad was impatient.
"Aw, c'mon…" he whined, as Sesshoumaru leapt to his feet, demon eyes blazing red. "I don' wanna get in trouble again."
"I'll show HER who has courage!" the full demon panted, balling his hands into tight fists. "SHE thinks she's won! SHE thinks she's stronger than me!"
He began stomping toward the concubine's veranda dutifully, despite the Inuyasha-shaped dead-weight hanging onto his leg.
"No no no no no!" the hanyou growled, digging his teeth and claws in as hard as he could. "You're not going! I'M TELLING!"
Sesshoumaru stopped dead, and glared at his brother. Inuyasha smirked. This would be good for a few minutes of fighting, at least, and then afterwards Sesshoumaru could be properly pissed off and life would be normal again. Sesshoumaru raised his fist—
--and then dropped it, choosing to ignore Inuyasha entirely.
"Fine. Go and tell." the full demon announced, and continued hobbling toward the courtyard.
"I've thought about it for a long time, and there's only one way out of this." Sesshoumaru took a deep breath. "We lost face today."
"But we won the battle!" Inuyasha protested doggedly.
"And we lost the WAR! We were shamed before everyone!!!" Sesshoumaru yelped, showing the bruise mark where Michiru had kicked him. "They made us grovel before them like common cats! But we can't kill ourselves, 'cuz Dad says we're too young to have swords and Mom would be pissed. The only way to regain our Honor as Warriors is to die in battle!"
Inuyasha nodded. He'd figured it would be something like that.
"I have decided…" Sesshoumaru said after a pregnant pause. "To enter the Heart of the Enemy and…apologize."
"No!" Inuyasha breathed. Apologize… It was worst of fates for any puppy, the most horrible punishment the hells could have concocted, and he simply couldn't believe his brother had suggested such a thing! "You're not serious!" he cried, praying with all his heart that it was true.
"Quite." Sesshoumaru's gaze turned steely, and it was clear in his eyes that he wasn't kidding this time. Inuyasha whimpered, then understood what he must do.
In the flash of an eye, he released his brother's leg and scrambled to his feet. "Then I'm coming with you!" he announced in that time-honored tradition of little brothers everywhere. It was his Sacred and Solemn duty to tag along, after all. "I wanna go out fighting too!" he whined.
"No!" Sesshoumaru snapped. "This was MY idea! You go throw yourself off a cliff or something!"
"No, me too, me too! I wanna fight too!"
"NO!" Sesshoumaru snarled, and his voice was Authority itself, echoing impressively in the distance. "I will not have you involved in this. You will stand guard, and bear witness to this Tragedy, as Blind Kanae saw to the sacrifice of Takuto the Underdog in the Stolen Pudding Incident." Sesshoumaru wiped away a tear. "Poor man took the punishment of ten puppies to save his men from cleaning the kitchen."
"No but's!" his brother ordered, and Inuyasha felt his neck hairs stand on end. Sesshoumaru really didn't know how much like his mother he sounded when he reprimanded people.
"…okay." the hanyou acquiesced finally, and stuck out his tongue.
"Then follow." Sesshoumaru said simply, and began striding toward the women's quarters, his straight-legged gait full of purpose. Inuyasha hummed a funeral dirge along behind him, ears drooped down to half-mast. His brother was really, truly going to apologize…
His spirits hadn't been THIS low since Jaken had figured how who kept setting his staff on fire.
"We're here!" Sesshoumaru said abruptly, and Inuyasha looked up to see that it was true. The heady scent of incense beckoned to them, the shadowy shapes of women moving languidly behind the screens.
"Sesshoumaru…" Inuyasha said sadly, a thousand things still unspoken between them. He wanted to say something, but the words just wouldn't come. There was so much he had yet to ask his brother…so much they had shared…he simply didn't know what to do.
What do I say to him? Inuyasha wondered frantically. 'Thanks for not beating me up more than once a day?' 'I'll always remember that homicidal sparkle in your eye?' 'So long, and thanks for all the rug burns?'
"Well, I'm going in." Sesshoumaru said, and began climbing the porch stairs slowly—oblivious to his brother's conflict. He crossed the veranda slowly, and slowed to a crawl as he approached the door. He slid it open reverently, then turned to face his brother one last time, the Drama of it all written across his face.
"Wish me luck." the full demon said, and stepped across the threshold…
Inuyasha finally found his voice.
"Hey, wait!" he cried, and Sesshoumaru paused. "If Kanae was blind, how did she 'see' anything? And how exactly am I s'posta witness anything, I don't know what a 'witness' does! And what was the Pudding Incident, I--"
"Oh, just shaddup, will ya?!" Sesshoumaru growled from the shadowy doorway, and then he was gone.
Inuyasha waited outside the women's quarters and tapped his foot impatiently. He wasn't exactly sure how much time had passed, but he knew that it had been forever since he'd last seen his brother. He was getting tired of waiting, and Jaken probably was too. Finally, he decided he could take it no more. Figuring that he was already in as much trouble as a puppy can possibly be, he decided to take his chances and sneak into the concubines' chambers.
He slid back the door to the Women's Quarter carefully and slunk around the bamboo frame, eyes and ears searching for the slightest sign of danger. Strangely enough, there didn't seem to be hardly anyone around in the main corridors…normally, the place would be crawling with girls. For all of them to suddenly vanish…he wasn't sure if it was a good thing.
He could hear giggling off to the right, and slunk toward it. There were a LOT of demons in the next room, that was for sure…an overpowering mixture of cloying perfumes and personal scents. And…voices, yes, he could hear voices now—someone was talking loudly above all the background chatter.
Sesshoumaru! Inuyasha gasped. He was close enough now to tell that Sesshoumaru was the only one talking, as if he were somehow the absolute center of attention. Inuyasha's heart swelled with pride, and he nearly howled out loud. Why, his big brother must have found some way to deal with the girls after all…it certainly didn't sound like he was groveling. If the hanyou's grin were any larger, his cheeks would have torn open. Like as not, Big Brother had gone in there and kicked ALL of their sorry tails, and right now he was delivering his patented "King of the Hill" speech… Inuyasha slid the screen open happily, more than ready to join the festivities.
His jaw dropped.
Instead of the carnage he had been expecting, the room was completely intact and absolutely FILLED with women—tittering, giggling girls arranged in a rough circle around…
"Sesshoumaru?!" Inuyasha asked incredulously. His brother didn't seem to look angry or dead at all…on the contrary, he seemed to be relishing the attention, and he was at least half-way through telling yet another rendition of "How I Vanquished the Vicious and Cunning Red Wolf (who was actually a harmless, cross-eyed Irish Setter, but hey, who's counting)".
"—so like I was saying, then I told HIM that if he didn't get outta my territory I'd kick his sorry…I-Inuyasha!?" Sesshoumaru yelped, his entire body going red with embarrassment. A few of the ladies giggled as the young prince looked down at his brother, trying like hell to hide bouquet of flowers he was holding.
Inuyasha blinked again, trying to get the strange image to process. Whereas Sesshoumaru had previously been dirty, stinky, and dressed in a ripped up play robe (a very respectable appearance for a young puppy), he was now swathed in the most expensive, intricately embroidered clothing imaginable. Even worse, his muddy hair had been cleaned and—goodness no!—even combed. But most tragic of all, that foul ear molestor Yasuka was sitting right next to him—and threading beautiful ribbons throughout his long hair. And what was that weird color on his eyelids?! Was that…
"Makeup!?" Inuyasha squeaked. Oh horror of horrors…
Yasuka giggled, her claws still buried in Sesshoumaru's long hair.
"Doesn't he look precious!?" she exclaimed. "Michiru-san does the best make-overs!"
"No, it's not what you think!" Sesshoumaru protested violently, rubbing at his eyelids. "I, uh--death to the girls and all that—I mean, it's not like I agreed to this or anything…I swear…" he ducked his head sheepishly.
"Oh, don't be silly. You don't have to be embarrassed about it…I think you look great!" Yasuka smiled happily. "Come here, you…" She leaned forward, pink eyes shining, and kissed him right full on the cheek.
Sesshoumaru's eyes widened.
"Whoa…" he grinned stupidly, and his eyes took on that glazy, awed quality that was normally reserved for Really Cool Swords.
"No…wait, I mean, uh—I'm gonna bite you, you little…" Yasuka giggled and dodged his attack easily, reaching one hand out to scratch behind his right ear.
"I outta---uhhh…" Sesshoumaru tipped over cross-eyed, and the women laughed again, thoroughly enjoying the show. Slowly, ever so slowly, his left leg began to twitch….
…and starting thumping against the floor in an expression of doggy happiness.
Inuyasha fell to the ground, howling with laughter, no longer hearing his brother's feeble protests. No matter how Sesshoumaru tried to deny it, Inuyasha knew the truth. He had triumphed. He had succeeded, where his big brother had not.
He had escaped, and his big brother had the cooties.
Thanks for reading, everyone! I couldn't have done it without you. ^_^