The End and the Beginning

The fierce and intense battle was all but over; Naraku had died, screeching his last curses as he dissipated into the air, but it would be a long time before the reality of his defeat would truly sink in and allow everyone to relax. Meantime Kagome supervised getting her injured friends first aid, until they could get back to the safety of Kaede's hut; where she would take over the supervision of healing them properly.

All had survived fairly unscathed; they had had many allies in the fight, all of whom had different skills which proved to be Naraku's undoing. He had not expected them to all ignore their own differences when they came to fight him. So although wounded, most had actually helped each other and protected the ones who became vulnerable. Kagome was proud to have been there and although the war was terrible, she felt honoured to be with all her friends.

She watched as a fully transformed Kirara took Miroku, Sango and Shippou back to Kaede; they were some of the last to go. Others had already gone their various ways, but many were being cared for in the villager's homes. Soon it would be time to strengthen the tentative ties that had been made during this time of victory, it would be a shame to let the new friendships die.

Kagome had been gently amused to see the normally calm and confident monk, weeping in Sango's arms from sheer relief at the disappearance of the wind void in his hand and the fact that he and more importantly his dear Sango had survived. Kagome herself was uninjured, barring the odd scratches and sheer exhaustion as Inuyasha had as usual kept her behind himself during the fight. He had fought with more desparation, anger, strength and determination than she'd ever seen before; this had been their last chance as Naraku had prepared well for this battle.

Tonight was the moonless night and Inuyasha would become fully human; Kagome however could not reach him at the moment. She knew he was alive and healing but his youkai blood was only an advantage until the sun set, a time that was fast approaching. However until the red eyed Youkai, who was standing guard over him in the form of a huge white dog; became the normal, stoic Sesshoumaru again; she could not go near him.

The Western Lord had surprised them by turning up in full force and dealing with the incarnations and other youkai on the edges of the battle. He worked his way up to the main struggle with Naraku, but as Inuyasha fell backwards into unconsciousness, having used his last strength finally defeating Naraku; the huge dog had come to stand over his fallen brother and made short work of any who came near.

Kagome watched with an arrow nocked aiming straight at the dog's heart; but so far, Sesshoumaru's aura had not been threatening. In fact, he had seemed to give her a mildly amused look and wagged his tail once; before putting his great head down to sniff at Inuyasha and reassuring himself that the boy was still alive. Then she stared in disbelief as the dog gave a quick lick on the side of the boy's face before turning to stare at her again.

As the danger passed, he slowly grew smaller to become the tall lord with whom she was more familiar. Turning towards her, he motioned with his hand to allow her access to Inuyasha so she could check him for herself; but he said;

"The hanyou is injured but he will heal." and in answer to Kagome's look he continued, "No one but I have the right to take Inuyasha's life and I will decide when."

There were several wounds that could do with attention that she could see, so doing what she could for him she followed as Sesshoumaru picked him up and walked towards the village. As the sun set and stars twinkled in the darkening sky, she heard Inuyasha whimper,

"It hurts Sesshy." Finding it hard to believe, she heard the answer from the cold hearted youkai,

"I know, be still, it passes quickly." Her eyes widened in surprise, hearing the gentle exchange. Hurrying to keep up, she saw that Inuyasha had turned into his human form; his dark hair mixing in with the silver white of Sesshoumaru's own.

"Why did it hurt him, it doesn't usually?" Kagome asked mainly to herself, but she was astonished when she got an answer.

"Normally he is conscious and can control himself from allowing the pain to make him call out, but he is much weaker at the moment. The transition does not take long but it has always caused him pain. It is not only the outward appearance that changes, there are many internal differences as well."

She was ashamed of herself, she had not considered that Inuyasha felt any real physical pain except for some of the major wounds of his battles, he always seemed so strong and always ridiculed her own low tolerance.

"I never knew." she said sadly. Sesshoumaru got a slightly bemused look

"I supposed not, anymore than you realise how much pain it gives him when you use that rosary to subdue him; making his body slam into whatever surface he is over or from whatever height." She became aware of anger creeping into his voice which surprised her and she begged in a quiet voice herself,

"Please Sesshoumaru, would you stop a moment?" Intrigued he did so, allowing Kagome to approach his brother. Inuyasha was still drifting in and out of consciousness as she stroked and kissed his forehead; feeling the cold clamminess due to his symptoms of shock and blood loss, then she removed the necklace and put it away.

"He must have a lot of regard for you Miko, if he has never punished you for the times you have cruelly misused it." She was shocked at his words, she had never meant to be cruel.

"I didn't always think about it, sometimes when I was angry..." she said, realising herself how lame that sounded. "He is half Youkai..."

"He bleeds as you do, he eats and drinks as you do and he feels pain as you do; he just has superior strength to deal with it." Sesshoumaru replied. "He has had much suffering in his life." Then he retreated behind his usual silence once again, leaving Kagome with a great deal to think about. 'Why was Sesshoumaru talking almost normally to her about Inuyasha?'

They entered the village and found Kaede's hut. As was to be expected, the sight of the tall, beautiful, extremely dangerous and powerful youkai lord standing calmly with his human brother in his arms, caused quite a stir. He ignored all the stares, but a glance had taken in the whole situation instantly; his nose telling him of the herbs used for healing and that no death or danger was immenent. In the scant seconds it had taken to assess the situation, a small delighted girl attached herself to his leg; calling to him in excitement, pleased he was alive and asking to see his burden.

"Rin, you had no need to fear for me. You are noisy child and my brother is weary. It is time for you to sleep girl. I will see you in the morning." Rin was an obedient child and went back to her bed; curling up with Shippou and Kirara, their tails warming her. Kagome had rushed to her friend's side; Sango was strangely protective of Miroku who was still subdued, but the light had returned to his eyes. 'Normal relationships would be resumed shortly' Kagome thought.

Watching as Sesshoumaru took his brother into the smaller back room of the hut, she spoke softly with Sango and found to her great delight that Kohaku had been freed of the shard in his back. He had been restored to life by the great lord now in the back room; before the battle had started and when Rin had been left in the protection of Kaede. The boy was now sleeping in the tangle of human, kitsune and firecat in a warm corner by the fire.

Kagome watched as Sango's hand rested on the monk's chest as he was now sleeping with his head in her lap; a position he had long hoped for. At least he seemed to be asleep but she wasn't sure, he was such a schemer. Looking at Sango however, she caught the other girl's smile and slight shake of her head; telling Kagome that she knew he was awake but she was allowing the pretense. Kagome returned the smile, their future together looked good to her.

This started her thinking about her own future; a future without the boy she loved, the boy in the other room, whose older brother was still with him. This was unnerving;

Sesshoumaru should surely be out by now. Kaede, who had seen her worried glances at the door; gave her a reassuring smile saying;

"They are alright child, leave them be for now." Thoughts that were driven from her head by her hearing Inuyasha calling her name. Kagome was by his side in an instant, regardless of his company; only to find that he had called to her in his sleep. She could however, feel the youki energy emanating from around the human boy; it was healing his wounds and keeping him asleep whilst it did so, conserving his own energy just to breathe.

Inuyasha could not be doing this himself tonight and Kagome realised that Sesshoumaru was supplying the Youki. Suddenly her own energies left her and she swayed, being both tired and relieved. Inuyasha was safe, as were her friends and the immediate danger to so many lives was gone. She was caught by the pelt or tail that Sesshoumaru normally carried on his shoulder and placed on a bed by the wall.

Exhausted, Kagome fell asleep almost immediately, but during the night she became aware of voices. One was quite childlike, trusting; the other was older, kind and reassuring. Neither one was recognisable at first so she listened carefully.

"You must rest and sleep Inuyasha, allow my power to heal you at least until morning."

"Sesshy, Sesshy!"


"Kagome, is she...?"

"She is well enough. As are all your friends Inuyasha, you must go back to sleep."

"I can't sleep, there is too much pain and I'm human at the moment."

"You are fighting me whelp. The pain will go if you sleep and heal; as for being human, I am quite able to see that."

Kagome could just see them in the reflected light that was thrown against the wall from a shaded lantern. She watched as Sesshoumaru gentlyraked his deadly claws through Inuyasha's hair, as he tried to soothe away the look of pain on his little brother's face. Then she became aware of a low pitched growl, almost a purr; that was ongoing and insistent. Then she caught sight of Sesshoumaru watching her with his amber eyes; so like, yet unlike Inuyasha's and she whispered,

"I'm sorry my lord, I did not mean to listen." Once again the eyes looked at her but seemingly with amusement; they glistened in the light and he said;

"My growl is not a warning for you Miko; this is used to keep pups asleep and subdued and even as a human, Inuyasha will respond by instinct and go to sleep until I allow him to wake."

"He hates being asleep when he's human." she said.

"Naturally, all his senses are weakened and he is vulnerable on his own; but he is at the moment, perfectly safe." Inuyasha was laying in Sesshoumaru's crossed legged lap, wrapped now in a nest made of the beautiful white pelt and he looked warm and comfortable.

"You may come to him if you wish girl." Kagome did so, noticing how the growling seemed to vibrate Inuyasha's body gently. He looked peaceful and pain free now, but her tears finally fell as she saw the traces of tears left on his face.

"He never cries whatever the pain" she whispered. Sesshoumaru just looked at her saying,

"What you really mean is, that you've never seen him. Inuyasha learned early, that anger was more effective to his survival and that tears left him weak and in danger; especially after the death of his mother. But even so a youkai, even if hanyou does not weep as you humans do." He turned his head slightly, dismissing her and she was left with her thoughts again. She dozed on and off until Sesshoumaru spoke again and what he said was quite unexpected.

"You are not mated yet. Inuyasha has not marked you for his own. This seems strange to me." This caused Kagome to blush hard and she tried to remember all that Sango had told her about Youkai. They were creatures that had such heightened senses; there was no hiding from them, any of the natural things that happened in life. Therefore, knowing the physical state of anyone was not an invasion of privacy; it was essential to the structure of their society.

Kagome was obviously unused to this type of communication with Sesshoumaru, but then he seemed different himself from when they first met; so she decided to confide in him almost as if he were one of her friends.

"He doesn't love me like that Sesshoumaru, I am only a friend. He has a prior attachment, a previous mate." He thought about that statement, it became apparent to him that she had misunderstood the meaning of mate to a Inu Youkai.

"You are talking of the former Miko, Kikyou? Inuyasha is not mated to her. He has never mated or marked another."

She couldn't help her anguished reply;

"How would you know, he knew her fifty years ago; they loved each other, still love each other. He goes to her as soon as he sees she is near. No one really knows about his past, he doesn't often speak of it even with me." Then she ran back to her bed and turned her back on him so he couldn't see her cry. Studying her for a minute or two, he found he could forgive her behaviour and her rudeness to him; by reasoning in his mind that she was upset and had been under great strain for someone who was not much more than a pup. He also had a lot of respect for her Miko power and suddenly he wanted her to understand.

"Inuyasha is Inu hanyou. Inu youkai mate for life and are fiercely loyal to that mate."

"Kikyou." she whimpered.

"It is not Kikyou for whom his scent changes, Kagome." She jumped hearing him use her name. He was amused and for once he was enjoying himself; a game to make her happy, not that this showed on his bland face however. "It is not her he pines for, protects first, lusts after, cannot bear to be apart from, wishes to mate or is afraid of. All these things any youkai knows about you two, even a child like Shippou if they come across your path."

"Shippou" she squeaked.

"Of course, all whelps have to learn the basic scents around them and learn when they are to keep out of danger. In certain...heated situations, pups may not be recognised until it is too late. The pup may not know or understand these circumstances until they are older, but they do learn when to keep out of the way."

Kagome thought over his words, but she had to say; shaking her head,

"I'm sorry Sesshoumaru, it is not enough. Even if he wanted me physically, it doesn't mean he loves me in the way I need him too. He is only afraid of my power to subdue him and that is not enough to stop him being rude and from shouting at me, yet I can't help but love him. I wish I didn't, I wish I could feel as he does; sometimes my only value is as his shard detector," she finished bitterly.

Sesshoumaru sighed inwardly, he knew that his brother was hopelessly inarticulate when it came to his feelings and he knew why; he lowered the pitch of his purr to a deep slow rumble, making Kagome feel a bit intimidated again.

"Filthy, dirty hanyou." he said in an undertone, "stinking halfbreed. Disgusting monster, shameful beast, unnatural freak, unworthy of human or youkai blood, fearful animal.

Stone him, starve him, beat him to death. Drive him out, wreck his den, steal his pitiful belongings, except there never is any pity." He had watched Kagome come to stand over him while he was speaking; she was rigid with anger and her Miko power crackling so much he could actually feel pain from it. Her fists were clenched and she had tears rolling down her cheeks. Barely managing to control herself, she said in a dangerous voice

"Shut up, shut up. How can you say those lies? You're hateful, leave him alone." He marvelled at her, she knew he could kill her for her presumption and yet she stood her ground. Calmly he said;

"Go and sit down girl, Inuyasha cannot hear me speak; he can only hear my growls telling him to sleep. But he has heard all those things many times since his mother died, when he was about eight. Some he'd heard before; but the understanding of what was meant by them only became obvious to him, once he was unprotected by her. This became his life and is still how he is viewed by many; even among his friends, his breeding has been mentioned to make a point of his failures.

"You are the only one he knows, who accepted him immediately and cared for him unconditionally. But more importantly, this is how he views himself as well. It is why he tries to drive your feelings away; he cannot trust that anyone can love him as he is and he feels he has nothing to offer you. With Kikyou, she was the first to show him any kindness after his mother died and his feelings of loyalty were awakened; but she, unlike yourself, could not accept him as he naturally is; a hanyou."

By now Kagome was crumpled up in her corner, overwhelmed by her insight into Inuyasha's past. He'd only been about the age of Shippou; younger than Souta, when he'd been left entirely alone. How could people be so cruel.

"How did all this happen Sesshoumaru and how do you know? You are one of the Youkai who hate him the most and wish him dead; you degrade and insult him, why are you caring for him now? You are healing him, speaking gently to him; I swear, if you are doing this just to break his heart again, I will kill you." Although the thought was preposterous, he believed her intent and was glad that she loved his brother so much. "I don't understand, you are so different to what I know of you and yet I trust you." Kagome said this to herself but he had heard her.

"I may explain it all to you Kagome, but only after I know what is to happen with the jewel and what you will decide to do."

"The jewel is not for me, it is for Inuyasha's wish. He has to decide whether to turn human as Kikyou wishes and stay with her in death; or he can become full Youkai and get rid of his pain, becoming heartless and strong like you." Sesshoumaru blinked at this description which was said with no feeling of rancour and said;

"He will never become like me and why would he wish this?"

"To be strong and acceptable to you; he reveres you for some reason and you are all he has, whether you like it or not. Either way, he will not make his wish until we have all gone our separate ways."

"And these are?"

"Sango and Miroku are getting married and will look after Shippou, living in the village here with Kohaku. Kouga and Ayame will go back to their pack and rebuild their strengths together and I...I will go back to my home."

Sesshoumaru found to his surprise that he found it refreshing to converse with someone who was unafraid of him, or at least wasn't giving in to that fear; he queried

"You will return to your home without him?"

"I cannot have him, Sesshoumaru. I want him to be happy; I love him as human, hanyou or youkai; whatever he wants, but he is not mine however much I wish he were." Once again there was silence between them, broken only by the soft breathing of them all. "Why are you here now Sesshoumaru? You discarded him, you hate him and try to kill him. Why are you here now at the end of our battle, being the exact opposite of all he knows of you?"

There was a very long pause and Kagome thought she had gone too far; pushing the youkai lord as she listened to the growling sound change once again. However, Sesshoumaru decided to tell her some of his reasons for being with them at this time saying;

"If I tell you of our common past, I do not expect any interference or comment from you. I think that you may have a right to know in the future, so you can share the explanation with Inuyasha now. Will you abide with my request? She nodded, hoping it would be possible for her to just listen. "If you interrupt I guarantee you will silence me.

"Cruelty and hatred, that is all you think he knows of me. It is not so. He was about ten when I finally broke his heart. Kagome would not say the words, but her eyes spoke for her; she really wished to understand what happened to cause such a terrible rift between the two brothers. Sesshoumaru saw her expression, and understood. Very well Miko...Kagome, I will tell you;

"My father whom I loved and tried to emulate was the mightiest, yet kindest of Youkai. My mother was extremely beautiful and loving to me and I adored her. They however, were not suited to be companiable together; so they lived separately in their own apartments. I was very young and knew no different and I had the love of both parents. I was the equivalent to your human age of fifteen when I found out that my father had demeaned himself with a human and had got her in pup. My mother was not concerned, she was still his only official mate; she was secure and had company of her own.

"But I was left too long without guidance from either parent; often left with my tutors, advisors and servants; who gossiped about the shame of the halfbreed. I was ready to accept this attitude; partly because I was young, but mainly because I felt neglected by my adored father; who was obviously in love with a lowly human and I couldn't understand. I was afraid of losing him; to the child he was so happy to have had with her and I was jealous. I was bitterly angry that my father died protecting his other family and that he seemed happier with them than with me. But I was not cold and heartless at first.

"My mother was not concerned if I went and visited my half brother, in fact she encouraged it. As I have grown older; I can understand how my mother's indifference to my father and any of his business, were what made him turn to someone who could show him love. My father was a loving man, his death nearly crushed me." Kagome stole a glance at the youkai lord; he was speaking softly and without much emotion, just stating the facts and his gaze was lost in the distance; although at times, he looked down at his brother who lay still and quiet in the pelt. He certainly seemed to have forgotton the presence of Kagome, who would do nothing to interrupt his train of thought.

"Izayoi was extremely beautiful, gracious and made me welcome in her home. She told me stories about my father and of how he loved and was proud of me and I grew to care for her. My baby brother was sweet and we grew very close; I would often sit with his mother by the fire, she would treat me as a son and I would have Inuyasha settled on my lap most evenings, just as he is now. I was extremely protective when he had his human night and although I was sorry for the pain, I was fascinated by the tansformation.

"It did not last, humans in the village were cruel to them and so mother invited them to the palace to live; even giving them a suite of rooms. However when Inuyasha was about six, we were invaded by someone who wanted to take our lands and my mother as mate. She would not accept him and she was killed, even though we won the battle. Izayoi and Inuyasha were my only comfort at this time and I was always welcome in their rooms. He was so trusting of me then and he looks so very like his mother when he is human.

"My father had set a programme of tutorage for me to follow and it being my father's wishes, I carried on with all my advisors; even when I had become the Lord of the Western Lands. About a year after I had taken up my duties, Izayoi told me she was leaving; she said that she wanted to return to her people, but I know now that she was being intimidated and threats were being made to Inuyasha by low youkai in the household. Some had been my mother's retainers and felt her slighted where she had not.

The night before they left was the last time I wept and with her arms around me and Inuyasha crying on my shoulder, we said our farewells. They took with them the warmth from the palace and I grew cold and lonely, more like my mother than my father.

"I listened to the insinuations that flowed around me, the constant drip of hatred for humanity that whispered in my ears. There was no one to call a halt to the prejudice that filled my halls. As time passed I heard nothing from them, I was busy and I felt forgotton. I was starting to believe in the corrupt lies, humans were just weak and disloyal; only out for self gain. I felt they had made a home with her family and left me cold and lonely outside. How ironic really, given Inuyasha's past.

"Some time later, a servant was brought to my attention; having been found to have stolen property designed to blackmail me. This consisted of letters from Izayoi as yet unopened. I executed the thief, but the damage had been done. The letters spoke of her concern for me, her hopes and her pleas for her son and the real reasons for her leaving the palace. I looked at the pictures she had enclosed, drawn by Inuyasha for his big brother. I cannot say I was unmoved at the time and I have kept them all, but I was well on my way to indifferent lord by now and my life had moved on from my father's mistress and halfbreed child.

"The letters had ceased some eighteen months before, so I saw no need or point in restarting correspondence; although I sent a trusted servant to enquire after the health of Izayoi and the child from her family. He returned, reporting that her relatives had no knowledge of the slut or even that there was a child. They would not have been welcomed in any case. I went personally then, to execute the person who had been so disrespectful to my father's mistress. Then I sent scouts to track Izayoi down, only to find that the boy was living in a cave and his mother dead for over a year. I journeyed to see for myself, hearing as I travelled the rumours of the disgraced woman and her monsterous child.

"I reached his cave in time to see some men clearing it out; throwing out his bed straw, firerocks and some personal belongings left, I presumed by his mother. Once again I killed them all and waited, hidden for Inuyasha to return. He came back with a fish in hand, the other protecting himself from missiles thrown by some children who were calling him insulting names that he couldn't help but hear. I watched as he started to gather his things together and replace them in the cave. He was almost naked, his hair unkempt and he was in great need of a bath after scrabbling around for his belongings.

"I was horrified at the sight of how he was living. I had seen on the outskirts of the village, the grave marker to his mother and the small bunch of wildflowers he must have set there and although I felt pity for him; I felt ashamed by him most of all. He was skinny and had lost his baby charm at ten years old, but he was alive and well I thought. Then I allowed him to see me; as he became alarmed, his senses telling him someone was near. He ran at me in joy; all big smiles, then he cried as he told me about being driven out of his home when his mother died. No one had helped her when she was sick, then they had burned down the little hut they lived in when she died; cremating her body at the same time.

"I however was embarrased at Inuyasha's misery; I was unmoved by his welcome and I was in shock at how he lived. Things may have been different if I'd taken an older female with me, but I'd lacked the foresight. Asking myself how could I possibly bring this creature back home, no one would accept him and they would think me weak; something I have never been able to risk. I decided that he would have to learn to live or die on his own. I had caught some food for us and it was cooking on the fire I made. This pleased him but when I looked at myself, my garments were dirty from where he had lain in my unresponsive arms. There was blood and tearstains from his face and who knows what else from his hands. I laughed at him and then pushed him away and I said 'You're such a dirty little hanyou, Inuyasha, look what you have done to my clothes.'

"In my defence I did not mean to hurt him, I was as yet unaware of the adjectives flung at him daily sometimes hourly; but to him, I had just joined the others who hated and hunted him for his birth. He stood away from me yelling at me to go, I did not take much persuading; so I left him with his shouts of despair and hate ringing in my ears. The last thing I heard was "we loved you Sesshoumaru." If I'd had a heart then, it would have been broken; but I'd already learned to lock it behind a wall of coldness. His shame, his shouts and his sobs were easy for me to ignore.

"I appeased my sense of obligation to him by setting discreet guards to keep him safe, make sure there was food for him to hunt or find and keep the villagers from upsetting his cave. Inuyasha was not to know, he had to learn to survive; sometimes I would observe him myself as he grew and I saw the loving child become an angrier, bitter young man who had no self esteem. By now any feelings I had for him were immediately strangled, I was ashamed of what he'd become and that anyone would dare to associate him with me. I watched as he fell in love with Kikyou. She helped and looked after him; loved him in her own way, but she was not as I remembered Izayoi had been when she spoke of my father.

Inuyasha excited her pity and she treated him more as a little boy; who she wanted to become human, so they could live a normal life. She did not love him as you do, the trust was not there between them as it is between you two and she was more selfish in her desires. You know I speak the truth Inuyasha, you would be an utter fool to go to her; your loyalty would be totally misplaced. Avenging her by killing Naraku will set her to rest and is all you could possibly owe her.

Kagome looked surprised, suddenly aware that the growling had stopped a while ago; Sesshoumaru had allowed Inuyasha to wake up if he was ready. But to her, he still looked asleep. Sesshoumaru though, knew better; he'd woken Inuyasha deliberately and the pup was listening to every word.

"I have kept an eye on Inuyasha all of his life, but from a distance; I was always there, sometimes to fight and convincing myself it has strengthened him to fight me which I do believe it has. I always knew in the back of my mind, I was failing my father and Izayoi; in my shame and neglect of their son and that in doing so, I who aspired to be a greater lord than my father, would never come close to him. This knowledge though took a wrong turn, just turning shame of Inuyasha into hatred of him.

I used to visit him when he was sealed to the tree; he looked so peaceful, I hated him more. I'd convinced myself that he was the cause of father's death and he'd failed to come to my aid when I had a battle against the cats. Then, by allowing himself to get sealed; I felt he was unworthy to be called my brother or our father's son. I have followed him since you awoke him from the seal, I know of all his interactions with all of you and I am a careful observer. We all had good reasons to destroy Naraku."

"Do you still hate me, my brother?" They turned their eyes on Inuyasha, who was not looking at either of them but at some point in the distance that only he could see. "What are you going to do now?"

"I am not ready to disclose that yet little brother; but no, I do not hate you. I never did in my heart, but I'd stopped listening to that as much as I could." Inuyasha closed his eyes again and said,

"I missed you Sesshoumaru, You hurt me so much when you left me." He tried to move away, feeling suddenly uncomfortable as he sat in his brother's lap but Sesshoumaru restrained him from moving saying;

"Stay, I am still closing your wound; you are not strong yet and it is imperative that your healing is complete before the sun rises."

Obeying his brother, Inuyasha held up his hand and called to Kagome; she came, taking his hand and Sesshoumaru wrapped his fur round the pair as they spoke softly. She leaned her head on Inuyasha's shoulder and then she stiffened; turning to look at him, her eyes swimming and just stared; touching his hair and drinking in his face with her look. This alarmed both brothers and she put her head in her hands

"This will be the last time I see your human face" she whispered and she clung to him as if her life (as it so often had) depended on him. All Inuyasha could do was let her grieve as he held her, he had no reassuring answer to offer.

As dawn approached, Sesshoumaru removed his tail from around them. He then asked Kagome to leave as he wished to speak to his brother in private. Receiving a nod from Inuyasha, she reluctantly left and sat on the other side of the split cane wall. Peeping through some of the cracks, she saw Sesshoumaru sitting on his knees and back on his heels in front of Inuyasha; he was looking very composed, whereas Inuyasha was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking shocked.

Kouga came to sit next to her, he had been waiting near the door in case she had needed help; his injuries were well on the way to being healed and he was sensitive still to her needs. Long knowing in his heart, that Inuyasha was her first and only love; Kouga had rekindled his affection for Ayame and they had agreed to marry, but he was still willing to offer Kagome his companionship and protection.

In doing so, he had heard with his superior hearing; all the conversation that had gone on and he had felt sorrow for the lonely pup that Inuyasha had been. Kouga knew that most dogs were like the wolves and whether animal or youkai, they were pack animals; living in close family groups and he marvelled at the small pup's survival. Not that he would ever admit that to the mutt himself, but he felt some regret over the insults he had hurled at Inuyasha however and vowed there would be no more.

"Do you wish me to listen to them for you Kagome?" he asked. Feeling guilty at her answer, she nodded and Kouga relayed in a whisper all he could hear.

Sesshoumaru looked for a long time at his little brother before he spoke; but when he did, his voice sounded placid but cool and unemotional although undoubtedly sincere:

"I want to apologise to you Inuyasha and whilst you are in your human form, I feel I can also speak to the Lady Izayoi and apologise to her for the lack of concern and the cruelty which you both suffered. Inuyasha felt awkward but he did not stop Sesshoumaru, nodding at him to continue. The youkai nodded back and spoke formally.

"I am a great Youkai Lord; I have made a name for myself and am greatly feared and respected, yet my reflection shames me and our father whom I resemble in appearance. I see his disappointment in who I have become, every time I see my face and in my dreams. Through my own eyes, I can see his anger at my cruelty to you and I am ashamed that I have always ignored these things. It is not you who are shameful, Inuyasha. Then he spoke as if he were talking to Izayoi and not Inuyasha, as he once again saw the Lady's likeness reflected in the human face of her son.

"I deeply regret that I did not know sooner of your plans; perhaps things would have been different between us, but I cannot turn back time. There is only forward motion. I do not deserve your forgiveness Izayoi, but I ask it of you. Let me help your son now, he is so like you to look at. I have missed you Lady Second Mother."

Kouga's eyes widened in surprise and he sniffed gently in the direction of the room behind him.

"Tears" he said to Kagome.

"Well, he is human at the moment; his emotions are always nearer the surface." she said defensively. But Kouga was shaking his head.

"Not his, they would not surprise me; it is Sesshoumaru." They peeped in again to see both the brothers kneeling and with their arms round each other, the dark haired boy was stroking the head of his older brother and offering him comfort. As they watched, the sun rose and Inuyasha's hair turned to it's normal silver white as he transformed. Then standing up in front of his brother; Inuyasha put his now clawed fingers under Sesshoumaru's chin, lifting his brother's face to look at him.

"Mama forgave you my brother, long ago; she always understood you, she loved you too and often told me stories of you and our father. She never gave up hope that you would help us one day." Inuyasha then turned to look out of the window at the rising sun, as it brought colour back to the earth. The Lord's soft voice then asked;

"But what of you little brother, can you forgive me?" Inuyasha spun round,

"You are asking me for my forgiveness, you know what I am; a disgusting freak,unworthy even of notice." Sesshoumaru was immediately before him, with his hand on his shoulder impelling Inuyasha to turn to him.

"Look at me hanyou, you are the sum of youkai and human and as such worthy of both. I know your life has been extremely hard; but you could turn things around, help rid the ignorance in both societies. In fact, now is the best time to do that as your group is so well known ." Inuyasha answered as if he'd not heard his brother speak;

"I cannot even allow her to get close to me, because I can't taint her with my blood; I can't bring her to disgrace as I did to my mother and make her an outcast listening to whispers of hate every day."

"That should be Kagome's own choice Inuyasha and I know she has made it; should you ask it of her." There was silence between them once again.

"Inuyasha please, can you forgive me? My neglect of you, who never deserved such treatment. Would you please treat my home as yours once again, with all the honour due to you as our father's son; or do you require my death to appease you? I would agree to a duel if that is what you wish." Inuyasha answered in a quiet voice,

"I do not think a fight would serve any purpose. Nor would our father or the two ladies who were our mothers, be honoured by the death of either of us. I have never wanted your death, Sesshy; I too remember my earliest days as happy ones, with my mother and you. There is nothing to forgive, you were young and also had no guidance; father left you as well." Inuyasha's voice sounded sad and tired, but was strangely mature. "You are my only family, I have always loved you; I wished to be full youkai to be like you."

"Inuyasha, you do not need to be full youkai; it is time for change, you can help the change take place." Again silence, as each were left with his own thoughts. Inuyasha stood still looking out of the window, Sesshoumaru stood away from him; calm, collected and no hint of anything he had said showing on his face. He looked once towards the door of the room and although he gave no sign; Kagome knew that he knew, she was there.

Of course his senses could pick up on emotion and any other scent she gave off. He would know that Kouga was there as well, but she was not afraid; Sesshoumaru had made a conscious decision to speak with Inuyasha here and not somewhere else. It was part of his penance to apologise to Inuyasha where his friends would know. Behind his cool exterior, Sesshoumaru found he now had a great inner peace; a sense of calm as if a catharsis had taken place for him.

He could now go on and grow; he had matured just by settling things with his brother and was now well on his way to emulating his father at last. He was grateful to Inuyasha for this freedom and although he was aware that his deep inner turmoil and guilt was gone, nothing looked any different on the youkai's surface. Turning round, he became aware of a hint of salt in the air and moved gracefully towards Inuyasha; touching the boy's arm. Inuyasha did not move; his arms were wrapped tightly around his body as if he was holding himself together, which in fact he was.

Sesshoumaru stood before him and this time he put his arm around Inuyasha, who taking one swift look at Sesshoumaru, grabbed hold of him and laid his head on his brother's chest. Then he was positively bawling, as if he were the baby brother again; safe in his big brother's arms, after being chastised for some misdemeaner. Not all of his long bottled up emotions could be purged, however. There were far too many hurts locked away in his heart and he was hanyou, not able to weep as freely as humans. But it was a start to healing.

When Sesshoumaru felt Inuyasha's grip on him loosen and his body stop shaking, he asked Inuyasha if he'd decided what to do with the jewel.

"Not yet, I have only got one go at the thing; I want it right." Was the quiet reply.

"Of course, now I'm going to ask you to trust me little brother; do you think you can?" Wet amber eyes looked into, for the first time in years; another pair of amber eyes that he could openly read. He saw warmth and no deceit; actually he knew there was no reason for Sesshoumaru to ever lie, he had always been trustworthy. So he said 'yes' with no compunction. Sesshoumaru had been stroking Inuyasha's hair all this time, now he found a place on Inuyasha's neck and squeezed; knocking the boy unconscious. Then he said;

"You may come in now, Kagome, Kouga. I need you to listen quickly and not interrupt" he said to them. "Inuyasha is trusting me, you must also trust me if you wish to help. Can I rely on you wolf, or are you still his enemy? If so, please leave and anything you have heard or seen had better stay with you if you wish to live. It will not be used to insult either of us . Do you agree?" Kouga bristled a bit at the tone of voice but he recognised what Sesshoumaru was asking of him so he answered,

"Of course I will help; we may have had our differences, but we understand one another. On my honour as a Youkai Prince." Sesshoumaru nodded and turned to Kagome.

"You must also trust me girl, can you?" She looked into his eyes just as Inuyasha had done and saw that they looked very deep and wise and honest. She knew she could trust him not to harm Inuyasha now and nodded her assent.

"Prince Kouga, you will stay in here please and guard the door; do not let anyone outside if we end up outside as we probably shall." Kouga nodded. "Kagome you must take Tetsusaiga from him and take it into the other room, you will be in no danger. Are you still willing to do this?"

"You are going to make him transform, why?"

"He needs an answer Kagome and he will need help, do you understand?"

"Yes Sesshoumaru, I understand." She went and removed the sword from around Inuyasha's waist; looking at him, the tears still evident on his face. She stroked some stray hair from where it had stuck on his damp cheek; noticing how young he looked as she kissed him, then left quickly. Sesshoumaru was watching her, rejoicing inwardly; the girl obviously loved Inuyasha just as he was and would eventually heal his brother's heart.

Inuyasha started to waken as he felt Kagome leave and she said,

"You will need a trigger for his transformation." Kouga grinned,

"Me this side, you that side and no sword; he will need no other trigger than Sesshoumaru, restraining him from reaching you." Inuyasha opened his eyes not realising what had happened. His face was still against Sesshoumaru's breast and he pulled away gently, wiping his face dry. He caught Kagome's scent and then Kouga's and he became concerned; the wolf wasn't in here before, was he?

As the hanyou turned towards the door; Kouga saw Inuyasha as a young and vulnerable boy pup and surprised himself, by feeling very protective towards him. Kouga had lost many of his own pack during the various battles for the shards. There had been many cubs who had died and Kouga found his eyes fill with tears for all the lost innocence; much of which Naraku had caused, seeing it embodied in the brat before him. Inuyasha however, saw Kouga standing between himself and Kagome and started to get angry that the wolf had witnessed his weakness. The feelings were never far below the surface, that he was a worthless hanyou and was always having to prove himself; emerged.

Quickly ridding himself of the adolescent pup image he had formed of Inuyasha, Kouga tensed remembering that Inuyasha was a formidable fighter even without the sword.

"Why are you here Kouga, you are healed; why aren't you curled up round Ayame keeping her warm? Where is Kagome? Kouga answered

"They are fine. Everything is going to be great now Naraku is gone." Inuyasha was nearly in Kouga's face, when he sniffed and looked closely at Kouga. Kouga for once allowed it, causing Inuyasha to wonder why; but never having been part of a pack, he didn't guess what Kouga was thinking, which was probably just as well. Inquisitiveness was tolerated in pups as an aid to learning and it helped to strengthen pack ties.

"I was thinking about my pack Inuyasha. Ayame and I and the few of us left will start again, but I mourn the ones we've lost. You were just reminding me of them pup."

Inuyasha immediately bristled, he wasn't a pup; let alone Kouga's. Yet Kouga didn't have the scent he usually had when he meant to insult him and looking across at Sesshoumaru, he saw his brother smile and he felt he was missing something. Anger started to get to him; he hated it when people treated him as if he were stupid, laughing at him and without realising it, he felt for the calming reassurance of Tetsusaiga.

It was gone and a growl started in his throat as he looked round for the sword; not finding it, he started to feel insecure. He was on his own with two former enemies of his and no sword, what was going on? His growls got louder and he glared at Sesshoumaru who was unperturbed.

"Where is it brother, where is Tetsusaiga, what is happening?" Sesshoumaru stayed maddeningly calm and said;

"Do not question me or my motives whelp, your bitch has your sword." He was succeeding in getting Inuyasha hot and bothered, especially when he then stopped Inuyasha from going out of the door as he tried shoving Kouga out of the way.

"Why, Kagome? Come here, I need Tetsusaiga, please Kagome." She could hear him, they all could and her heart went out to him; but Kaede said very firmly

"Leave him to someone who can deal with him Kagome. Sesshoumaru has told me what he is going to do and he is right. Inuyasha needs answers, let him find them." But as Inuyasha sounded more desperate, calling for her more and more; as he was held down by the two full youkai and wailing that he didn't want to transform, she felt that she was breaking her promise to him; to remain at his side. Kouga called through.

"Stay out Kagome, it is for his own good. Ayame don't let her come in." They heard Inuyasha's howl of rage at Kouga as he transformed.

Ayame stood at the door now and Rin broke free of Shippou who was afraid for his hanyou friend; going with eyes of love to Kagome. Her faith in her beloved Lord Sesshoumaru was evident and so strong that her certainty passed to Kagome.

"Lord Sesshoumaru will look after his brother, Lady Kagome, do not fret." Kagome went to the wall to peep through ignoring the warning growls of Ayame. Placing a hand on the wolf girl's arm she smiled sadly and just looked through the slats in time to see the two brothers crash through the outside wall in their fight. Kouga was standing now with his back to the door, but ready to help if neccessary.

Inuyasha's eyes were red, his fangs were long and he snarled as he ripped and growled at his brother; trying to kill him. Inuyasha by now was beyond reason whereas Sesshoumaru was cool, collected and totally in control. He was content to avoid Inuyasha, who was blindly hitting out; dangerous and unpredictable by his rage, with no thought of self preservation.

Sesshoumaru had no need to transform, he was able to dodge easily and keep Inuyasha at bay with his energy whip. When Inuyasha reached the height of his dementia, Sesshoumaru leapt on him; pinning him to the floor with his superior power and knocking him out with a strong punch with his fist. He did not require the classical submission pose that called for an opponent to surrender or die, because Inuyasha would not have recognised it; he would die still fighting.

Carrying the limp body back into the hut, he lay across Inuyasha; pinning him down, then he called for Kagome. She came straight in; Kouga could not have stopped her and she ran to Inuyasha's side. Sesshoumaru once again, aware of how much the girl loved his brother; she was not afraid of him at all. He even found himself wishing that someone could love him just as much. Turning his attention instead to the wolf at the door he said;

"Kouga, I am sure your mate needs you and, Thank you." Kouga just bowed his head a little and left, there was no way round this dismissal. "Kagome, call him please; call him to you, Miko" Sesshoumaru said stressing her spiritual abilities, "and please do not be afraid, he will not hurt you."

She did call him and soon the youkai Inuyasha came too and recognised her, but with a feral desire. She could see that he was rather obviously, physically aroused and knew what he would do if he could get free; she would become his possession, his mate right there and then. He would certainly not kill her, but no one else would be safe. He had no control of his youkai spirit in the same way that Sesshoumaru or Kouga did and he never would have. His strength was great, but animalistically mindless; except for the basic needs.

Kagome leant in to kiss him, trying to bring him back as she had done before; but to no avail, each transformation took more of his soul away. He just growled and fussed at being restrained, then his anger transferred to desire and he bit her lips trying to force her mouth; no trace of amber in those lustful, blood red eyes.

He started to thrash his head as he tried in vain to get free of his brother's strong grip; finally Kagome kissed his forehead blushing, knowing that the highly erotic low growling was for her. Sesshoumaru of course was not at all bothered by his brother's state of being; all Youkai recognised the natural mating lusts and therefore there was no shame in the aroused body, even if it should be private.

"Kagome, give him the sword now. Put Tetsusaiga into his hand and then please leave; he will still be angry with me when he recovers." She did as he asked and left, understanding his reasons well. Soon the sanity started to return to Inuyasha's eyes as red gave way to amber; but the amber was not bright, it stayed dark with deep sadness and shame as he knew his body was still reacting to Kagome.

"Get off me Sessh. I'm not going to fight any more. Why did you do this to me, why?"

"You remember, is that not unusual?"

"Part of me remembers; sometimes immediately, sometimes in dreams. Leave me alone Sesshoumaru, please go away." Inuyasha scooted over to the corner and sat as he usually did; hiding, with his hair veiling his face and gripping his sword tightly.

"I'll not leave you this time or ever again, Inuyasha. I had to test you and see what it took to defeat you." Sesshoumaru said quietly.

"So, I'll never be as strong as you; is that what you wanted to know? You still need to prove you're superior to me, you and everyone else?" Inuyasha was bitter. Ignoring his brother's reply, Sesshoumaru continued speaking.

"If you choose to become full Youkai and mindless, if that truly is your heartfelt desire; I will protect you. I will give you freedom on land that I will provide for your inheritence; where you can hunt and live as you wish, but that I can keep secure. You will not use the jewel until I have secured the boundaries for you and protected your potential victims outside the barrier. If you do not accept my provision, I cannot guarentee your safety and you will be killed by youkai exterminators or stronger youkai. When you are sick of your life, come to me and ask and I will end it for you."

Kagome was beside herself, Sesshoumaru had not lowered his voice; they could all hear and he had spoken with no emotion at all. It was a generous offer if not a last resort. Inuyasha was silent and his brother waited for him, then he got up and approached Sesshoumaru, pulling his collar down. He swept his hair away to one side thereby exposing his neck and tilted his head under Sesshoumaru's chin, in an act of submission.

"Do it now please."

"You are exposing your throat to me that I may rip it out?"

"You said you would if I wanted it", and he gently bucked his head under his brother's chin again. "She won't want me like that...that beast that nearly...and wanted to...he is always there in me; please Sesshy please." Inuyasha exposed as much of his throat as he could, pulling his clothing from off his shoulder.

"The circumstances at the moment are not those in which I said I would do that Inuyasha." and Seshoumaru turned away.

"Please Sesshy." Inuyasha was mortified by the actions of his uncontrolled youkai towards Kagome.

"Do not whine whelp, pull yourself together and decide on your future." With that a loud slap was heard and Inuyasha went flying as Sesshoumaru's hand connected with his face. "Stop your self pity and think of those who care for you and love you, now that you have them. Now I must go and see Rin." He turned elegantly and left the room as if nothing had happened at all.

When Kagome went to go to him however, Sesshoumaru stopped her by putting his clawed fingers on her arm and looking down with serious yet gentle amber eyes;

"Leave him to think for a while miko. I understand it is hard on you at the moment, but Inuyasha's defenses are down right now. His decisions and thoughts for once can be true, he can be honest with himself." Kagome nodded and went over to Sango; her head down and she was like that an hour or so later, not seeing when Shippou sneaked in to the back room. He had glanced up at the tall youkai lord who gave the slightest of nods and then let him go straight to Inuyasha who was curled up in a ball; still where his brother had knocked him under the window.

Seeing him like that and knowing what Inuyasha had been through; Shippou, for once felt like he was the elder of the two. He approached the other boy; noting the dishevelled silvery hair about him and scenting the salt that clung to him as well as the utter despair. Shippou knew Inuyasha was aware of his presence, so he didn't make a sound; he just burrowed himself under the arm that was flung over Inuyasha's head and snuggled up to the silent hanyou's chest.

"It's O.K. to let it go Inuyasha. You've been there when I've been really miserable."

"You're just a kit Shippou, It's different for kits, you don't know?" Shippou snorted.

"I know enough; more than you think and I know you very well Inuyasha. I know when you are just a lost, sad puppy sitting in a tree or on your own. I have youkai senses too you know and I can hold my tongue; unlike you sometimes. You aren't that much older than me Inuyasha, 'cause being pinned to a tree and sealed doesn't count. You ain't much more than a cub or a kit and you're not on your own any more; we all love you Inuyasha, come back to us please."

Quick as a flash and before Shippou could move away; Inuyasha grabbed him and to Shippou's relief, cried; just like Shippou himself had done many times and he let Shippou pat and soothe him. Outside Sesshoumaru smiled in relief, able at last to give his undivided attention to Rin and allowing Kagome to go in to her adopted family and offer the comfort she needed to give. Once Inuyasha was calm and his tears spent, Shippou had left so that Inuyasha and Kagome could be alone.

Inuyasha lay with his head in Kagome's lap as she stroked his forehead.

"Have you decided Inuyasha?" she asked quietly; trying to sound Interested but not desperate, for his answer. To her joy he said.

"I don't want to be a full youkai any more and lose my reason Kagome." There was a pause before he carried on, " I saw Kikyou before the battle Kagome, I know you didn't know." He felt her stiffen and he scented her immediate apprehension and fear but he continued, "I needed to speak with her, reassure her."

Kagome's heart lurched, she thought it might even stop beating; he was going to die and go with Kikyou to keep his promise. She wanted to run fast and far away; but no part of her would move this time, everything was stopping; her brain, her limbs, her tears, her breathing and her heart. Kikyou had won. Inuyasha was well aware that she was in trouble but he had to keep talking.

"We spoke for a long time; I held her so tight, I thought she would fall to pieces and I kissed her. I told her I would never forget her and that I would always love her, but that I was not in love with her. I am in love with you Kagome. Kikyou released me from the promise, of her own free will and told me to be happy with you and we had her blessing; if we wanted it. She...she told me that she could never love me as much as you do. I wanted to say goodbye to her alone Kagome, I owed her that much. I held her as she died finally and at peace...I didn't want her to die alone. I will miss her but I feel free."

Kagome believed him; even as she wiped away the tears from his face, tears shed for his now truly dead first love. Swallowing hard, Kagome felt compelled to make an offer that could kill her,

"If you wish, I could use the jewel to give Kikyou her life again Inuyasha?" There was a long silence, Inuyasha turned away from her and curled up again. Finally he whispered in a choked voice,

"You love me that much Kagome, you'd bring back Kikyou for me; how can you love me that much?" He turned round gripping her hands but not looking up and he continued. "Thank you for the offer Kagome, but you didn't hear me properly. I'm not in love with Kikyou, I'm in love with you. Kikyou is at rest, she was tired and would not want to be brought back now."

Kagome's relief was palpable as he now looked at her; but no sooner had he seen her face, than he stared in abject horror; his ears flattening on top of his head and he turned away again, his body shaking violently.

"Inuyasha, what is wrong?"

"How can I ask you to become my mate Kagome. Look at how I can hurt you." He had seen her bruised and bitten lips. Realising, she came round to face him; but he wouldn't look up at her, her beauty and generosity shaming him. His face was deeply red and he said "There is a good reason why hanyous are despised Kagome, we are neither one thing nor the other; just dangerous beasts. Sesshoumaru was right to want me dead." At his words Kagome's anger rose and she hissed,

"None of us want you dead you foolish boy, including Sesshoumaru. I love you and want to be your mate, You won't hurt me, and I can take your passion." she had now lowered her voice and spoke just for him, instinct telling her what to say. "Can't you for once, put aside your self hate and see we all love and care about you?" Kagome was gripping him now and causing him pain, not that he would admit that; but this time her words reached him.

Taking her in his arms, he felt himself at home as he hadn't done since his mother had died. Once he was able to face the others and have a late breakfast, Inuyasha was welcomed by all. For once he allowed the hugs and kisses that he recieved, without the barriers round his heart and although he still felt awkward; he started to feel what contentment and joy means.

Later that morning, Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru were sitting under the Goshinbuku watching Shippou and Rin playing with Kagome.

"Rin will be a beauty when she grows up Sessh."

"She is a delight to me Inuyasha, she brings life and mischief to the Palace. I find her diverting from my sometimes tedious work and she is happy; she likes the Palace and it is her home now." Inuyasha looked down and said

"Won't she mind sharing a home with me, she must know I'm a hanyou." Sesshoumaru looked at Inuyasha's downcast eyes and sighed, realising it would take a very long time for his brother's self esteem to recover. Lifting the boy's head and making him look at him, Sesshoumaru replied

"Rin is remarkable, loving and cheerful; she can even love Jaken. She naturally adores me, I can do no wrong in her eyes." Inuyasha smiled actually realising his brother was being ironic. "As for you being a hanyou, she has no prejudices, even when I did; you are who you are, she has always taken great delight in the thought of seeing you and your pack even when it has been from a distance."

This was all so new to Inuyasha, they all had a future; Naraku was gone for good and he himself had family and promise of a mate. He sat in his usual posture and looked into the distance as though unmoved, although anyone who knew him well would not be deceived. Sesshoumaru waited until Inuyasha had relaxed again, he had half expected him to jump onto his branch where he normally sat to work things out. It gave Sesshoumaru an unexpected feeling of warmth in his heart realising his brother was still beside him. Speaking quietly he added;

"You have a suite of rooms at the Palace, it is one of the best. Mother gave Izayoi her choice of rooms and she chose well. There are glorious views of the mountains across a private courtyard and gardens. It is a home you should never have been denied, should you wish to bring Kagome to live perhaps..."

Turning to look into his little brother's eyes, he found them no longer guarded against him with the look of hatred and betrayal; but rather with warmth and amazement, perhaps even love. Sesshoumaru became very aware of how lonely his own life had been, how lacking in love until Rin came. He felt anger at himself; this should never have been, two brothers both living loveless lives.

One becoming bitter, angry and aggressive; pushing anyone away who tried to get close, out of fear of losing them as he'd lost so much already. The other, denying the need for any such feeling; fearing it would demean him and make him vulnerable, allowed the ice of the hardest winter to freeze his love away. Yet all the time, it burned; a glowing coal, shown in the tiniest ray of sunshine that was his care of Rin who subconsciously reminded him of his brother's mother in her care of him.

Looking again into Inuyasha's eyes, he saw understanding and love. He hadn't thought he had missed the look Inuyasha had always had for his older sibling so much. Taken by surprise, he reached a hand to ruffle Inuyasha's hair and to scratch his ears.

"I missed you baby brother, I missed you greatly." Sesshoumaru whispered as Inuyasha turned pushing his head and ears happily into Sesshoumaru's hand.

"You've not forgotten how much I like that feeling?"

"No, Inuyasha. I have forgotten nothing." This was how the brothers were meant to be, there would be a long road ahead for them; memories of wasted years full of hurt and pain which might take a while to be fully forgiven. But it had started, 'Perhaps it wouldn't take too long after all,' Kagome thought, as she watched them from a discreet distance.