Lay the Past to Rest

So much had happened in the days following Naraku's defeat and so many things had turned around in their lives; that it wasn't surprising to anyone that Inuyasha was not at the moment, laying the law down about eating, sleeping or relaxing. He himself needed some rest and time to come to terms with the precious peace. At this very moment he was sleeping with his back against the Goshinboku and a smile on his face. For once he had gone to sleep feeling that he could trust some one else to be in charge of his precious pack and his own life; that someone being his only brother, Sesshoumaru; who had helped in the final battle and had made his peace with Inuyasha.

Sesshoumaru was the only one who was strong enough to tackle any youkai, who may yet want to take advantage of the death of Naraku, for their own ends. Inuyasha had found it quite easy to slip into the long forgotten ways of being the protected brother and for a while, he felt the need to indulge himself and rest. But even so, his rest and lack of responsibility did not last long; he woke up again to a wonderful and peaceful scene of everyone lazing in the shade around the village. His own close companions were engaged in gentle, soft conversation; sitting under the tree with him and both turned to him as he opened his eyes.

Giving his hair a shake, Inuyasha called Kagome to him and sat her down holding her tightly in his lap; then looking at Sesshoumaru, he spoke to her of the offer his brother had made giving them a home permanantly. He thought that they could also have a little hut of their own in the village for when they visited their friends, if this would please her. Kagome looked to see whether Inuyasha agreed with the provision, but he wouldn't let her see his eyes ; he wanted to leave the decision to her.

"It might be a good place to be for your mating time." Sesshoumaru said, making his companions blush; much to his own amusement. "I mean of course that it is private enough and somewhere safe for you while you are a little vulnerable shall we say and we could all celebrate your union in comfort. It is your decision of course, but I would be very happy to have you both home." Kagome grinned and said;

"I would love to come, at least to stay for a while Sesshoumaru and thank you for your offer," Sesshoumaru nodded and got up leaving them together, while he went to supervise Rin for a time. He kept the thought to himself however, that if the couple were in the Palace; he would be on hand if Inuyasha's Youkai got the better of him and Kagome might then need help. He didn't think that it would, but the precautions would have to be in place; it would not do to be caught out.

For the next couple of days, plans were being made for Miroku and Sango's wedding. Sesshoumaru went back to the Palace with Rin to prepare for Inuyasha and Kagome, to make them feel welcome; he found he really wanted them to stay. Meantime, Inuyasha and Kagome were going forwards to the future to explain to her family and to ask her mother if he could marry Kagome.

Kagome could sense he was nervous about this and waited for the familiar rude and irritable behaviour which he used to cover up his concerns, but it did not happen; at least not as obviously as usual. This worried her a bit and voicing her concerns to Miroku, who knew the hanyou very well; he said;

"Do not overly worry Lady Kagome, his soul is just very bruised and is taking time to heal; but at least he knows now that he is not isolated anymore, this can only be an improvement." He smiled reassuringly at her and left. As for Inuyasha, he was gradually learning not to be so suspicious of people's motives and to see that he might just be a likeable being for himself and not just because he could protect and help. He started to believe in the feelings he received, instead of shying away in anger which often covered his hurt or pain. They were small steps on a long road; but with Kagome and his friends there, would be no turning back.

A week later they were entering the Higurashi household, hand in hand. Of course mama noticed; just as she noticed the intense, stiff and nervous manner of the hanyou and the sparkle in her daughter's eyes. Realising they had come to a turning point in their lives; she swallowed her apprehension and gave another big smile. She wouldn't anticipate, she would wait for them. Settling them down, she was obviously overjoyed that their quest was over and genuinely pleased that the two brothers were reconciled and when she went into the kitchen to prepare the meal, Mama was not a bit surprised when Inuyasha followed her. She smiled at him and then turned to see to the meal. As silence continued she said

"I'm glad there is peace between you and your brother." Inuyasha just grunted in reply, then swallowed,

"Mrs Higurashi, I've asked Kagome and she has agreed to become my life mate. I promise I will protect her and love her. We would really like you to be happy about this." Then remembering some manners he added "Please." Mama was expecting something like this, but to actually hear and face the reality of her young daughter getting married... Mistaking her silence, his ears drooped and he dropped his head. Seeing his posture, she come quickly to reassure him. Lifting his head with her hands, she looked at him

"I am not so different to Kagome myself, Inuyasha; I can easily understand how she has fallen in love wilth you and I would never deny her that love. It is very special between two people. I know you will protect her, look after her and provide for her; but do you love only her?" He shot a glance straight at her, grabbing her wrists before saying;

"Kikyou has freed me from my obligation to her and I have loved Kagome for a long time even, when I was bound to Kikyou. Kagome trusts me."

Mrs Higurashi searched his golden eyes for a long time looking for deceit, she found none and was glad that he could meet and hold her in depth gaze and she smiled once again. She chose her next words very carefully for him.

"Inuyasha, I know I could not and do not wish to try and replace your mother in your heart; but I love you just as much as if I was your mama and as Kagome's mate, you become a son to me. Would you honour me as such, call me Mama as Kagome does; if and when you feel you can?" His face showed his astonishment,

"You would look on me, a worthless hanyou as your son; Souta?" Mama nodded.

"You are far from worthless my son. You are loyal, brave and handsome; my young son idolises you and you hold my daughter's heart in your own. As a mother I can tell you that any parent, mama or papa would be proud to have such a son as you." As her words sunk in, his eyes widened until they looked like miniature suns and he started to shake. Mama put her arms round him, as once again this feeling of love and acceptance was overwhelming.

So much had happened recently, his senses were reeling; his emotions were in chaos and he was not used to so much physical contact, normally shying away from any sign of affection. Although he felt safe in the love of this family, his instincts were telling him to flee and pulling away he turned towards the door to make a run for it; but he was halted by the sight of Kagome. She was just sitting on the sofa, smiling at him; her arms reaching out for him. Inuyasha leapt onto the sofa and gathered Kagome into his lap and rested his head on her back, letting her scent calm him and stop the shaking.

After the evening meal, they settled down to share the news and plan the future for the new couple. Souta was especially happy that Inuyasha was to be his brother at last, which touched the hanyou deeply. But if Souta had noticed when he dived into Inuyasha's arms and smiled happily into his face; that his new brother's face was red and his eyes slightly teary, he knew how to keep his own counsil just as Shippou had done many times before. He contented himself with giving him a hug and a kiss, drawing Kagome into the embrace as well.

All three fell asleep tangled up together on the sofa and Mama tucked them all up under a blanket, having a special smile for the amber gold eyes that opened protectively as she kissed her children goodnight; leaving them snuggled up, one in each arm of her new son.

"Goodnight Inuyasha." she said kissing him goodnight as well; feeling content that Inuyasha seemed to have adopted Souta into his pack, deeming him also worthy of protection.

Morning the next day was a busy time due to all the mother/daughter wedding preparations. This time was precious to them both and Inuyasha curbed his impatience for once, recognising the need of both women for himself. Instead he regaled Souta of the wonders in the Palace that would become Kagome's home. She would be a Princess as he, after all was a Prince; Souta could never hear enough of his brother's stories and it was good for the poor hanyou to have someone be interested in him and to help him speak of his memories.

At last it was time to go, amidst promises of plenty of visits. As she walked with them to the well, Mama had one last hug for them each.

"Goodbye Mama, see you soon." said Kagome and waited for Inuyasha. Once again there was a special smile just for him, when he said;

"See you soon...Mama." Realising that there were too many painful memories for him to say Goodbye Mama, Mrs Higurashi held him tight and told him to remember he would always be welcome as her son to this home. There was another kiss and hug for Kagome and then they were gone; from the present to the past and climbing out again into the time they both preferred.

After a quick check on everyone at the village and seeing the plans were well afoot for Sango and Miroku's wedding the next month, they left for their new home; one Inuyasha had thought long lost to him. They made good headway and Kagome could not have been happier; the dreams she had long held involving her hanyou were to come true. They spoke to just each other on the long starlit nights of their journey, he gently holding her in his strong arms until she slept.

There was no one to tease or upset him and he grew to trust her feelings for him more and more, opening his heart in a way he hadn't thought possible before and telling her everything about his past. Inuyasha wanted no secrets from his soon to be mate. He knew his heart was no longer torn and just one more step would make him complete. Kagome realized how much she meant to him, he was baring his very soul to her and entrusting his heart to hers. Their bond grew much stronger and as she held him in her arms; his tears were a healing to him now.

Their kisses and embraces had grown more passionate and she was glad when the borders of the Western Lands were reached. Inuyasha though became quiet, sometimes forcing down a shudder as he remembered the last time he'd been here; when he was escaping with his mother. 'What was he doing bringing Kagome here?' His instincts were kicking in, 'pick up mate and run, escape'.

She heard him whimper and could see his nervous state, so she put a calming hand on his arm and just spoke his name lovingly. But by now his senses were on overdrive, there was a powerful aura surrounding them; a youkai was near and he could feel danger, when a strong arm came round his shoulders and turning he looked up into the understanding face of Sesshoumaru.

"There is nothing to fear this time, Little Brother," he said gently. "I shall escort you home." So they walked on together. Sesshoumaru explained that he had allowed any youkai who could not accept Inuyasha and his mate as equals, to leave his lands freely and with safe passage to any other land they wished. He had been surprised at how relatively few had gone and he'd made up the numbers in his Palace from youkai who held more liberal views. Sesshoumaru then said how much the atmosphere had changed for the better, especially for Rin; but he too had felt more peaceful.

Inuyasha was still feeling tense, but Kagome was happy drinking in the beauty of this land, the lush fields and meadows; the farms and hamlets and then the superb Palace rising gently ahead of them in the distance. Kagome could appreciate Sesshoumaru's care of his lands, the people owed their prosperity to their lord's care. Everyone they met showed the proper respect for their lord and his guests; all knowing via the grapevine, that the young prince was welcome and had come home with his mate. Good wishes were sent after them as they passed by. 'At least Kagome is enjoying herself' thought Inuyasha and he relaxed a bit which Sesshoumaru was relieved to see.

As they reached the entrance to the Palace, crossing immaculately tended lawns and courtyards; they could see Rin had been busy, flowers in vases and garlands festooned the hallways. There was a great banner welcoming home the new Lord and Lady and Rin herself bouncing up and down, in great excitement wearing a pretty new kimono and ribbon. Then it was too much waiting, so she rushed to meet them and personally escorted them home.

After a very welcome bath, Kagome dressed in a glorious Kimono that had been left on her bed in the guest room. Rin was with her, still bouncing; only this time she was on the bed and informing Kagome that Inuyasha had chosen this one for her, from the many kept for the purposes of guests. Then she said, Inuyasha had said, there were others if she wished to choose another but Rin informed her,

"I would wear this one Lady Kagome, Lord Inuyasha's eyes were all pretty and sparkly when he saw it." And she grinned. Kagome stared at the girl and laughed

"You're becoming quite the little woman Rin. I will wear it, I too would like to see Inuyasha's eyes looking pretty and sparkly if he sees me in this dress." The girls couldn't stop giggling at the thought and Kagome was glad she'd found a new friend. Dinner was a positive pleasure, Sesshoumaru had it laid out in a room where the doors opened onto a veranda lit by many coloured lanterns which extended to an intimate garden. The garden was full of blossom trees and little pathways and places to sit, where fireflies added their dancing lights to the atmosphere.

Tonight, there were just the four of them with Rin being allowed to stay up as a treat. Inuyasha's eyes did not disappoint the two girls either; who stealing a glance at each other, joined in peals of laughter that left the two males baffled. After dinner they took a walk in the pretty garden. Kagome's eyes shone like the stars above, there were new delights around each turn; small tables and chairs, strategically placed mirrors, lanterns and fruit trees plus little fountains all well established. Her delight was obvious and Sesshoumaru was pleased.

"You like it Kagome?"

"Oh yes, it is like a fairy tale."

"Good. It is yours, consider it a mating present for you." She couldn't believe it and Inuyasha was also dumbstruck. Sesshoumaru explained further.

"This area is adjacent to the suite that my mother made available to Izayoi, much of which Izayoi designed herself. It is similar to a garden our father had made for her before Inuyasha was born, however she had little time to enjoy either."

"Thank you, Sesshoumaru. I shall treasure this garden." Kagome was entranced but for once Inuyasha's face was unreadable, he was calm and he walked quietly; taking in the scents and beauty around him, the area was so peaceful. Then Rin was sent to bed and Sesshoumaru invited them to follow him to the rest of the apartments. Kagome found it all new, exciting and wonderful; the rooms were so tastefully and (she noted) expensively decorated and furnished.

The views would have to wait until the daytime. There was a smaller set of private rooms for each of them, set off the Master Bedroom and there were bathing and dressing rooms; office and lounge areas and much more.

"I have added more rooms to the apartments to accomodate you, my brother. Rooms which in any case are yours by right. I also have a present for you if you would come here."

Intrigued, Inuyasha followed his brother to the master bedroom stopping en route by the huge bed.

"I don't remember a bed this big do I?" he asked.

"No, the bed is new; but it needed to be big enough for three."

"THREE, what do you think I am; some sort of pervert?" Sesshoumaru smiled to himself, relishing inside that he found it so easy to wind up the predictable Inuyasha. He took a moment to wonder why he did something so childish and just concluded it was because it was fun. On his face however, there was not a trace of amusement; just a slightly raised eyebrow.

"The third element of any activities that take place on the bed, has to be Tetsusaiga and unless you wish to find it in the most awkward way, it will need it's own space." Sesshoumaru was having great fun, the colour of Inuyasha's face was very entertaining; he could almost see the steam coming from his ears. Then Sesshoumaru caught Kagome's eye and smiled at her, she had realised what he was up to and was smiling as well.

Now hoping to redeem himself a little; he led them both to a door which opened onto another pretty, but smaller room. It was decorated in lemons and blues mainly; but with splashes of brighter colours, in lanterns and rugs and the coverlet of the fairly small bed. This was another guest room she guessed, as Sesshoumaru directed Inuyasha to a large inlaid box on the little bed. In a soft voice he said;

"I hope you like your gift Inuyasha. I did not intend for this to be seen as taking a liberty." To Kagome, the box with its gorgeoous shell and ivory inlaid pictures seemed out of place in this room which was not so richly furnished; making her wonder where it had come from originally. Looking round, she could see little ornaments carved of wood and some form of soapstone; some however were a bit broken.

There were also a few brightly, almost gaudily coloured balls and a wooden box that would have been suitable for Souta to put his toys in. Then it hit her like a sledge hammer; of course, it was a toy box and those weren't ornaments; they were used and abused toys. Inuyasha's toys, this must have been his bedroom and the little bed was correctly sized for a child.

Picking up one of the little wooden toys and idly stroking it with her fingers, she saw Inuyasha do the same to the box he had in front of him. Kagome could now see the name 'Izayoi' picked out in gold and ivory on the side of the box. Sesshoumaru looked at the toy in her hands and a tiny smile graced his features.

"You have kept these rooms untouched My Lord." stated Kagome.

"Far from it Miko, no part of the Palace is neglected in care; but these rooms were never mine, they were Izayoi's and now therefore Inuyasha's. His retainers are responsible for them and they have been kept in waiting for his return. By now, the lid of the box was open and she saw Inuyasha take various items out and look at them silently; some he held to his nose and sniffed at, trying to find some lingering scent. They watched him at a distance respecting his privacy, when he looked up and said,

"I thought these things destroyed or plundered. My den had been gutted when I could return to it." Kagome went over and was now sitting next to Inuyasha on his little bed, looking in wonder at all this history. In her time, the things laid out on the bed would be museum pieces; to be looked at but not touched. To Inuyasha, they were history of another kind.

There were inlaid and decorative combs, functional combs, formal chopsticks, utility items, perfumes, little bottles, make up, hair ribbons, pictures, letters, pens, some jewellery and even some of Inuyasha's baby things; a little shawl, a baby cup and clothes and many other things besides. Sesshoumaru said;

"When I found out you had been sealed to that tree and I couldn't release the arrow; I personally went to clear out the den and dig up the box from the floor of your old home. I've had items restored if possible and just cleaned if not. I thought you might like them back." As always, the voice and face were calm and collected and cool.

"Thank you Sesshoumaru, I thought they had gone for good." Inuyasha's voice was just a whisper. "Would you leave me alone for a while please." Inclining his elegant head, Sesshoumaru moved away and into the master bedroon to look out of the window. Kagome went with him and thanked him for his kindness to them both.

"It is only what he is entitled too Kagome" then he became silent again wishing to think. Kagome took the opportunity to observe her soon to be brother-in-law. His personal beauty was amazing and his veiled power was seductive. She could see the attraction he could use if he so wished. He turned to look at her and she could see his eyes were mesmorizing, only the colour was familiar to her and to her total horror she could feel her body responding to him.

Her face heated immediately, especially as she saw he was aware of what was happening to her and was amused. Yet she knew that those who were allowed into his heart, were completely safe and protected. Coming over to her, Sesshoumaru told her not to worry; her reaction to his presence was not unexpected, he often had this effect on women. He would not take it seriously, knowing that she was devoted to his brother. He found it great fun, he could admit it; it was fun winding these two up.

Kagome was fastly becoming annoyed and she now wanted to knock him out of his smug composure; so calling his name softly she quickly leaned up and kissed his lips, laughing. His eyes flew wide open, making them look just like his brother's and he smiled, genuinely amused. They had begun to understand each other, Sesshoumaru would soon find out that he also could be teased and yet still remain respected.

Suddenly, his head cocked to one side and his nose delicately sniffed. Kagome had to smile to herself at the cute doglike attitude she'd only seen on Inuyasha before. The siblings were more alike than they knew. Then she realised what he was doing,

"Inuyasha." he said and he left her quickly. Following him into the little bedroom, her heart broke at the sight of Inuyasha curled into a ball and rocking himself over his mother's box. His long silver hair was shielding him from their sight, but it was not able to hide his pitiful and childlike cries of 'Mama, Mama, Mama' over and over again.

Sesshoumaru reached him quickly and lifted him bodily round his middle and sat down on the bed with him. Inuyasha clung to Sesshoumaru very much as Shippou would, to Kagome; if he'd had a bad nightmare. Holding him closely, he stroked his brother's hair, raking his claws through in a soothing way. After a small while of listening to the dreadful mantra, Sesshoumaru chided him.

"Stop it Inuyasha, that is quite enough now," and Inuyasha obeyed with a couple of gulping sobs, then he just wept on his brother's breast. Sesshoumaru said nothing further until Inuyasha seemed a bit calmer, then he said "I did not disturb the grave you dug or your marker stone, because I did not know if you would wish it. However if you would like, Izayoi can be retrieved and brought back and interred; perhaps in Kagome's garden and with all due ceremony. The decision must be yours." That started the tears and the clinging again and a child like voice saying;

"The ground was hard Sesshy, it broke my claws digging and the marker is not very good. Oh Sesshy, they just watched me, no one helped me. No one, I only had one jar with a stopper, so I put her ashes in that. She hasn't had a proper funeral, only the prayers of an unworthy little hanyou; the villagers said not to bother and that my prayers would be useless to her anyway. She deserved more than that, more than I could give. Once though, Miroku came with me when we passed the village again and he prayed for her. I won't forget that kindness ever."

Kagome could hardly bear to listen, her sympathetic nature was at breaking point. She could see the distraught, bereaved little boy in front of her; he was there clearly seen in the bigger boy who was holding on to his brother as if to life itself. In turn, that brother's face also showed great anguish; knowing he'd left this child to carry on living such an awful life. His anger at the villagers who had been so callous, was shown in the fierce embrace in which he held Inuyasha now and the flicker of red in his amber eyes.

"Bring her home please Sesshy, bring her back here."

Eventually Inuyasha felt comforted and went to sleep. It was almost as if he'd become the child again, back in his little room; with Sesshoumaru there to get rid of his nightime fears as he had done in the past, so long ago. But this time, the big brother was there to help the younger to mourn for his mother. It was as if the child inside Inuyasha, had finally been able to purge his despair. 'Perhaps that was what had happened', Sesshoumaru thought; watching his brother sleep and seeing Kagome curl up next to her love, her head and hand resting on Inuyasha's hip as she too drifted into sleep.

The sun shining through his eyelids awakened Inuyasha slowly. He didn't feel like opening his eyes yet and kept his breathing low and steady, he felt calm and safe and... different. There was a lightness to his heart and mind and he wondered what it all meant. He remembered the distress of the previous night and yet he did not feel humiliated or embarrased. This surprised him, especially as he was still curled up against his brother as if he were still a little pup; in fact, he still felt comfortable and felt no inclination to move his position.

Ever since he could remember, he had built a hard pearl round his heart. Every insult thrown, every hurt or pain endured; every scathing look of hatred or disgust had been cemented with the tears he refused to shed, growing into a multi layered barrier; to protect his heart and defend himself. Kikyou was the first to find a way into the pearl, but she had sealed it again with her arrow. But since Kagome and his other friends had been travelling with him; the cracks had got deeper and wider and they alone, could see into the heart that was the seed of the pearl; because the pearl itself was now as clear as crystal and not opaque to them.

But the pearl had finally broken irreparably since Naraku's defeat. Shards of the pearl, like those of the Shikon no tarma; had scattered, leaving his defenses down and last night had freed him completely. The temperamental child he often became whilst on his travels, could now grow up into the man he should be. Inuyasha smiled to himself, he could hear and feel Sesshoumaru's steady heartbeat; although he was unaware that his brother was awake and finding his own comfort, in knowing that his younger brother was able to be so relaxed with him. Neither wanting to disturb the other; they dozed again for the first time in many years, without worry or fear together.

When Kagome awoke, she got up quietly thinking them both asleep and she softly smoothed back the hair from both of their faces and planted a loving kiss on their foreheads; something she would not dream of doing to Sesshoumaru if he'd been awake, or would she? Laughing to herself she left to see what to do about breakfast. Once she'd gone, Sesshoumaru said without opening his eyes,

"You have made a good choice in your bitch Inuyasha."

"Keh, don't let her hear you call her that, she'll purify you." Inuyasha didn't open his eyes either.

"She finds me far too attractive to take any offence, Inuyasha; anyway it is the correct terminology."

"Yeah, I know that; but it is rude where she comes from and what do you mean she finds you attractive?" Sesshoumaru opened his eyes a fraction to see Inuyasha looking at him bitterly.

"Calm down pup, I am a very attractive Inuyoukai; it is always best to know one's assets." With that, he cuffed Inuyasha gently round the head before giving him a huge smile and hug; that besides nearly taking his breath away, alarmed Inuyasha; who had rarely see this side of Sesshoumaru even when he was a little pup. "You and Kagome and any pups will also be an asset to me, so think on." and he dumped a surprised Inuyasha on the bed while he got up and went outside to greet Kagome who had fetched the teacups and breakfast for them all.

Kagome's heart soared at the lessening of tension in the air between the brothers. They would always growl at each other, but also now they could acknowledge their love as well. The tension between the boys may have been lessening , but tension of another sort was bubbling between Inuyasha and Kagome. After breakfast they went for a walk in the garden and chose a spot where Izayoi could be re-buried. They both wanted to wait until Miroku and Sango, Kaede and Shippou could come and they planned on asking Miroku to take the service.

Sesshoumaru had already sent messengers to the village to ask for them to come and he'd despatched trusted servants to bring Izayoi and her memorial stone back. A different stone, more impressive than the little claw scraped stone Inuyasha had made long ago; was to be placed in her old resting place. No one would dare move or deface the new memorial, but the one Inuyasha had made, would stay with her in the garden. Sitting on one of the little stone benches, Inuyasha was pouting looking at Kagome.

"You find my brother attractive Kagome?" he said whining a little.

"Yes, he is very beautiful for a man; terrific figure and he knows it."

"More attractive than me?" The whine was a little sulky now. 'I'm not falling for this little trap' she thought.

"You are both different, but both beautiful; you know you are attractive Inuyasha, I've told you often enough and you've heard my friends on the subject of just how hot you are. Plus I love you and you love me and that is what is important, not the looks but the love."

He snuggled up to her, kissing her and for a while everything was forgotten in the intensity of the moment; then not wanting to go too far yet she pulled away, ignoring the growls of protest from Inuyasha.

"May I walk in your garden Kagome?" Sesshoumaru called quietly from the balcony,

"Of course" was the reply and he came to them straight away.

"Your friends will be here at the end of the week, Inuyasha and Izayoi's remains are coming in one hour."

"Thank you brother for your trouble."

"No trouble Inuyasha, no trouble at all." and he left them solomnly.

"I wish he could find someone to be happy with, he really needs a mate and his own pups. I'm surprised he's not met anyone yet who would suit him, however exacting he is in his requirements." Inuyasha was looking towards his brother's departing figure. Kagome smiled;

"I think he has met someone Inuyasha, I just don't think he realises it yet and he has just got to wait a few years more which will be nothing to him." Inuyasha looked puzzled,

"Why wait, does she not like him enough?" Kagome giggled

"She obviously adores him Inuyasha, she lives to please him and they both take delight in one another's company; they have a perfect understanding, but she is much too young at the moment."

"You mean that little runt Rin? Kagome, you're crazy. Sesshoumaru wouldn't love a human, he wouldn't want to sire any hanyou pups now would he?" Inuyasha couldn't help the bitterness in his reply. Kagome felt sad for him but said

"Inuyasha, think about all you've heard recently, Sesshoumaru loved your mother, he loves you and he has a little human girl in his care who is thriving under his love. She has total confidence in him and she is growing up. Mark my words, they will marry when she is old enough; because they cannot bear to be apart. Just how I feel about you my darling hanyou."

"Well I hope you are right and I'm glad my love, I really am; but it reminds me about something we haven't talked about."

"Hmm, what?"

"Well do you think you would like to have my pups Kagome? I wouldn't force you to have them, I can tell when your fertile time is; I could prevent them from happening." He looked down, aware that she could read anything in his eyes; they were the only part of him he could never control.

"Of course I want your pups Inuyasha, why wouldn't I? In fact I would love to have your children." Right answer, the amber lights were dancing with joy and glittering in the sun.

"I think that was Kikyou's fear Kagome, she fell in love with me as a hanyou; but didn't want my pups, it would have been too abnormal for her. I think that was part of the reason why she wanted me human, so we could be totally normal. But this to me is normal, I'm a hanyou; I have seen to much hatred for one race or the other, I don't want to get rid of any of my heritage as if I'm ashamed of either of my parents. I've been an object of shame for long enough; even to myself.

"I also need to tell you about being marked. It calls for the female to be submissive to me at the time and obedient if I touch it at any other time. Can you allow that? If not, I will not mark you when we mate. You don't have to if you don't want to." Kagome considered,

"Very well Inuyasha, I will let you know this afternoon when it is time." Kagome was pleased he'd given her the option of being marked but she would have appreciated more time to think.

After lunch the arrival of Izayoi's remains took precedence and the two brothers with Kagome, went to find the place in the garden where she would be interred later in the week. Sesshoumaru drew Kagome aside again.

"Just a piece of advice for you Kagome. Always make sure when you are alone with Inuyasha, that YOU can reach Tessaiga. You will never be in danger once you are his mate, but he may be; do you understand?"

"Perfectly, and thank you. May I now ask you about the custom of marking?" Once again Kagome was aware of Sesshoumaru deliberately looking into her soul with his deep amber eyes.

"Marking is to show the female belongs to her mate and vice versa. It is a sign of trust between them and a gift that a wife gives to her husband, but it requires submission at all times if touched. A woman who rebels or disobeys, causes her husband shame and loss of respect in the community. Some women wait until some time after mating to see if the husband deserves her, a few never accept a mark. You are human, it will not be seen as strange if you do not follow our life style and..."

"...and no one will expect a hanyou to command that sort of respect of his wife or anyone, right?"

"Correct Kagome, but do not agree to be marked just for that reason. It would bring more humiliation for him, should you fail to respect the marking; than if you are unmarked."

She had realised that, it would be a big thing for her to do; did she trust him enough to let him mark her? Inuyasha could be very stubbon, would he abuse the privilidge as sometimes she had done with his rosary? She looked over at Inuyasha, who was drawing his sleeved arm across his eyes and after heaving a shuddering sigh he came over to them and took Kagome's hand; which she squeezed reassuringly.

Sesshoumaru drew close on the other side of his sibling and gently cupping his brother's face with his hand and touching the still damp eyelashes with his thumb, Sesshoumaru gave Inuyasha a concerned look; which Inuyasha misinterpreted as one of disapproval

"I'm sorry Sessh, I've been too weak recently, I do not mean to shame you." Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes and spoke a quick denial to Inuyasha's thought, putting his arm around his brother. Meaning to lighten the pup's mood, he drew him towards the house and said in a suggestive whisper;

"I believe you have some other matter to attend to this afternoon. Your baths have been made ready and your room prepared." He chuckled at Inuyasha's blush which reached his ears and once again regretted their time apart. Inuyasha was such fun to tease pleasantly, although he knew that he would have to be very careful; if he didn't want to hurt Inuyasha's sometimes overly sensitive feelings for a very long time. Still they hopefully should have very many years ahead, to repair the damage that had been suffered and so would Kagome if she became a marked mate.

Patting his younger brother on the back; he smiled at Kagome and graciously swept away leaving them, smiling shyly at each other. They separated for their baths, Kagome was looking forward to a bit of luxury pampering and was amazed that for a man who travelled so much touring his estates; Sesshoumaru spared no expense in the comfort afforded to his guests.

Meantime Inuyasha was actually enjoying relaxing in his bath, when his brother came in and casually draped himself along the floor where he could converse easily. Watching him, Inuyasha suddenly felt a bit of jealousy over Sesshoumaru's laid back beauty; but he pushed away feelings of inferiority easily, he'd had a lifetime's practice. He thought of Kagome who had been feeling inferior to the perfect Kikyou with empathy for once.

"May I join you Inuyasha?" Sesshoumaru asked, "The bath looks so inviting."

"Yeah, it's big enough." replied his brother who watched him, glad to see that his arm had been regenerated and that now nothing marred his physical perfection.

"You are nervous Inuyasha, whatever about?" Inuyasha was silent, but started to blush. "Come, you have never been able to hide from me; I've known all your scents since you were born. You are nervous and excited and ...afraid?"

" Oh, shut up Sessh, I know what I'm feeling, I don't need a rundown. I'm just concerned ...I've never done this before, I want it to be right for Kagome." Inuyasha said a bit sharply.

"Well," said Sesshoumaru and to his surprise, Inuyasha could see a faint tinge of pink on his brother's face. "In this area, I believe you find out as you go; remember Kagome is very young, she too is innocent and you love each other. Let your feelings guide you; you do know your basic facts, don't you?"

"Of course I do," Inuyasha replied a little too quickly and he hoped his brother couldn't see how far his blush now extended. "Miroku told me once."

"Inuyasha, this is one thing you will do before me; you are lucky to have found your life's soul mate and I know you will treat her properly, she is worthy of you."

"I don't understand why you have never taken a mate Sessh, you must have been courted."

"Definitely little brother, I've had many proposals of all sorts since I was a pup; but my parents marriage made me realise happiness is not achieved by a match based only on the physical attributes. I would rather live alone than be mated to one who was not my soul mate. I am prepared for a long wait if need be. I am fastidious, travel a lot; I require a mate who would wish to accompany me and understands my needs and who desires to please me that I may please her and protect her, as father said I would want to do. Not a lot to ask from most pampered ladies is it?"

Inuyasha was thoughtful, it was nice talking as brothers for once; he could get used to this and he hoped. Laughing softly he said

"Perhaps Kagome was right and you may not have too long a wait, she could be right under your nose." Inuyasha got out of the bath and leaving Sesshoumaru to think about what he'd said, he put on a bathrobe and shook his hair dry. 'You have nothing to worry about little brother' Sesshoumaru thought, 'you will please your mate' and he got out of the bath himself.

Sesshoumaru was glad that Kagome would be happy in making the Palace her home as well, it would be good for Rin to have some other female around. As she got older, the company of a sister-like friend would become desirable. The two girls seemed to like each other, indeed there were a lot of similarities between them. He had heard them laughing and Kagome was unfailingly kind to the child, but seemed to enjoy her company too. Rin was kind and for her age he thought proudly, most competent;on their journeys she had proved that she was fairly self sufficient and reliable.

'Yes, one day Rin would make some man a very good wife...' what was that thought? One day she would be going away from him, finding happiness away from him and letting someone other than him have her smiles, love and devotion. Letting some other man touch and hold her, this was unthinkable; she was only a child now, but one he loved and now knew he always would, even on the day she would leave him for someone else. Sesshoumaru's heart contracted with such a sharp pain, his hand clutched at his chest and he found his eyes blur with tears and a gasping sob caught in his throat.

Then thankfully, Inuyasha's words came back to him to take away the dreadful sting. This was a totally new thought, he'd have to ponder over it for a long time; but his new honesty with himself couldn't just dismiss this as an insult worthy of death. One day; little human Rin, could be his soul's mate? Wiping away the stray, impertinent tears that had dared to stain his face; he hurredly got dressed, he had a very secret job to do.

Kagome was waiting for her mate-to-be in the suite prepared for them. She was dressed in her mother's wedding kimono and looked stunning. At the moment she was speaking quietly with the personal maid she'd been given; a nice youkai lady, discreet and funny who had been telling Kagome about her own wedding. How much her husband had been nervous, some of the things they had got up to when courting; her tales had caused Kagome to relax and laugh. She showed Kagome her own mate's mark; it was small, but noticable immediately on her neck near the collarbone.

Kagome was grateful to Sesshoumaru, he had carefully thought out things for them. The room was a picture with flowers and sprays. There were dishes of bonbons, trays with fruits and nuts. There were the traditional bottles of sake and lanterns once again, giving a gentle glow in the darker corners. "Thankyou Sesshoumaru for all this loveliness" she said to herself in a whisper, only now realising that her discreet maid had left her.

"You are the loveliness in this room Kagome" said a husky voice and she turned to see Inuyasha, his hair still damp and slightly curling; wearing a deep blue and silver kimono. She stared at him for so long, he began to worry and back away; but then he saw the gleam of appreciation glowing in her eyes. This close and this alone, he could not fail to understand her. He couldn't question the love he saw in her whole face directed straight at him and he was overwhelmed. There was no need to hide any feelings or be shy anymore. Nerves were soon forgotton as they came together in a kiss that satisfied them both.

Feeling more sure of himself, Inuyasha took the time to look at her again; he was pleased to see there was no hint of fear or doubt in her eyes. He knew she was never afraid of him; but he did know that sometimes, she had doubted his love for her and he wanted to see no sadness in her eyes especially now. While he looked longingly at her, his fingers were gently feeling her face and down her neck; he bent to kiss her neck and throat and his breath caught. Pulling her kimono away from her shoulders he saw the rosary that she'd taken from him now placed around her own neck. With wide eyes he asked her what it meant.

Kagome smiled and asked him why he had had to wear it. He thought and understood; the rosary was to literally subdue him, subjecting him to her. Now she showed him that she was willing to be subject to him instead, she trusted him that much.

"You will let me mark you today Kagome?" With smiling eyes, she nodded. Still Inuyasha was just standing and looking at her in disbelief, this was so unexpected; he'd hoped and wished with all his heart that one day she would let him, but he never really thought he would ever deserve the honour. Vowing to himself there and then, that he would never break her trust. He knew what a wonderful gift she was offering him, but he had to be sure.

"Do you really know what it would mean Kagome, I haven't told you everything yet?"

"I fully understand Inuyasha; Sango knows many youkai customs and we have talked over the years about most things plus, I have spoken to your brother. I will be honoured to wear your mark and to bear your pups."

Inuyasha was overcome once more, his world once again spinning; Kagome took him in her arms, hugging him tightly to her and kissed his tears away. Soon they needed more and with no more hesitation, they explored and enjoyed each other; giving each other their first time. Kagome felt no fear just complete joy, even when with his amber eyes were flickering red and at the height of his passion; when he called out her name and sank his fangs in her neck, marking her forever as his.

It hurt and she cried, it hurt more than when he entered her; but he held her close, licking at the new mark making everything perfect. The pain was soon gone and forgotten, drowned in the pleasure they took in one another and soon they lay wrapped contented in each others arms.

Silently, a smiling shadow glided away from his position in one of the ajoining rooms. He'd wanted to make perfectly sure that the girl was safe in his home; he'd known there was little danger for her, but the youkai blood of his father running in the veins of Inuyasha was very powerful and sometimes too strong for his little brother. But she'd had no scent of fear; no need thankfully, for his intervention and so Sesshoumaru could now permit himself a smile and said 'Congratulations Little Brother, well done' in a low voice to himself.

Inuyasha's ears tweaked in the direction where he'd heard a slight sound, as if a breeze had passed by; but he thought no more than that as he folded his mate to him and curled himself around her. He fell asleep; now feeling that he truly belonged somewhere and he was at last, happy and content.