In Trouble Again

He was puzzled, the kit was on his own and obviously agitated, what had happened? The child was never left alone for long, where was Inuyasha, he must have picked up on the boy's scent by now? Checking the air for the smells of danger or blood he found nothing, just the old well and in the distance, the village was peaceful, so he need not stay. The kit would be found soon, and sure enough, just as he turned to disappear as soundlessly as he'd come, he heard the humans calling for the small kitsune.

"Still no sign of them Shippou?" called Miroku.

"No"

"I expect Inuyasha stayed tonight; Shippou as there is no moon, come back, they'll be here in the morning you'll see." Sango sounded reassuring.

They turned to go back to the village and left the well clearing, quiet and in peace. The shadow in the trees took one last look and as he did so there was a soft light from the inside of the well. Intrigued, he waited to see what would develop; he already knew that the well was special because he had seen the girl and the hanyou disappear down it before, although they did not know this. Was this what the kit was waiting for, the re- emergence of the pair he looked on as surrogate parents?

But no one jumped out or climbed out of the well, the light died down and the surroundings went back to normal; the evening reclaimed the land blanketing it in soft colours and muffling the sounds as most life settled down towards night and rest. Not all life, the silent watcher could hear a whimper coming from the well; his ears easily picking out the distraught murmerings and the scent of salt faintly in the air. The personal scent of the being in the well was not so easy for him to determine however, so he crept closer.

"Alone, alone again, no, no, not again, I can't be alone again, Kagome, don't stay away, I'm sorry." So, it was Inuyasha who was disturbing the peace of the evening with his pathetic whining; presumably it was his human and vulnerable night which is why his scent had for a moment, confused him. 'Stupid hanyou', thought Sesshoumaru, out in the open while human and leaving a trail that any half baked minor youkai could follow; he's asking to be killed. Sesshoumaru made a decision and jumped down the well, picked up his brother round the waist and jumped back to the clearing in what seemed to be one move.

Not having any idea that his brother was near him at all, Inuyasha was startled to say the least when this happened; but it didn't take him long to twist and stand ready to fight. Sesshoumaru looked vaguely amused at the thought of the human facing off with him and he had to admit that Inuyasha was no coward and the angry, fiery eyes, even with their unfamiliar colour; was a more welcome sight than the tearful ones he had been expecting to see. Now was not the time for fighting however, Sesshoumaru became aware of another youkai presence closing in and his brother was out in the open.

Deciding to act first and explain later, Sesshoumaru used his superior strength and speed to subdue his brother; he used his arm to hold on to Inuyasha and his nose and tongue to get the dark hair from Inuyasha's neck, so that he could grip the back of his neck with his own elongated fangs. Inuyasha froze by instinct with his head bowed towards the ground; he was horrified. He stood no chance against his brother and it seemed that he was going to die; just when he'd thought for a while that Sesshoumaru had been leaving him alone. Sometimes he had thought hopefully that there were signs of a truce between them; what a fool he'd been, now he would pay the highest price at Sesshoumaru's hand.

Inuyasha couldn't help the whimper and the scent of fear and hopelessness that he knew escaped him as Sesshoumaru growled; a low grumble that got louder and louder. 'What was his brother waiting for?' Inuyasha closed his eyes and clamped his mouth shut; he was not going to give Sesshoumaru the satisfaction of hearing him beg for his life. Then he became aware of something creeping behind him and a flicking tongue tasting his skin; Sesshoumaru's growling started to sound very threatening and Inuyasha realised, that there was a snake youkai taking an interest in him.

"My lord, forgive me; but you seem to be at a disadvantage with the human. I would be pleased to help you despatch him for a share of his tender flesh." The snake youkai simpered, he almost sounded mocking and he was certainly drooling.

"Leave while you may, snake; I am well able to deal with a defenceless human." Sesshoumaru answered, without moving his fangs away from Inuyasha's neck.

"Be still human," he growled deeply; once again to Inuyasha. He knew that if he let go now, the boy would try to fight giving himself away; so he reinforced his command with an almost suffocating grip of his fangs. Inuyasha nearly blacked out.

"Come my lord, we can share surely. Such a young tender morsel, I am being kind; I could easily take him from you. You cannot hold on to him and fight me, when you are... how can I put this delicately; deficient of an arm. We both know you have gone for such easy prey because of it; so do not fight, unless you wish of course to build up an appetite. He does smell delicious, his fear adds a certain piquancy."

"You were warned snake, it is fatal to underestimate and insult me. I am not sharing him and you will die." Sesshoumaru released Inuyasha's body and let him down to the ground whilst he knelt himself; still with his fangs around his brother's neck. The snake youkai came quickly to strike, but not quick enough; Lord Sesshoumaru's energy whip deprived him of his head just as he stretched forward to strike. "Let that be a lesson to you too human, never underestimate my power." And Sesshoumaru finally released Inuyasha from his potentially fatal fangs.

Human Inuyasha just stood with his head down but he was shaking with anger. Although often a hothead, he was not stupid; he would not provoke Sesshoumaru, human as he was at the moment. But, he felt played with; as if he was the mouse to Sesshoumaru's cat. His brother though ignored it and turned away from him saying;

"Before you make an unseemly fool of yourself Inuyasha; by attempting to insult or attack me, know this; I shielded you from being seen and identified to one of the poisonous insects of Naraku as well as the snake youkai. You will come with me tonight."

"I am not leaving here Sesshoumaru and I'm not going with you; so thanks but no thanks."

"You are in no position to argue with me Inuyasha, you are in danger; Naraku has started to watch this area recently."

"Since when has me being in danger been your problem? Just go away, I'm staying here."

"She will not be back this late Inuyasha, that is if she returns at all."

"What are you talking about? Of course she will be back, she always comes back; she promised me. She promised me." Inuyasha's voice was whispering the last declaration and Sesshoumaru just looked impassively at him.

"From listening to you earlier, I assumed she had given you cause to doubt her affection for you; but it's of no consequence, you are coming with me." Sesshoumaru picked up Inuyasha and tucked him under his arm; holding him in a vice like grip so tightly, that Inuyasha could not free himself. So he did the next best thing; he sulked and pouted whilst mulling over all that had happened and by the time he was dropped on the ground next to a friendly fire, he was thoroughly depressed. Acknowledging that Sesshoumaru was helping him and was correct, Kagome would not be back tonight; he would take advantage of his brother's protection.

"You will keep a civil tongue in your head near Rin, human and you will not harm her or try to frighten her."

"What do you think I am, Sesshoumaru; I've never hurt a kid. Not like some people around here, I'm not a hypocrite." Inuyasha regretted that last statement when Sesshoumaru took him out of the clearing and backhanded him, splitting his lip and bruising his cheek. "Guess I got too close to the bone there eh Sessh? Inuyasha's words although scathing, sounded hurt and bitter and Sesshoumaru was disgusted with himself for allowing his reaction to the taunt. He couldn't help but see the damage to Inuyasha's face by the light of the fire, he'd forgotten for the minute that his brother was more fragile like this.

"Lord Sesshoumaru; isn't that, isn't that, that no good..." Jaken's familiar bleat was silenced by a stone to the head and Sesshoumaru's glare.

"You will not speculate on any names Jaken, if you value your life." Jaken understood his master and shut his mouth. That did not stop Rin however from trying to be friendly to someone who seemed vaguely familiar and a new person to talk to was bound to be entertaining. Rin was a kind little girl and could tell that the visitor was withdrawn and miserable, let alone hurt and she wanted to help.

"Are you hungry Boy? You can have some fish, Rin is good at catching fish."

"No...no...thank you."

"Let me tend to your face, you are hurt; I have some herbs for pain, let me see."

"No don't fuss girl, I'll be fine in the morning; I just want to be left alone." Inuyasha turned away from all of them and curling up on himself he tried to look like he was asleep. Sesshoumaru left them in the charge, as usual, of Jaken; whilst he himself went to bathe in the nearby river. Once he was clean of the stench of snake youkai remains, he quietly took to the trees to watch over his charges; without getting drawn in by Rin to converse. Plus he wished to ponder over the enigma that was Inuyasha, his brother. He was not too far away that he couldn't hear them talking though.

"Come and eat, you must be hungry and Rin has cooked the fish now." Inuyasha groaned and sat up; he knew he'd get no peace unless he ate and if the truth be known, he was very hungry. So thanking the girl, he ate his fish; but for once he ate slowly as he felt the food might choke him, he had such a huge lump of misery in his throat.

"Who are you Boy?" asked Rin.

"I'm no one special."

"Were you lost, won't your mama and papa be worried about you? If you tell Lord Sesshoumaru where you live he will take you there, Rin is sure."

"I'm not lost and I have no parents to care about me."

"Someone must be afraid because you aren't home yet and wonder about you, who cares for you?"

"No one cares where I am and haven't done since I was very little, younger than you. I've lived on my own for a long time, I can take care of myself."

"Rin was on her own too, but Lord Sesshoumaru looks after me now. He doesn't let anything harm me; he is my family and all Rin needs."

"Well that's good isn't it? The person who was supposed to look after me hated me too much, so he left me; hoping I would die and be no more bother to him."

Inuyasha's words were harshly spoken and were upsetting to Rin; her eyes filled with tears and Inuyasha berated himself for being the cause of them, he hated to see a girl cry. But he couldn't help it; he was wondering what his life would have been like if only Sesshoumaru had cared for him, as much as he was caring for this child.

"Don't cry, girl; I'm not worth crying over, I'm all grown up and didn't get killed or eaten."

"But you must have been lonely, on your own. Rin knows; Rin was always lonely and often Rin was beaten and starving before she was saved by Lord Sesshoumaru."

"Yeah, well; most of the people I came across treated me like that too, but not any more; I can defend myself."

"Not very well, someone hit you today didn't they? Your lip is swollen and so is your cheek. That's why you are here isn't it, Lord Sesshoumaru rescued you like he found Rin?" Inuyasha might have laughed at that irony, if it didn't hurt him so much; so he chose to ignore it.

"Something like that; Rin, tell me does your Lord Sesshoumaru ever punish you?"

"He never hits Rin; but sometimes if he just looks away from me, it is like the sun going in and Rin gets sad and cold and knows not to displease Lord Sesshoumaru again."

"I think I envy you Rin. Your Lord Sesshoumaru must love you." Inuyasha was feeling envious; it caused his chest to tighten and his eyes to sting. He had always loved his brother deep down and felt great pain at his brother's hatred and neglect of him; what would things have been like if he had been able to live under his brother's 'sun'?

"I wish Lord Sesshoumaru had found you when you were small and on your own like Rin was Boy; he would have taken care of you. It makes Rin very sad to think of you growing up alone with no one loving you."

Rin's innocent comments were a bit hard for Inuyasha to bear anymore and fearing to say something that the child didn't need to know; he thanked her once again for the fish and pleaded tiredness and a wish to sleep. Rin crept close to him and thinking him asleep, she was tempted to stroke his silky black hair; she was still doing this when Sesshoumaru came and told her that she should sleep.

"Why would someone wish the little boy dead, was he a burden? Am I a burden to you Lord Sesshoumaru?" Before the lord could answer; however, Jaken replied.

"Rin, stop asking such stupid questions; some people are just disgusting and tainted from birth, they don't deserve to live." Jaken was silenced once again by a rock after his master told him not to presume to answer for him.

Sesshoumaru wrapped the child in his pelt like tail. After Jaken's response, Rin was horrified; her face was an open book to Sesshoumaru who also felt a guilt deep down, hearing the statement put so boldly by his servant.

"You don't mean that Jaken, he was littler than Rin; you don't mean it, you don't. Lord Sesshoumaru please."

"Rin, if you were a burden to me you would not be with me. You do not know this boy's circumstances; sometimes mistakes occur and things are done, that should not happen. Do not concern yourself about him."

The boy in question had now stood up; his fists clenched tightly and held rigid at his side. His eyes were blazing in stormy anger; tears running unchecked and unnoticed down his face, his body shaking so much he looked like he might break apart.

"I may be tainted and not worthy of life, but I was loved once Sesshoumaru. My mother and father loved each other and she loved me. I was never a mistake to her, no matter what I looked like and she loved me till she died; she never called me a mistake, she never tried to get rid of me." He sniffled, trying to stop the tears. "I'm not asking you to be concerned for me Rin, you just be good and let your Lord Sesshoumaru look after you; but I,...I hate him." Inuyasha turned and ran blindly away with no idea of where he was heading, just wishing to get away.

"Stay here Rin, do not follow." Sesshoumaru knew she would obey him while he went after Inuyasha, his brother was such a bother sometimes. Sesshoumaru went to sit in the tree that Inuyasha finally stopped under. He watched as his younger brother pulled his knees to his chest and hid himself behind his screen of midnight coloured hair. It was very obvious Inuyasha was grieving; but Sesshoumaru didn't know what, if anything, to do about it. If Rin were upset or hurt, he would put his arm around her; it was natural now to give her comfort, but his brother was another matter.

So he waited and listened to a tirade of all the bitter words that Inuyasha knew; he learned all the words that Inuyasha had learned, by having them thrown at him all his life. He learned about the pain of being hated, beaten and starved; left in the cold and the desperation of a child left alone and totally friendless. As he listened, he also learned how much damage he had done himself and his heart condemmed him; but he still did not know what to do.

Inuyasha felt like he had purged his soul; he had just let out all of his pain as if someone who cared could hear him. When he finally raised his head, he became aware of another presence sitting next to him and he froze yet again. He did not need his youkai senses to identify his powerful brother. Willing his breathing to calm down and taking slow deep breaths; Inuyasha tried to pull himself together and rebuild his shattered self esteem, wondering what his brother was going to do with him. This was a side of Inuyasha with whom Sesshoumaru had no experience; but if the silence wasn't going to get intimidating, something had to be said:

"I think Inuyasha, you misunderstood some of the things I said to Rin; I did not mean to imply that you yourself were the mistake, only the neglect of you; that should not have happened."

"What do you mean, you 'don't mean to imply'... you don't imply anything; you always state as fact. I 'm never left in any doubt as to what I am, by you or anyone; no one spares my feelings. Go away Sesshoumaru, go back to the little girl who doesn't know what you have done to me in the past and to whom you are like the sun. I wont be around and in the way for much longer anyway." The last was said very much under his breath like a sigh.

"I will not be dismissed by you or anyone else Inuyasha and regardless of what has been said to you in the past by myself or by others, I do not lie; the mistake was in my neglect of you since you lost your mother. I personally have no more need to be hostile towards you; in fact I feel compelled to regard your safety, my honour has always been compromised by my neglect of you."

"Oh, don't let your honour be shamed Sesshoumaru; you are fully redeemed with your care for Rin and I am no child needing you anymore. I got on just fine. Do go away, go back before she misses you and worries that you will leave her; go away and leave me with some dignity." Inuyasha was feeling very unwanted and alone; Sesshoumaru knew something was wrong, after all he had heard Inuyasha when he was down the well. He also knew that, as he was a human at the moment; Inuyasha was by nature, much more emotional and why was he thinking he wouldn't be around for much longer?

"Inuyasha, tell me what is wrong; perhaps I can help you, it is not too late to make amends to you; to be your brother." Sesshoumaru found that he genuinely wished to help and he thought back over a couple of years of dealing with Rin; deciding that perhaps Inuyasha would respond better to a gentle question rather than a command. He was not prepared however, for the result of the kindness on his love starved brother. Inuyasha swallowed hard and putting his head down again, he cried bitterly. Sesshoumaru was surprised, but now was determined to get to the bottom of his brother's trouble.

"I am not used to dealing with many tears Inuyasha, is it your sorrow or because you are human that your grief seems so intense? Tell me what I can do to do to ease your pain." But Inuyasha was not yet in any state to answer him even if he could, leaving Sesshoumaru feeling inadequate. It had been too long since he'd buried his feelings of brotherly affection for Inuyasha and it made him feel awkward; right at the time when his brother needed him. What would he do if he saw Rin this distressed; apart from rip apart, limb from limb whatever caused her affliction and he found it very disturbing that he was now feeling the same way for his little brother?

He was thinking far too much, if it was Rin he would have acted by now; so he cautiously wrapped his tail around Inuyasha, drawing the boy to him. Sesshoumaru was shocked when he saw the depth of Inuyasha's despair, clearly written on his face; those years of estrangement and hostility melted away in an instant and Sesshoumaru held out his arm to Inuyasha, who grabbed him tightly; wrapping his arms round his brother's waist and leaning his head on his shoulder. Instinct led Sesshoumaru to stroke his brother's hair until Inuyasha was able to quieten down.

In that instant of acceptance between the brothers; certain ideas clarified in Sesshoumaru's mind. The desire he had to protect, was making him feel stronger; he could feel the power grow in his heart that would make him invincible if his charges needed him and this was even when there was no real threat. Once again, he acknowledged his father's wisdom; realising now that his solitary heart had limited him. He could only grow by using his strength as his father had done; protecting those worthy of his protection.

"I will not go back to how things were between us Inuyasha, even when this night is passed; it is time we stop fighting each other, perhaps we can work together when the time comes. But now, I need to know what is troubling you; tell me what happened between yourself and the miko. I will not cajole you and the matter concerns more than yourself; so, just tell me."

It was almost as if all the hateful years of his brother's neglect and hatred had vanished and he was back as a small pup, being asked to explain himself for some misdeed; the words were straight forward but the tone kindly. Inuyasha though, resented the fact that Sesshoumaru felt that he could wipe the slate clean just like that; he wasn't the one who'd had to live, dreading the next day and wondering what hell he'd have to go through next; but he couldn't deny that it was nice having his big brother caring once again, so he made his decision.

"O.K. if you can finally grow up, Sesshoumaru; I guess I can as well." Sesshoumaru glared at Inuyasha but let it pass, he could tell that his brother was trying to get himself back to normal and was embarrassed that Sesshoumaru had seen him when he was weak.

"Inuyasha?"

"I know, it's not easy. I upset Kagome again; but, this time I really hurt her. I wasn't thinking, Kikyou came and offered her help to us; so I accepted. But then when Kagome was helping with the meal, her hand was shaking and she dropped some of the Ramen over the fire. I knew she was not happy because of Kikyou but she wasn't making a fuss; then I called her a clumsy, stupid wench because she'd spoiled my dinner.

"Of course everyone was furious with me and were yelling at me, all except Kagome; she just said she was going home and now that Kikyou was working with us, she didn't need to stay any more and she left. I knew when she went this time she was different; she said something about the final straw, I don't know what it means but she won't come back."

"She has always come back to you Inuyasha." Sesshoumaru reasoned but Inuyasha shook his head, trying not to get upset once again.

"No, not this time; I belittled her in front of Kikyou. She thinks I have chosen Kikyou over her and don't need her help anymore."

"Have you, have you chosen to leave with the dead miko?"

"No, I have now asked her to leave. I owe her vengeance but nothing else, my Kikyou is dead; more than fifty years ago, it is Kagome I love and I love her more than I knew."

"I do not see the problem Inuyasha, just speak to her; explain about the miko, and reassure her that you will in future; think before you put your mouth into action."

Inuyasha had tried, he'd been through the well to see Kagome; but she had refused to speak with him, her window and curtains were closed against him. There was even a poster on her window sill that said 'Go Home' and then his last resort; Kagome's mother, had gently but firmly refused to let him into her daughter's room. This had been a terrible blow to him, her mother standing outside Kagome's room. Kagome would not answer him when he called to her, even when he pleaded with her to see him. Mrs Higurashi eventually convinced him to go downstairs to eat some lunch; she had wanted to speak to him herself.

Sesshoumaru watched his brother's face as he recounted what had happened; seeing the full range of emotions that Inuyasha didn't realise were flitting across his face. Inuyasha was even forgetting who he was speaking to; getting lost in his worry. Mrs Higurashi had made Inuyasha his dinner and although she had looked with sympathy at him, her daughter was hurt and she wasn't willing to let that go unchecked anymore; certainly not when Kagome herself had asked for her mother's protection.

Inuyasha had seen the bottle of shards on the kitchen table and his hand had shaken when it was put into his hand. Kagome's mother saying that she knew he needed the shards and she had been told to give them back to him. He'd stared at the little bottle, Kagome could not return to him without them; she had left them for him not intending to return. Inuyasha's heart had begun to panic, Kagome had promised to stay with him. Looking up at her mother with his anguish clearly on his face; he had just whimpered out 'no.'

"Inuyasha, you went too far this time" Mama Higurashi had said. "Kagome got used to your way of talking to her; mainly, because she felt you did not really mean to hurt her with your words. But you must know that she loves you and worries for you; she has tried to recognise your relationship with Kikyou and understand. When you spoke so nastily to her, in front of someone who is everything that she would like to be; elegant, accomplished and your love; well she feels you have told her you no longer need her help."

Then she'd taken his hands in hers making him look at her; she chose her words carefully, knowing he would understand.

"I do not want to see my little girl crushed anymore Inuyasha; do you know what it is like for me as a mother, to know that her child is getting called hurtful names? All she is trying to do is just to be friendly and her feelings are being deeply hurt. Can you imagine how I feel? I'm her mother and I don't want her in that environment anymore." Mrs Higurashi knew that her point had been made when Inuyasha's eyes filled with tears of regret; remembering that his mother had been put in that position many times, because of him being a hanyou. But Mama continued;

"I know you were always bullied as a child Inuyasha; but it is also a well known fact that a bullied child often becomes a bully himself. Words have always been used to hurt you and you have been using them in the same way; to push people away. Well it has worked; leave her here and finish your quest with your Kikyou." Mama didn't want to be cruel to Inuyasha; far from it, she loved him and wanted him to be happy; but she didn't want her daughter to suffer anymore.

"Take the shards and go Inuyasha; I hope you will be happy in your choice and know that we love you, even if we do not see you again." Then she had held him closely to her, knowing that he'd known so little kind physical contact in his life; waiting until he relaxed against her, then she kissed his cheek. Inuyasha had pulled away reluctantly, missing the motherly affection she'd given him and left one shard in her hand; his eyes pleading with her to give it to Kagome.

"I have asked Kikyou to leave; I don't love her, it is Kagome I love. I have for a long time and I'm sorry I've hurt her and you. "

"Well that, I'm afraid is something you will have to tell her if she makes use of this shard and goes back; it will be her decision. Go now Inuyasha, it is time." Inuyasha had then gone back to the well and jumped down after howling Kagome's name in a loud, miserable cry and turning human as he reached his own era; which was where Sesshoumaru had found him, bewailing his failure.

After hearing his brother's obviously truthful acccount of all that had transpired; he had to agree that Inuyasha was in serious trouble, as far as Kagome was concerned. He could feel Inuyasha start to shiver; the cold and his emotion were taking their toll on him.

"Come Inuyasha, you need to get near the fire and have a drink to warm you." Sesshoumaru took him back to the little camp where Rin was still waiting for her lord. Rin set too and prepared a drink for Inuyasha; noting his pale, tear stained cheeks and giving him a loving smile. Sesshoumaru spoke very quietly to him;

"Inuyasha do not fear you will be alone again, you will always have a place with me should you wish it. I do not like to think of you, pining away in grief or despair." Inuyasha was listening to him, but he went and sat by the fire; he was finding it very difficult to keep calm as Rin came and sat by him, her face showing her concern. Looking at her, all he could see was Kagome; in the younger girl's face and eyes and her caring smile, he could see all that now might be lost to him.

He closed his eyes and once again, tears rained down his face; falling from underneath his dark lashes, then he felt the little hands of Rin patting his own and wiping his face with a hankie.

"Don't cry Boy, what's the matter; have you got a pain, can Rin make it better ?"

"No, no pain you can help Rin. You remind me of a friend I had, but I think she doesn't like me anymore; I said things that hurt her, and now she is gone."

"Rin is like your friend, how?"

"She is kind and pretty,she smiles a lot and is gentle and loving."

"Does your friend love you?"

"She used to, and I love her."

"Don't be sad Boy; if she is like Rin, she still loves you." Inuyasha stared at the little girl; 'what could she mean?' he asked of the smiling child. "She will forgive you if she loved you; Rin knows, Rin loves Lord Sesshoumaru always. He could never stop me loving him no matter what he said to Rin; even if he stopped loving me, Rin will love him. So if your girl loved you, she still loves you Boy."

Inuyasha was overcome with that declaration, but no more so than Sesshoumaru. He was overwhelmed as well at hearing the child's confession of love for him; he felt as if he had not earned that sort of devotion, but vowed that nothing should seperate them ever and once again he felt the strong surge of power that flowed through his veins with his pledge to protect the girl.

Rin's words were a comfort to Inuyasha; and gradually his tears stopped, leaving him exhausted. Sesshoumaru noticed that his two human charges were needing sleep and he called them both to him, wrapping his tail around them and letting his warmth lull them to sleep while he kept watch; feeling a strange and unfamiliar fulfillment in being needed.

As the first morning light reached Inuyasha, his youkai powers returned and he stretched; turning to stare into a pair of amber eyes nearly identical with his own. Sesshoumaru noticed that the distress of the previous night was still slightly evident on Inuyasha's face.

" Where are you going Little Brother, there is no need for you to depart."

"I must go, your pup does not know who I am from last night and if she finds out it is me, the brother of her beloved Lord; she may be made unhappy and unsure of you, she does not deserve that."

"So, you will allow me to keep my reputation in her eyes; Inuyasha, I thank you. But she will find out one day."

"Perhaps not until she is old enough to understand. Thank you for listening to me Sesshoumaru, and putting up with my human side. Damn; you always make me feel like I'm such a child."

"To me, Inuyasha, you are still a pup; you often act like one, it is easy to treat you as my still much younger brother." Rin started to stir and with a:

"Tell her goodbye and thankyou." Inuyasha leapt into the trees, to take up a lonely vigil by the well.

The day passed by without trouble from any youkai; it was a pleasant day, gentle warm breezes blew across the long grass and little wildflowers bobbed and danced among the waves. Rin was delighted as she ran among them, Sesshoumaru thinking that she looked like a little wildflower herself. She came to him with flowers in her hair and settled down next to him.

"Rin, we are staying here for a while; I have asked the miko know as Kaede to instruct you in the art of medicinal herbs so that you can be prepared in case of need for yourself."

"Thank you my lord. Does Rin have to stay with her at night?"

"Do you wish to Rin?"

"No, Rin likes to stay near you my lord."

"You will come back after the evening meal, I shall fetch you."

"Lord Sesshoumaru, please excuse Rin and please check on Lord Inuyasha; he will still be sad because Lady Kagome has not returned."

Sesshoumaru looked down on the girl; she did not look at him as usual, but stared across the field. He was slightly unnerved by her lack of eye contact with him as Rin was the only one (apart from Inuyasha) who would dare look him face to face when they spoke; and he valued that contact from her. He did not want to lose it and the thought actually concerned him.

"You knew that it was Inuyasha last night Rin?"

"Yes, not straight away; but when I'd had time to think." Sesshoumaru noted the change in speech pattern, the pup was growing up.

"You know then, that it was I who should have watched over him and have charge of his childhood."

"I know."

"You are disappointed in your... This Sesshoumaru, Rin?" There was no answer from the girl, just silence which cut him to the heart; since when did what she thought of him matter to him, he was his own master and did not have to answer to anybody for his deeds. But he couldn't deny his feelings, or even that he had any; it didn't help that he condemmed his own actions of the past regarding Inuyasha, but he also could do nothing about that so it should be forgotten.

Easy for him to say, but Inuyasha would never forget; he couldn't forget, it had been his life. Sesshoumaru ruefully admitted; it was what made the hanyou the insecure, self loathing creature he was now. Always hiding his feelings away behind the bad language and trying to protect himself by pushing people away; people like Kagome even. Rin turned to look at him and realising that he was deep in thought as she was learning to read his thoughts in his golden eyes. She smiled again for him, when he noticed her.

"I am not disappointed in you my lord, you would not make the same mistake again."

"This Sesshoumaru does not make mistakes Rin."

"It is what you said yourself last night, my lord; I know Lord Inuyasha misunderstood your meaning, but I did not. You would not make the same decision now, that you did then; would you?"

"No Rin, I caused a lot of damage to Inuyasha. That I now regret; but things have changed, we are brother's again. I shall look out for him now."

"Rin is glad my lord, it is nice when you have an older brother; I miss mine sometimes."

"Do you lack for him Rin?"

"No, not lack; you are everything to me my lord, but I did love my brother and I am sad he is gone just as you would have been if anything had happened to Lord Inuyasha before you made up with him." She snuggled down next to Sesshoumaru, and he took comfort in her tiny warmth; making note to himself to be wary of her growing perspicacity.

Sango, Miroku and Shippou were discussing the fact that Kagome still had not returned and that Inuyasha had failed to convince her she was wanted and needed. They were very angry with the hanyou, making his life hard around them. The hunt for the jewel shards was put on hold, because Inuyasha refused to go anywhere out of sight or scent of the well. Kaede took him some food, knowing that he would not have hunted for himself.

She sat while he ate and talked kindly to him, she understood more than the others about the inner turmoil that was Inuyasha's heart and while he was on his own with her; he was civil and grateful, he could tell her what had happened and know she would give him good advice. She reassured him that Kagome loved him and didn't care what he was, she loved him as he was in all his forms.

Kaede suggested that Inuyasha go and visit Kagome at the end of the next week if she hadn't come back by then, but added a word of caution; that he not be rude or arrogant near her or her mother if he wanted Kagome, he must get it right this time if he saw her. There was no room for his pride between them; if they were to be a couple, they had to be more open. Inuyasha knew this and he thanked Kaede who surprised him by putting her arms round him and holding him. Inuyasha returned the hug, laying his head on her shoulder.

Kaede soon returned to her hut, Inuyasha had refused to go back with her; he did not feel very welcome at the moment and besides he prefered to sleep in Goshinboku's boughs, it was nearer to the well. She had a warning for the others however, not to keep up the animosity towards Inuyasha; Sesshoumaru was guarding him, she had felt his aura close by. Plus he is feeling the departure of Kagome more than anyone else including you Shippou, she said looking at the kitsune as he bounced on Miroku's shoulder.

"I can smell him on you Kaede, he didn't hurt you did he?"

"Of course not child, do not say such things; you greatly wrong him."

"Well he smells funny, like Kagome does sometimes when she is upset."

"Inuyasha is upset, Shippou." said Miroku. "Lady Kaede's shoulder is damp." Turning to the priestess he said. "From his tears I presume Kaede? Hopefully he will learn this time, he has caused Kagome enough heartache."

"I hope he gets the chance Miroku, I hope she comes back." Kaede's remark was sobering for them all.

Days passed by all following the same formula; Inuyasha somewhere near the well, speaking with his brother and bridging the painful years. They were learning about one another and regaining the lost love and trust; that would have taken years, if it had not been for the fact that Sesshoumaru had cared for Inuyasha on his human night and enabled Inuyasha to be much more open than he would otherwise have been.

Kaede would teach Rin during the day and bring her back to the clearing to her waiting lord, when she brought Inuyasha his evening meal. Inuyasha was growing used to the kind older lady who would just sit with him while he ate. He could talk about Kikyou and Kagome openly with her without fear of reprisals or misunderstandings. Kaede knew his history, and was a good listener; helping him put his world back in perspective, offering the advice that only she could because of knowing well the two girls in his life.

She helped him to see that his love for Kagome was built on compatibility and trust and not just the desire to be accepted, that had been the basis for his affection for Kikyou. All the time that they spoke, Kaede knew that Sesshoumaru was out there somewhere; listening and learning about his brother as well, she hoped that it would help them both to understand.

Once Kaede had left to go to her hut and Sesshoumaru had overseen that she had arrived safely and gone to learn about Rin's day and keep her company till she slept, Inuyasha was left once again; alone with his thoughts. He peered down the well and once he'd given up hope that Kagome would come that day; his tears fell yet again, making pink sparkles as they vanished into the depths and he felt lonlier and more lost as each day passed.

Inuyasha had even started to feel no comfort on his faithful perch in Goshinboku, everything reminded him of Kagome in some way or another; so he had found a lttle cave in which to spend the nights. His gradual withdrawal from company was beginning to worry his friends and his brother. Sesshoumaru was aware, as no other; that Inuyasha was in reality, missing his mate. Even though Kagome was unclaimed, his body was reacting as if she had been. Inuyoukai mate for life, and had been known to waste away in pining for a dead mate.

Kaede knew this as well, the little girl Rin chattered away all the time and had picked up lots of information on her travels from Jaken; which she gladly shared with her new friend. This was the final piece of the jigsaw for Kaede, Inuyasha had definately chosen Kagome; he'd never pined like this for her sister. The little girl herself was a joy to be around, she was just as Kaede imagined Kagome would have been a few years ago. Then she laughed to herself; why had she not seen it before; the two brothers were more alike than anyone realised, Rin would be very like Kagome one day.

On the other side of the well, Kagome had been in her own torment. Mama had told her of the conversation/lecture she'd had with Inuyasha; except for the fact that Kikyou was gone. She had told her daughter that if she chose to go back, she would have to be responsible herself; and not keep running away from things. Life was to be faced head on if she was to be happy. She told her to fight for Inuyasha and not try to win every argument by subjugation; Inuyasha responded as everyone does, to reason; even if it took him a bit of time to think. She told her daughter that Inuyasha was hurting as well and his loyalty to Kikyou was an admirable thing; it is after all, what she wanted herself wasn't it; a man she could trust?"

If Kagome was to go back she would have to grow up, that's what Mama was saying. It was also Mama who had realised what the pink sparkles that appeared for a while in the evening every day were. But Kagome would not return just to comfort Inuyasha; not this time, she had to let her head rule and not her heart. Not until she could really accept Inuyasha's way of being; was she really accepting him as she said she would, for the person he was. She would not revile Kikyou for wanting him to become human, if she was also wanting him to change and become some sort of Prince Charming.

Inuyasha was Inuyasha for better or worse, and she knew he could be gentle and caring when he was alone with her and secure; not at the mercy of the teasing he couldn't cope with from Miroku and Shippou. She would have to speak to them about it, if she returned; it was only fair that they took their share of responsibilty. She could see more clearly now, since she had been away; just how much everyone played Inuyasha up, knowing which buttons to press to get him to react for their entertainment. In fact it made her feel sick, the behaviour was no different in reality to the torments he had known all of his life.

Kagome stood at the side of the well,she was feeling stronger now than she ever had; her decisions stood firm and unwavering and her mother was proud of her. Mama gave her a last hug for now and a kiss and told her they were to be given to Inuyasha from her. Kagome smiled when mama said;

"Make sure Inuyasha knows he is always welcome in our home."

Then she was gone, she had waited till night time to go as she wanted to acclimatise herself before facing anyone; let alone an upset hanyou who would call her names immediately, while denying that he'd been unhappy since she'd gone. So she was looking forward to a gentle stroll to the village, in the warm darkness; glanciing at the myriad of stars. Pulling herself out of the well, she took a deep breath of the clean air and started to walk to the village.

As she reached Goshinboku, the familiar sight of the long silver hair shining in the moonlight made her heart jump; he was sitting with his back to her, staring at the moon which was nearly full. Taking the plunge she walked towards him; her heart in her mouth and as the golden eyes turned to view her, she realised her mistake and she was forcibly reminded of just how tall Sesshoumaru really was.

He'd jumped down with supreme grace and took her backpack from her in one careful move, yet she did not feel a threat from him. Sesshoumaru had heaved a sigh of relief when he saw the familiar flash of the well, and determined to bring Kagome to his camp to aquaint her with the situation. Kagome followed him willingly; he had made a point of letting her know that Rin was asleep at the moment but would be pleased to see her, perhaps in the morning.

Sesshoumaru made her comfortable and having assured himself that their conversation was private, he proceeded to fill her in on all that had happened and all that Inuyasha had said. He let her know that they had peace between themselves now and for this she was very glad; then she told him, of all that she had thought in the time she and Inuyasha had been apart.

Their conversation was honest and left nothing out, their mutual concern was for the boy who they both could now admit they loved and for the future. Both Sesshoumaru and Kagome could see the honesty in the other's eyes.

"Where is he now though, Sesshoumaru? He would normally be here by now, even if he is asleep; his nose tells him I am here."

"He has made a small den in a little cave near here. He cannot smell you because his nose if permanantly blocked; he cannot stop weeping for very long now. The longer you have been gone, the worse he has got; he has nearly given up the hope of seeing you again." Kagome was devastated; she did not think she could take knowing much more and if it was bad for her, what had it been like for Inuyasha?

"I didn't realise, he felt this strongly; I would not have stayed away."

"Your mother was right to keep you two apart Kagome, but I am glad that she allowed you to return. Inuyasha will not last much longer, his sorrow will kill him; it is the way with some of us."

"Take me to him please Sesshoumaru, I need to see him too." Kagome was distraught with this news.

"Before I do, I must ask; will you become his mate? You would be marked and have his lifespan. Will you take him as a hanyou; because if the answer is no, he would be better off not knowing you are here. I will then take him home to the Western Lands where I can at least, make him comfortable."

"Oh, Sesshoumaru; if he wants me as his mate, it is what I have wanted for a long time. I love him and only want him." Her answer and her glowing eyes were pleasing to Sesshoumaru; he would tell them later that he would offer them the use of his home if they wished and that a permanant home in the Palace was already Inuyasha's birthright. He smiled at the young woman:

"Thankfully Rin was correct. She told Inuyasha; that if you loved him, you would forgive him. I believe he has been holding on to that hope alone."

Checking that his camp was safe and in order and leaving Jaken in charge; Sesshoumaru led Kagome to Inuyasha's cave, which was in calling distance of the camp. He went in first and then stood aside as Kagome flew past him to take Inuyasha in her arms. She was shocked at how thin he had become, and how much misery shone from his eyes and ran down his face. He did not believe she was there at first; until she kissed him passionately, taking charge until he started to feel dominant enough to take over.

Sesshoumaru watched as their tears ceased and some of Inuyasha's strength returned. He then supported Inuyasha with Kagome's help, bringing him back to the warmth of the campfire and once again wrapping his brother in his tail; glad that it was not too late. Kagome held Inuyasha's hand until he went to sleep; happy knowing there would be no more denying of their love and that Inuyasha would be as happy with her, as she knew she would be with him.

Several days were spent in the little camp gaining strength and getting to know one another. It was a happier time than Kagome would ever have thought possible. Inuyasha and Kagome accepted Sesshoumaru's proposal to have their marking at the Palace with gratitude and once this was decided; it was time for the couple to make themselves known to the rest of their group.

Everyone was pleased to see Kagome again, and they were happy at their news. Kaede was thankful to see Inuyasha fully recovered. She was the only one who had been allowed by Sesshoumaru to see Inuyasha; as he trusted her. Even though she could not do anything but feed or pet him and offering him some comfort; as his heart sank lower towards despair and death. Inuyasha surprised them all by putting his arms round Kaede and thanking her for all she had done for him. She returned the embrace, saying she was just grateful that all had returned to their senses in time.

When they returned from the Western Lands as mates, it would be soon enough for the hunt for Naraku to continue. Inuyasha and Kagome would be strengthened by their bond; Inuyasha would have had time to recover, and with Sesshoumaru as an ally, the future looked good.

THE END.