Disclaimer: No, not mine, but I can wish, can't I?

A/N: Sorry guys! It's been ages since I updated, I know. My apologies and I won't waste your time with excuses. A bit of warning, though, this is an extremely long chapter. You read it at your own risk. Now, on with the story…


Last time:

Before Sesshomaru realized what was going on, Maika pulled something from behind her on the dresser and threw it around his shoulders. Taking advantage of his shock, she put his arms in the sleeves and stripped him of his pants and underwear.

Sesshomaru glanced down at the pastel kittens playing, while Maika backed up and dusted her hands. "What do I need the picture for, when I have the original to look at? Though if you think that was the only copy, you are not as clever as you think you are."

She licked her lips and said, "You will wear that tonight."

Sesshomaru growled and lifted her gently into his arms and set her on the bed. "I will agree to this absurd request, if you…" His claws strayed to the straps of her bra and panties and mimed cutting them off. "…will be wearing that."

Maika almost purred as she strained up to kiss his jaw. "I believe that sounds fair. You have a deal. Now come, we can't be late for our own wedding."


Inuyasha almost didn't recognize the shrine as he stepped out into the yard. A space had been prepared for the guests to sit and the entire area had been flooded with the fragrant bouquets they had been working on yesterday. It was a surprisingly modest affair, with very few guests. Excluding himself and the Higurashi's, there were no more than fifteen people present. The rather loud and obnoxious Mrs. Toyosawa seemed a group in and of herself however.

Other than the secretary, Inuyasha didn't really recognize any of them. He wondered which of them were Maika's family. The charms made it nearly impossible to tell who was a youkai and who wasn't, and none of them really resembled the wind youkai at all.

Off to one side, a group of women spoke in hushed tones mingled with quiet laughter. From what he overheard, they were friends of Maika's seeing as Sesshomaru was consistently referred to as "the mysterious hunk Maika was marrying." At least he hoped none of Sesshomaru's acquaintances would describe him like that.

The women were all older than Kagome and slightly taller. Two of them wore sleek gowns of a more modern design and had their hair curled and styled like many he had seen in the magazines in the grocery store. Both wore thick layers of makeup and he could smell the perfume on them from there. Grinning slightly, Inuyasha thought about how thrilled Sesshomaru and his sensitive nose would be to meet those women.

The other woman had chosen a more traditional kimono and she wore her hair much like Kagome had hers, swept up from her neck and shoulders. She seemed less at ease than the other women. Her back was rigid and her eyes kept flicking nervously over to him, or rather to Kagome.

Finally, the other two women noticed her distraction and caught sight of Inuyasha and Kagome. Smiling, they gripped their friend's hand and pulled her over. Inuyasha sighed and searched for a route of escape, but Kagome's firm grip on his arm held him in place.

"Be nice!" she hissed under her breath.

"Hi, you two must be friends of the groom," one of the ladies in a gown said. "I'm Natsuko and this is Chiyo and Naomi."

"I'm Kagome and this is Inuyasha," Kagome replied politely, and in Inuyasha's opinion a bit too cordially. "I live at the shrine here and my grandfather is performing the ceremony, but I'm also a friend of the groom, yes."

The ladies nodded politely, then Natsuko turned to Inuyasha. "Do you live at the shrine, too, or do you work with Daiginkeiko Reizo?"

"No," Inuyasha answered quickly. He was about to say he didn't know any Daiginkeiko when he remembered that that was the name Sesshomaru used now. Damn, it was going to be hard to keep that straight all day. "He's my brother."

"Your brother must be quite a guy to get Maika to settle down," Chiyo remarked lightly. "I swear that girl is like the wind, never stays in one place for long."

Inuyasha smirked. If only they knew just how close to the truth they were. Naomi laughed quietly and met his eye for a moment, then glanced away quickly. Inuyasha stared at her until Kagome stepped on his toe. There was something different about her. She seemed to know more about Maika than the other girls. The question was how much?

"Oh he's something else alright," Inuyasha told them, watching to see Naomi's reaction to this.

Nothing, other than her tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. He noticed a thin black cord hanging from her neck, much like the cords he, Sesshomaru and Maika wore. Could she be a youkai herself? She seemed ill at ease here in the shrine and even more uncomfortable being so close to Kagome, whose spiritual power was really quite impressive and also quite hazardous to a lower level youkai.

"I hope, I don't think the poor guy knows what he's getting himself into, though," Naomi quipped in response.

Inuyasha crossed his arms. "Keh, I think that's the other way around. I hope she can handle the asshole."

Natsuko and Chiyo giggled madly, while Naomi frowned. Kagome jumped in quickly to redirect the conversation to something less volatile.

"I don't suppose you know if any of Maika's family is here?"

Natsuko and Chiyo exchanged looks, while Naomi frowned and pinned her gaze on the ground.

"Well," Chiyo said, "we don't know much about Maika's family. We worked together in an office a year or so ago and became friends, going out after work a lot, but she never really said anything about her family."

Naomi looked up at that point and said, "Maika doesn't talk about her family. It's too painful, even now, and it's been years since they died."

The other women looked at her for an explanation as to how she knew this.

"You grew up together, didn't you?" Inuyasha said suddenly. Naomi looked sharply at him.

"Yes, that's right. How did you know that?"

"Oh, I know a lot of things," Inuyasha told her pointedly. He tipped his head towards Kagome and added, "You don't have to worry here. We won't spread it around."

Naomi narrowed her eyes at him for a moment, then gasped. She relaxed a bit and touched a hand to the cord around her neck. Inuyasha dipped his head slightly, and she smiled.

"Ohhh," Natsuko and Chiyo murmured. "Why didn't you tell us this before? We wouldn't have kidded her so much about that if we had known."

"I don't think she minded," Naomi said, turning away from Inuyasha. "You were among the few invited to her wedding ceremony." She glanced back to Inuyasha and Kagome and added, "I can't wait to meet this fellow of hers. It should prove most interesting."

"All right, everyone, if you would please take your places," Mrs. Higurashi announced as she came up behind them. "My father is ready to begin the ceremony."

They complied without question, following Mrs. Higurashi to where her father, dressed in ceremonial garb, was already waiting and ready. Skilled musicians played hushed traditional melodies on flutes as an accompaniment to the action. Despite the soothing music, Inuyasha shifted uncomfortably beside Kagome, unused to such formal events, even one as intimate as this. He was happy for his brother and Maika, but they were already mated, so he kind of wished they would hurry up.

Kagome placed a hand on his arm and whispered, "She's a youkai, isn't she? That's why she was so nervous around me."

Inuyasha nodded, then looked over her head to where his brother, as elegant and regal as ever in their family's traditional attire, knelt with Maika, who looked like a delicate celestial butterfly all robed in shimmering white. They made a striking pair beneath the great boughs of Goshinboku, framed by the golden slants of sunlight that filtered through.

Kagome's grandfather's aged voice carried strong throughout the shrine yard as he "purified" the couple. This struck Inuyasha as a bit ironic since that wasn't usually such a pleasant experience for youkai. They moved on into the vows, but a rather loudly whispered conversation between Maika's two mortal friends distracted him. They apparently thought his brother was very handsome and each had a speculation as to how any kids they might have would look.

Suddenly, another sound caught his ear. A strange clicking. It was faint, but with it came the scent of an unfamiliar human. He caught Sesshomaru's eye and knew the youkai had heard the same thing. Inuyasha winked and made as if to go, but Sesshomaru shook his head slightly.

A moment later, there was a faint yell, then a crash. Then a voice protested wildly about a camera, but soon the voice grew quieter and finally silenced completely. His brother sure had some loyal employees. But then again, who wouldn't be inclined to be a good employee when your boss could sling deadly poison from his fingertips. At least these seemed more competent than that toad or his current secretary.

The rather unpleasant droning of Kagome's grandfather brought him back to the affair at hand. They had already moved into the sake ceremony. It wasn't sake they were using—it couldn't be considering Maika's condition—but he wondered what they were using instead. It sure smelled pretty similar to the real stuff.

Then it was over. The musicians continued the play and the guests moved to congratulate the newly married couple. Inuyasha and Kagome moved off towards the house to wait. Now was the real test. The reception. The ceremony had been a small private affair, but the reception was the main event. The large, extravagant affair that would be open to the press and the hundreds of acquaintances and important figures that had to be invited out of propriety. Sesshomaru and Maika would change, then they would all take a limo to the hotel where the reception was being held.

"Nice ceremony. Your brother and Maika seem very happy together, though to be honest, I never would have pictured her with someone so…"

"Stuck-up? Stiff?" Inuyasha supplied, and Naomi laughed softly.

"I was going to say serious. I don't know him well enough to judge more than that yet. So, I take it he's okay with Maika being what she is?"

"Why don't you ask him yourself, Naomi," Maika said as she and Sesshomaru came up silently behind them. She was radiant, bubbling with joy and smiles. The ornamental combs sparkled in her hair, setting off the gleam in her eye.

Maika threw herself onto the girl, and they embraced for a moment before Maika pulled away and took Sesshomaru's hand.

"It's so good to see you again. I was afraid you wouldn't be able to make it on such short notice."

Naomi smiled. "I wouldn't have missed this for the world. I had to come wish my best friend well and meet the mysterious man who had finally tamed the wind."

Sesshomaru nodded a bit stiffly to the woman and glanced around. "Why do we not take this reunion inside?"

"Good idea," Kagome agreed.

"So, what have you been up to?" Maika asked her friend as they followed Kagome.

"Not much really," Naomi replied, "work has been pretty busy lately. But I'm more interested in you. I haven't heard from you in over a year, then all of the sudden you're getting married. And it is a pleasure to meet you Reizo. As you might have guessed, I'm a friend of Maika's from way back. She's a special girl and you better treat her right."

The woman reached up suddenly and twisted the charm around her neck. Her black hair vanished, replaced by a soft violet color. With it swept up, they could just make out the tapered tips of her ears. Her eyes were a brilliant blue color and two long vertical stripes ran from the edges of her eyes down to her cheeks.

She regarded Sesshomaru evenly for a moment as if judging his reaction, then added, "Anything less is unacceptable."

Maika twisted her own charm and blushed at her friend. "Really, that's enough of that. He takes very, very good care of me. No need to threaten him."

"You don't seem surprised, so I take it you know," Naomi went on, staring Sesshomaru down forcefully. "You really think you can handle her and make her happy? Do you think you can protect her from the dangers of our world? Her entire family was murdered by other youkai like us."

"Of this I am aware and Maika has dealt with the situation. You needn't worry for her safety," Sesshomaru said quietly and then he, too, deactivated his charm. "I am quite capable of protecting her and will do it with my life. I promise that."

The reaction was instant and quite amusing. Naomi's jaw dropped and she took a step back, overwhelmed by the intensity of Sesshomaru's aura. She grinned broadly and said, "Oh, I'll bet you can, inu."

"Neko," he returned with a dip of his head.

"Naomi, I'd like you to meet my mate and husband, Sesshomaru," Maika said in formal introduction.

"A pleasure, Sesshomaru-sama," the neko told him with a deep bow. "And I take it you must be the daiyoukai who's been causing such a stir in Tokyo lately." She winked at Maika and added, "And I'll bet you're the reason for that."

Maika grinned and looped her arm through Sesshomaru's. "Yeah, he's a tough one to loosen up, but I'm working on him. And despite what he might tell you, he really does enjoy roller coasters."

Naomi laughed heartily. "I'm sure if anyone could accomplish that, you could Maika." She turned to Inuyasha and Kagome now. "And what about you, baby brother? You gonna take off that charm so we can meet properly?"

"Keh, I'm staying out of this," Inuyasha retorted, crossing his arms, but Sesshomaru shot an arm out, caught his wrist, and deactivated the charm before Inuyasha could fend him off.

"You should be properly introduced, brother," Sesshomaru explained with a slight smile as he flicked Inuyasha's ears.

The neko hid her surprise rather well. Inuyasha's face blazed and his ears flicked back and forth in irritation and embarrassment. "You're half," she finally said, still a little shocked.

"Keh," Inuyasha started, but Maika cut him off. She lunged forward, wrapped her arms around Inuyasha's shoulders and tickled his ears with her fingers. "Yeah, isn't my brother-in-law such a cutie? Even a neko has to admit puppy ears are cute!"

Inuyasha scowled and pushed her away, his face burning a deep red. "I ain't cute," he grumbled. "And stop touching!"

Naomi snickered as Kagome stroked his ears as well. "You are so cute. I just love your ears."

"Stop touching!" Inuyasha cried and looked to his brother for help. The youkai shook his head slightly, then let out a soft growl. "You are my mate, love, do not forget," he teased.

Maika smirked, abandoned Inuyasha's ear in favor of caressing the tip of Sesshomaru's and said, "Don't worry, I know whose ears I prefer to scratch. And I have even better things in store for tonight."

Sesshomaru smiled slightly, having a difficult time maintaining his cool, aloof exterior with his mate hanging on him. Inuyasha watched with growing amusement until yet another set of hands joined Kagome's on his ears.

"Ooo, you're right," Naomi said. "They are so soft. That must be how an inu managed to snare the interest of such a powerful little miko." She turned to Kagome and gave her a knowing wink. "And a lovely little thing, I might add. You inus sure know how to pick them."

Inuyasha and Kagome both blushed and Inuyasha slapped their hands away. "Keh," was the best argument he could come up with at the moment.

"Mother! Father! That was so fun! I can't wait until I get married. I want to have music like that all the time and play my own flute." Reiku exclaimed as she ran up, dressed in the finest kimono money could buy, tugging Mrs. Higurashi by the hand.

"We just got through talking to the musicians," Mrs. Higurashi explained. "They think Reiku shows some strong talent for the flute."

The little girl ran over and Sesshomaru bent to scoop her into his arms. "Then perhaps we shall start you on lessons and get you your own instrument."

"Oh, thank you, Father!" Reiku gushed and threw her arms around his neck. "I'll play for you every day."

Maika noticed the confused look on her friend's face and explained, "This is Reiku, our adopted daughter. Reiku, this is a friend of mine. She and I grew up together."

"Hi, Reiku, nice to meet you. I'm Naomi." The neko smiled at her and bowed slightly.

Reiku returned the greeting shyly and said, "You're like Mother and Father. They can fly, can you fly?"

Naomi laughed at that. "No, I can't fly, but I can do other things. Maika used to take me flying, though, when we were kids. She taught me how to have fun."

"Like a sister?" Reiku asked.

"Yeah, like that."

"I'm going to have a little sister," Reiku informed them proudly. "Father thinks it will be a brother, but I'm going to have a sister who I can dress and teach things to."

Inuyasha barked out laughing, while it was Maika's turn to blush.

"Maika, is this true? Are you expecting?" Naomi blurted, her eyes wide. Maika smiled and nodded.

"Miko, you better watch out," Naomi remarked and elbowed Kagome playfully. "These inus don't waste any time at all." The neko grinned and dodged gracefully as Maika tried to hit her arm. Inuyasha was almost on the floor, laughing so hard he could hardly breathe. Even Sesshomaru had turned a little pink at the neko's outspoken remark.

"She is definitely one of your friends, love," he said to Maika. "Will you be joining us for the reception? I hate to rush your reunion, but we do need to start getting ready, Maika."

"You're right," Maika said with a groan. "You will be coming to the reception, right?"

"I wish I could," Naomi said, drawing Maika in for an embrace. "But I've got a flight to catch this afternoon. Business. I'll catch up with you when I get back in town. I want a real chance to catch up on everything." She pulled a card from her pocket and handed it to Maika. "Give me a call when you get back from your honeymoon. Congratulations to you both. I hope you will always make one another happy."

"Thank you, and I hope you will come visit my mate and I soon," Sesshomaru told her. "I shall enjoy hearing some stories of her childhood as she has heard a few about my past."

Naomi winked. "Of course. And it was a pleasure to meet you two as well, Inuyasha and Kagome. Good luck with your sister, Reiku. Good bye."

That said, the neko activated her charm and departed. Maika watched her leave, then took Sesshomaru by the hand. "We'll be down in a few, then we'll head for the reception."

Inuyasha took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Okay, ceremony down and the reception to go. So far he hadn't done anything too awful. Maybe he would get through this without embarrassing everyone after all. Maybe.


"Inuyasha, you must relax," Sesshomaru ordered sternly. The hanyou fidgeted uncomfortably in the seat across from him. Those furry white ears twitched back and forth and despite Kagome's hold on his arm, he continued to dig his claws into the expensive upholstery of the limousine's seats.

"Keh, easy for you to say," Inuyasha retorted irritably. "You ride around in these strange things all the time. This is the first time for me, and I don't like the feeling."

Sesshomaru was about to speak further on the issue, but Maika laid a gentle hand on his arm and Reiku chimed in, "It's okay. I still get carsick if I ride for a long time, and I've ridden in cars all my life."

Inuyasha didn't appear very comforted by her assurances, though.

"So how do you intend to explain Inuyasha anyways?" Maika asked suddenly.

That got everyone's attention. Kagome glanced at them both then asked, "What do you mean?"

Sesshomaru would have groaned if it weren't so undignified. With all the events leading up to today, he'd completely forgotten about how to explain Inuyasha's sudden appearance. The press would have a field day with him simply because Daiginkeiko was so well known.

"Yeah, what about me is there to explain?" Inuyasha demanded, immediately defensive.

"Daiginkeiko, Reizo is a rather well known persona," Sesshomaru explained. "You, as my brother, will be known as a Daiginkeiko and the media will want to know every last detail about you, where you've been, if you intend to follow in my steps with a business."

"So?" Inuyasha fired back as he crossed his arms.

"Inuyasha, you do not exist in this time and therefore will have no schooling background or any manner of proof of existence in this time. And we cannot simply say you came from five hundred years in the past to attend my wedding. I must admit this is one thing I did not account for."

Inuyasha waved his hand at them. "I'm sure you'll think of something. You seem to have an answer for everything."

"It's not quite that simple," Maika added. "You both need to have the same story set because the press will try to question you both together and while you're alone. Especially you, Inuyasha. You are young and fresh meat to them. And if you tell them something different than Sesshomaru it will raise more questions than we need to answer."

"How about we say he has been living abroad, traveling around the world for his studies?" Kagome suggested suddenly. She got a dreamy smile on her face. "I always thought that would be so fun to do when I got older. But I guess my life has turned out a lot more exciting than that."

"Keh, why would I want to study the world?" Inuyasha retorted. "You could say I've been on a campaign conquering countries and became a great warlord."

Reiku giggled openly and Maika and Kagome both smothered laughs, while Sesshomaru simply looked blandly at his brother. "That will not be appropriate."

"Keh, we can't all run around and weird suits and sit around tables with old mortals like you, Sesshomaru-sama." He bit out the title with obvious sarcasm.

Kagome shrieked shrilly and put a hand over her mouth. Her eyes watered.

"What's the matter with you?" Inuyasha pressed.

"Warlord," Kagome choked out as she wiped tears. Inuyasha scowled at her.

"Studying abroad is a fine excuse," Sesshomaru put in impatiently. "We are nearly there. You and the miko may discuss that in private at a later time. Now, which name would you like to take? Daiginkeiko as a surname, of course, but your personal name may be one of your choosing."

"My name?" Inuyasha demanded sharply. "What's wrong with my name?"

Kagome had settled slightly and explained, "Well, it is a little odd for this time period. It could be a nickname, like your family and friends call you, but you can pick a different one to use for the official record."

Inuyasha's face creased with anger and his ears flattened against his skull. "No. I'm not changing my name for nobody."

"But-" Kagome tried again, but he cut her off and turned to look out the window.

"Ain't changing. Nothing doing."

"Why not?" Maika pressed kindly. "Sesshomaru changed his name. If you can't think of any, we could help you."

"Because I said no, okay," Inuyasha snapped and turned so almost his entire body was facing the passing scenery. "Because I only have three things that truly belong to me, and those things were given to me by my father. The Tetsusaiga, the fire rat…" He trailed into silence for a moment, then added in a whisper, "…and my name."

"And I won't give that up for anyone," he added firmly.

Kagome and Maika both looked abashed, while Sesshomaru studied his brother and the transparent reflection of his face in the glass.

"There is one other thing," he remarked suddenly. Inuyasha started and glared at him.


"Father also gave you his looks," Sesshomaru told him.

"Keh, so I have white hair, big deal. So do you."

Sesshomaru shook his head. "No, I take more after my mother. The markings I bear come from her. You, however favor father strongly, though I also see Izaiyo in you as well. Of the two of us, you favor father the most."

Inuyasha blushed quietly, while Sesshomaru studied him a few minutes longer.

"As you wish, you may keep your name. Daiginkeiko, Inuyasha who has been abroad studying nature and wildlife. Reizo has existed for thirty-eight human years and I have stayed relatively isolated from the media. Tell them nothing personal about me or yourself. Nothing but what we have decided here. You should say your age is seventeen or eighteen human years only if asked.

"Do you understand, Inuyasha?"

"Yeah, sure," Inuyasha said with a smirk. "You're thirty-eight. I'm eighty or something."

"Eighteen," Sesshomaru corrected. "And this isn't something to be taken lightly, Inuyasha. Kagome, Maika and I are bound to this time. Just keep that in mind."

Inuyasha nodded as the limo pulled to a stop outside a large hotel. He, Maika and Sesshomaru activated their charms as a mortal ran up and opened the door for them while the driver went around back to unload bags. The Sesshomaru and Maika stepped out first, Sesshomaru pausing to take Reiku's hand and help her from the limo. The little girl pressed herself against Sesshomaru's leg close enough to trip anyone with less grace and balance. A rather nervous Inuyasha and Kagome followed. Neither had been to such an important event before, and the scene that greeted them put them on edge.

The flashing of cameras almost blinded them as they scurried along on Sesshomaru's heels. He stood tall, stern and completely indifferent to the media. They hurled questions at him like stones and pressed against the velvet rope barrier like a herd of agitated cattle.

"How can you stand the smell?" Inuyasha asked quietly enough for just his brother to hear.

"It will be better once we get inside," Sesshomaru replied just as quietly.

And that much was true. Inside, the crazed humans with the flashing lights were nowhere to be seen. A few humans loitered around the lounge area, but most of these were foreigners who eyed the four in traditional kimonos with mild, but open curiosity. Inuyasha and Kagome followed Sesshomaru to the front desk where he checked into their reserved room, inquired about the hotel's security as well as the placement of his own security squad for the event.

"I assure you everything is accounted for and hope everything is to your liking, sir," the manager said with a gracious smile. "Should you require anything further, please don't hesitate to ask. And congratulations to the both of you. Best wishes in your life together."

"Thank you," Maika replied for the both of them.

They turned to find the elevator when one of the tourists approached, clutching a camera. The smiled broadly and offered an exaggerated bow.

"Would you mind we take picture?" he asked in halting speech. He looked over at his companions who waved and spouted encouragements in their own tongue.

Sesshomaru stared at them icily, but Maika hooked her arm through his and replied cordially, "Of course we don't mind."

"So much thanks," the man said and gave them another unsteady bow. He stepped back and waited for Maika and Kagome to arrange them into a small group. Sesshomaru just stared blankly at them and Inuyasha scowled.

"Smile," the man encouraged as he took a couple photos. Only Maika and Kagome did as he requested.

When he was done, he bent down on one knee to address Reiku, who pressed herself against Sesshomaru's leg. He put a hand on her head to reassure her and growled low. Unheard by the humans, but meant to warn the man and comfort the girl nonetheless.

"You very pretty," the man told her kindly. "You mommy and daddy very pretty, too. Thank you for picture." He pulled a small treat from his pocket and tried to hand it to her, but Reiku turned her face away.

His smile faded some as he stood, but Maika took the treat and explained, "She is very shy."

The man nodded, then said, "Thank you for picture. Very nice family. You marriage today?"

Sesshomaru looked down at him hard, but Maika smiled and replied, "Yes, we were married today. I would like a copy of that picture, too. If you don't mind sending it."

The man shook his head and smiled. "Too fast. More slow."

Maika slowed her speech and repeated her request. The man eagerly agreed and called a woman whom they took to be his wife to his side. She handed him a pen and paper, which Maika took and wrote an address.

"You should not be so nice to strangers," Sesshomaru said once they entered the elevator. "Why did you agree to his ridiculous request?"

Maika swatted his arm playfully, "And you shouldn't be so mean. It was a harmless request. They don't get to see people dressed in formal kimonos every day. Besides, I wanted to get a good picture of us without all the polished heartlessness of the professional photographers. To him we were an exotic sight, and I want to see us the way he did."

Reiku eased her hold on Sesshomaru and looked at the treat in Maika's hand with interest. "So, is that something from his country?" she asked.

Maika smiled and looked at the packaging. "Looks like it might be. Better let your father check it first, though."

Sesshomaru sniffed it slightly and nodded. Reiku smiled and eagerly opened it.

"Will we be able to get a copy, too, once you get it?" Kagome asked. She entwined her hand with Inuyasha's in an attempt to loosen him up. He still wasn't too trustful of the cameras since that was what all the reporters tended to use.

"Of course," Maika said.


"This is the floor where we have our room for changing and just a place for privacy," Sesshomaru explained as he led them down the hall the elevator had taken them to. He showed Inuyasha how to use the room key card and gave him one. "In case you need to get away. There will be lots of people, humans and youkai with charms, as well as press. Keep close to Kagome or myself if you are unsure of how something is done. Also, remember to relax and have fun. You are my guests of honor so enjoy the festivities. Kagome, your seats are at the main table beside us if you wish to eat before we arrive. Maika, Reiku and I will be along shortly."

Sesshomaru had not overestimated the guest list at all. Inuyasha and Kagome were almost floored by the large number of people milling about the extravagant ballroom that had been transformed into a replica of an outdoor garden. There were even live birds and butterflies flitting among the many flowering plants. The various flora filled the air with a pleasant, natural aroma that dulled the strong odor of humans. The grandest sight was the large fountain occupying the center of the room. Live koi swam lazily in the pond at its base, and the falling water seemed to exude a calming aura throughout the room. Music, at a very pleasant, low sound level, played in the background while the live band and the various other entertainments for the evening set up on various stages scattered throughout the "garden".

Just beyond the fountain a large open area was set with tables for the feast that Inuyasha could already smell cooking in some hidden room. Waiters and waitresses dressed all in white moved silently through the room to offer guests appetizers and drinks.

Kagome gasped softly as she examined the lavish display of wealth and importance. "Wow, your brother spared no expense. This is beautiful."

"Keh, that asshole just loves to show off," Inuyasha said.

"So, you call you brother an 'asshole', is this a term of affection between the two of you or is there a bit of sibling trouble?" a voice asked suddenly from behind them and Inuyasha jumped as a small device was shoved under his nose.

"Keh, what term of affection or trouble?" he snapped and swatted the thing away from his face. "That's the truth. He is what he is. Now go away."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Daiginkeiko," the reporter apologized, though it didn't sound sincere at all, and he pulled the recorder back a bit. "I'm Shiro with channel seven news."

He paused as if waiting for Inuyasha to introduce himself, and when the hanyou didn't Shiro continued. "Your brother Reizo has made quite a reputation for himself here in Tokyo, but it is a shock to us all that he has a younger brother, though I must admit that on the surface you two couldn't be more different. Would you be so kind as to tell me your name?"

He then glanced over at Kagome, who clutched Inuyasha's arm as if to hold him back from doing anything rash. "And the name of this lovely young woman escorting you on this special day. I must say you are one lucky young lady. I know hundreds of girls out there will be disappointed that this handsome youth is already spoken for."

Kagome frowned at the blatant flattery. It was a pretty poor attempt to manipulate information from them, not to mention utterly shameless. Inuyasha didn't seem too impressed either. Before either of them had to answer, Sesshomaru, flanked by Maika and Reiku, entered.

"Inuyasha, my brother's name is Inuyasha. His companion is none of your concern. I suggest you go enjoy the reception and allow us to do the same."

"Perhaps I shall, this is quite an impressive event," the reporter said, turning to Sesshomaru. "I suppose your brother spoke the truth when he said, 'that asshole just loves to show off'?"

"It would be wise for you to turn around and find another, less hazardous method of occupying yourself," Sesshomaru replied coolly. "I will not have anyone implying that my brother is a liar."

Shiro winked at the ladies and hit the stop button his recorder. He bowed, then said, "Your point is well taken. I shall take my leave. Congratulations to you and your wife."

Inuyasha, Sesshomaru, Maika and Kagome watched him go. Reiku pointed at the fountain and bounced excitedly at Sesshomaru's side.

"Can we go see the fountain?" she asked eagerly.

"Certainly," Sesshomaru replied, "I had you in mind when I had it brought in as you seem so found of the one in my garden at home."

"Inuyasha, did I not warn you to be careful of what you say to reporters?" Sesshomaru asked as they made their way to the fountain. "They are everywhere here so keep you nose open and your mouth closed if you happen to smell any nearby."

Annoyance laced his brother's words and his stance was rigid and tense, which made Inuyasha glare over at him. "What's up your ass? You're the one who's used to all this kind of crap." He indicated the reception with a wave of his hand. "You probably attend these things all the time. The last place I went with this many humans in it, was a village where some stupid youkai attacked us for the jewel shards."

Sesshomaru's step faltered at that and he arched an eyebrow at Inuyasha. "What in all the things you know about me would incline you to believe that I would enjoy an affair such as this, much less attend them on a regular basis? My contact with humans is limited to business meetings and such. I do not engage on the 'social scene' as it is called."

Maika laughed, a musical sound that caused them all to stop and look at her. She put a hand to her mouth, then said, "You two are so much alike. A couple of old grumps. Honestly, I see Kagome, Reiku and I have our work cut out for us. This is our wedding reception. You have to enjoy it."

Both brothers grunted noncommittally, which sent the girls into a fit of giggling. A waiter offering drinks and refreshments on a silver tray interrupted them. Kagome accepted and encouraged Inuyasha to do the same, while Maika and Sesshomaru both declined. There was no need to start rumors about the new bride already having to stay away from alcohol.

They made their way to the fountain, their progress slowed by the many well-wishers who stopped Sesshomaru and Maika with hollow smiles and fake laughs. Maika leaned close and asked in a loud whisper, "Do you even know all these people?"

Sesshomaru frowned. "Unfortunately, mostly I do. At least by scent."

"Hey, Daiginkeiko, nice party," an already slightly inebriated man said as he made his way over. Inuyasha grimaced and turned a bit green as the man brushed past him, reeking of alcohol and stale sweat. This wasn't his first party of the day, or he'd started the celebration early.

He halted in front of Sesshomaru and asked, "You seen Iwahashi lately? He owes me like two hundred bucks. I bet that coward is hiding because he doesn't have it."

Inuyasha snickered, only to be elbowed by Kagome.

"I haven't seen him today," Sesshomaru informed the man.

The man gave Sesshomaru an appraising and somewhat sympathetic look. "He owes you money, too, huh? The coward. I'll make sure to send him your way if I find him."

And with that the man was gone in search of more alcohol or a female of an equally uninhibited state. They spent a short time watching the fish swim while Reiku dipped her fingers in the water.

Suddenly, Kagome gasped and clutched Inuyasha's arm. "Look!" she exclaimed, pointing across the room. "I could have sworn I just saw Shippo. Not little Shippo, but a big, tall Shippo in a nice suit. He had that red hair, well, it looked red for a moment, but I'm sure it was him."

Inuyasha glanced from Kagome to his brother. "I suppose you won't tell us even if you know, huh?"

Sesshomaru shook his head. "I cannot reveal such things since you are still connected to the past. It is enough of a risk that we interact the way we do. I can distinctly recall being completely mystified as to how you carried my scent so strongly sometimes after having no contact with me, though now I understand why."

Kagome scowled. "I don't see how it could hurt just to know that he's alive and well."

"It could hurt things terribly as you are so closely involved with the kit," Sesshomaru told her gravely. "If you knew for certain that he survived into this time, perhaps you would grow lax and feel less inclined to protect him during times of danger and thus alter that future by allowing him to be slain due to that overconfidence in his survival."

"Oh," Kagome said softly and took a slow sip of her drink. She looked thoughtful for a moment, then asked, "Aren't you afraid that something like that could happen to you? We still encounter you in the past."

"I do not have any close contact with you in that time and neither of you are responsible for my well-being."

"I'm hungry," Maika announced suddenly. "Let's head on over and get food so we can get to the dancing and entertainment. All this talk about time is only reminding me of how long ago breakfast was."

"About time somebody got their priorities straight," Inuyasha remarked, while Kagome laughed.

"I didn't know you were so eager to dance," she said.

"Keh, who cares about dancing, I just want them to bring on the food."

They were seated at the main table. It was raised slightly to afford them an ideal view of the entire party as well as the various stages for entertainment. Upon seeing the bride and groom seated, the hired MC called for everyone's attention and directed them to find their places at the table. The various photographers and press took the opportunity to take photos while the servants carried food to the tables.

Inuyasha frowned as he surveyed the scene. "Almost half of them are whispering-"

"And will continue to do so throughout the evening, Inuyasha," Sesshomaru said as he placed a hand over Maika's and gave him a pointed look. "Humans have an insatiable drive to fill their short lives with idle chatter. Learn to tune it out."

Inuyasha bit back the rest of his comment about the various remarks on the lack of family from both the bride's and groom's side. Obviously it was a sore spot for Maika if Sesshomaru didn't want him to speak on it.

He snuck a look at her from the corner of his eye. She seemed so happy for someone who had lost everyone. Maika really was the perfect one for his brother. Not because she could still smile after being mated to him (the first snide thought that crossed his mind), but because she could spark that rare smile and warmth of love across his brothers icy features. Something the youkai always guarded so closely and couldn't help but show now with her talking quietly in his ear and lightly touching his arm and shoulder. Inuyasha couldn't quite describe it, but his brother seemed more like a whole, completed person with her at his side. Like he felt when he was with Kagome.

He turned and eyed his wonderful miko now. She smiled and leaned into him as well, chatting on about how beautiful a certain gown or decoration, or piece of music was. He flushed slightly when her hand found his and squeezed it.

"Don't be so nervous, Inuyasha. Relax," she whispered.

He was about to retort gruffly, then changed his mind. He was relaxed, at least now that he was separated from most of those strange people and holding hands with Kagome. No need to upset that peace by pointing it out to her so rudely. Better to just enjoy it while it lasted because, in his experience, with this many humans crowed together with alcohol, it wasn't going to last long.

And just as he suspected, it didn't.

Sesshomaru and Maika were out on the dance floor and Kagome had had to run to the restroom with Reiku, so Inuyasha found himself with nothing to do but twiddle his thumbs. Kagome, the wise miko that she was, suggested he go get her some punch. Unfortunately, a predator will focus on the weak and those that separate from the herd, so once Inuyasha had gone off on his own, the reporter closed in on him and went for the kill.

"Mr. Daiginkeiko!"

The voice was so sudden, Inuyasha nearly threw the glass of punch across the room. He whirled and backed against the table in surprise. Damn, he hadn't even smelled the guy approaching. Swallowing hard, he rehearsed the story they'd planned for him—something about eighty years studying, or was it studying eighty things?—as he sought out any sign of someone to get him out of there before he said something stupid. Slowly, he inched his way down the table, hoping he'd be able to make a break for it soon.

The table ended so abruptly, he nearly fell backwards. He saved himself with his hanyou agility, unfortunately, he was more cornered now than before. The reporter had him literally trapped in a corner, the table to one side, walls on the other two sides and the smiling reporter in front of him.

"What?" Inuyasha demanded angrily, his eyes still searching for escape, though nothing readily presented itself other than taking out the reporter or one of the walls. Neither of those seemed an option Sesshomaru or Kagome would approve of, however.

"I'm sorry if I startled you, but I've been trying all afternoon to get in a word with you," the reporter said in an overly friendly voice that put Inuyasha on edge. It reminded him of the villagers in his youth who had pretended to be kind to him, offering food and toys and kind words, but as soon as he was in reach they would change, transformed into hideous, shouting monsters that wielded sharp sticks and hurled stones and insults as they beat him and ran him out of town.

That primal fear coursed through him now, and the urge to flee or fight was almost overwhelming. Where was his brother? Or Kagome? He hoped they would see him and come to his aid, but one of those damn trees pretty much obscured the rest of the room from view. Even though the gesture was hidden by the charm, Inuyasha's ears pressed flat against his head in annoyance and frustration.

"Keh, you've had more than a word, now go away," Inuyasha snapped gruffly, relying on his usual defenses in this unknown situation.

The reporter laughed. "What a wit! I'll be you're quite the ladies man. Would there be any women you're seeing at the moment? Perhaps something exclusive?"

Inuyasha frowned. There had to be something he was missing. Why would a reporter care about his vision? Well, at least it wasn't a personal question really, so no harm in answering it. "Keh, I see lots of women. My eyes work perfectly well."

The reporter grinned at him, like two friends sharing an intimate secret. Inuyasha went on, "I see men, too. Lots of men." The reporter's smile faded somewhat. "A few kids." It faltered to a disturbed frown. Inuyasha waved a hand towards the party and continued. "And a bunch of trees and flowers."

Something kin to relief washed over the reporter's features, and he laughed hesitantly. "Ahhh, you're talking about what you actually see. You are too funny, Mr. Daiginkeiko."

Inuyasha scowled at the man. Honestly, humans could be so stupid sometimes. What else would he have been talking about when the guy asked him about seeing stuff?

"So, what is it like growing up in the shadow of someone like Reizo?" the reporter asked, leaning even closer as if to encourage Inuyasha to open up since it was just the two of them.

"What do you mean?" he demanded nervously. That was definitely a personal question that he knew he probably shouldn't answer.

"I mean," the reporter clarified, "having an older brother with such a reputation and respect in the business world must make it hard for you as the younger sibling to ever get any recognition for your own achievements. Do you ever get jealous of his fame? Want to be know as your own man rather than Reizo Daiginkeiko's brother?"

"I am who I am, and he is who he is," Inuyasha said slowly, trying to make sure he didn't say anything wrong. "We're nothing alike and apart from today no one even knew I existed, and perhaps I never did. Maybe I'll just fade out of the picture just as quickly as I appeared. But I'll never be jealous of that bas- er brother of mine."

"So you don't want any of the fame or wealth or respect your brother has?" the reporter pressed.

Inuyasha looked away, gripping the hilt of Tetsusaiga as a reassurance of sorts. He felt so vulnerable right now. Why did this guy keep talking? "What would someone like me do with it? I have one task, and one task alone to achieve before I die. And if I do that before I die, then I'll worry about what comes next. Let Sess- Reizo have his money and respect and titles. Sometimes I wonder what he'd be without them, and other times I think even he's afraid to know what he'd be without them to hide behind."

"Task?" the reporter asked. "What task do you have to achieve? Are you seeking a degree perhaps?"

"Do you ever stop talking?" Inuyasha fired back at him.

"Why now?" the reporter pressed, unfazed by Inuyasha's gruff demeanor. "Why did you come out into the public now? If you hate it so much, wouldn't it have been easier to just stay out of the public eye?"

"I don't know," Inuyasha said, taking a step back as the urge to run or fight returned full force.

"I think you're hiding something, Mr. Daiginkeiko," the reporter said. "I think there is some dark secret in your family's past that both you and Reizo are trying to cover with this arrogant, detached façade. Bad blood perhaps between the two of you and your family. I find it rather odd that no one else from you and your brother's or even the bride's family came to celebrate this happy event. What have you done to alienate yourselves from the family so?"

Inuyasha growled and his thumb flicked Tetsusaiga loose instinctively. "Don't you dare insult my pack! It's none of your damn business what anyone in this pack says or does."

The reporter's eyes sparked as if he sensed a very interesting story brewing. Unfortunately, self-preservation wasn't one of those intrinsic senses. "So you admit that there is some stain of dishonor lying between your family and you and Reizo?"

Inuyasha snarled at the man. Abandoning Tetsusaiga for the moment, Inuyasha lunged with inhuman speed. The reporter gasped as a clawed fist caught his shirt and he was thrown bodily into the wall, a good foot above the ground and flexed his claws.

Though the man couldn't see them, he had sense enough to be alarmed. He pushed against Inuyasha's arm and laughed uneasily. "Very funny, Daiginkeiko. I see that temper runs in the family. Surely you aren't threatening me. You do realize you could be arrested should I press harassment charges? You wouldn't want something like that to mar the happiness of this occasion."

Inuyasha snarled at the man, his hair standing on end. Instinct demanded he flee or kill this threat, and he wasn't about to run from a mortal. "I don't give a fuck about your charges. Just shut up!"

"Unhand me this instant!" the reporter shouted, truly terrified for the first time, and he kicked at Inuyasha's gut with the toe of his shoe. Inuyasha just smiled at the pitiful attack.

The move was so quick the reporter didn't know what had happened until the blood flowed from the hole where his throat used to be. Inuyasha snarled and dropped him.

"What is going on, Inuyasha?" a cool, emotionless voice asked from behind him.

Inuyasha whirled, blood still dripping from his claws, and felt suddenly like a kid caught stealing fruit from a neighbor's orchard. Sesshomaru stood staring at him with a glint of mild annoyance on his otherwise blank face. His arms were crossed and one eyebrow lifted just enough to emphasize the question he'd just asked.

"Um, he started it," Inuyasha began weakly. "I was just trying to get some punch for Kagome, and he wouldn't stop asking all these questions about you, me and our family. Insults."

Sesshomaru sighed. "You do love to cause trouble for me, don't you. Even I cannot just go around slaying mortals so sloppily. It takes finesse, Inuyasha, and discretion. Two things you've clearly never acquired."

Inuyasha growled, his patience already shot. "Shove it, Sesshomaru. He started it, okay."

"I understand, Inuyasha, and I sympathize," Sesshomaru said patiently. "But as with anything, there is a proper way to do it. And get a napkin to clean your claws. You're going to drip blood all over that kimono."

At the mention of the kimono, Inuyasha blushed and quickly did as his brother requested. He really did want to take care of the thing that was so precious to their family.

"Well, he's dead, isn't he? I obviously did something properly."

Sesshomaru turned suddenly and spoke something even Inuyasha couldn't hear to one of his own personal employees. Then the youkai left. The worker Sesshomaru had addressed, discreetly added a few more trees to the one hiding the location and then stood with his back to the area to discourage anyone from coming closer.

Inuyasha smirked. He had to admit his brother could be pretty smart sometimes, and all those lackeys were pretty useful. A moment later, Sesshomaru returned with a jacket very similar to the one the reporter was wearing. He laid the jacket aside to reveal Tenseiga. Unsheathing the magnificent sword, Sesshomaru stood still over the reporter's body, then swung. A moment later, the man revived, coughing and reaching for his now whole throat.

Sesshomaru bent and pulled the man to his feet. Before any of them could speak, he had the clean jacket over the man's shoulders and was ushering both him and Inuyasha from the room. They made their way down the hall and into a small closet Sesshomaru had melted the lock from. He tossed both inside and closed the door behind him.

"Now, Inuyasha, you cannot lash out at someone in a crowded room full of mortals just because they try your patience," Sesshomaru said as if the reporter weren't even in the room. "And you certainly must make sure that no evidence will be left to incriminate you."

That said, he lifted the reporter and dug the recorder out of his pocket. He pushed a few buttons, then suddenly the room filled with Inuyasha and the reporter's voices. The hanyou narrowed his eyes at the man, furious.

"I did not mean to anger you, brother, only to warn you. Any mortal could carry a device like this, and they can be very tiny indeed."

The voices halted abruptly as the recorder succumbed to Sesshomaru's poison. Inuyasha nodded his understanding.

"What, what are you going to do? What is this?" the reporter demanded weakly.

The brothers ignored him.

"Kagome told me about things like that that can take pictures, too," Inuyasha said, picking the reporter up to go through his pockets. "Pictures like on the TV."

Sesshomaru nodded. "Indeed, humans can be quite clever for all their stupidity. It astounds me at times."

"Are you going to kill me? I thought I was, but I…" the poor reported trailed off into a stunned silence.

Finally the brothers took notice.

"Keh, I already killed you," Inuyasha said as he crossed his arms. "You're his problem now."

Sesshomaru turned and regarded the man blankly, no expression on his face at all. "You will return to the reception and enjoy the rest of your evening. Tomorrow, or this evening if you prefer, you will write up your report of the evening as uneventful, slightly boring even, with no mention of anything at all about my brother or myself other than the fact of our presence."

The reporter gaped. "Wha-?"

"Then you shall continue to report nothing concerning myself or my brother, and should you discover anything about us, no matter how trivial, has come in from another source you will crush the rumor or alert me of it."

"Wha- why would I do that?" the reporter demanded.

"Because if you do not, I will kill you," Sesshomaru replied frankly. "And I will not revive you again."

The man blanched and backed away from the youkai. "What are you?"

"I am your new employer," Sesshomaru told him. "So please, refrain from disobeying me. I do hate to kill my employees. It is such a waste of time."

Inuyasha snickered a bit as his brother opened the door and allowed the poor man to run off. There was no way that man would ever speak of what he'd just experienced. The scent of his terror was too strong.

"And, you, please refrain from killing my guests," Sesshomaru said as he exited the closet and motioned for Inuyasha to follow.

Inuyasha stepped out of the closet, but pulled the room key from a pocket and studied it. A hand on his shoulder startled him, and looked up to see his brother watching him.

"Come back out when you are ready, brother," Sesshomaru said, then in a swirl of hair and silk, he was gone.

Inuyasha took a few steps in the direction of the party, then turned and sought out the room. He sighed and fell against the door to the room as he pushed it shut. It was empty now, and quiet. He had enjoyed the ceremony and was happy for his brother, but despite his formal attire, he didn't quite fit in out there. Look had how close he had come to ruining everything for his brother. Just because he couldn't handle a nosy human.

His ears twitched when he heard the door open. The slight draft brought Kagome's scent to him. His own little angel come to check on him.

She said nothing, though. Just moved up beside him and slid her arm through his and laid her head on his shoulder.

"It is beautiful," Inuyasha said, unnerved by the unusual silence from the girl. "The party and junk I mean."

Kagome nodded and her hand slid down his arm where her fingers entwined with his. "Inuyasha, do you suppose we'll ever have anything like that?"

"Keh, like either of us have that much money to blow on some big thing like this. I could never give you…"

He trailed off and his ears drooped. Never give her what she deserved. Some of what the reporter had said was true, though. He would never escape his brother's shadow. Even if his brother accepted him, it didn't change the fact that he was a rogue hanyou with nothing to his name but a good sword and his fire rat.

"You couldn't give me fine silks, Inuyasha," she said suddenly. "You couldn't give me fine jewels, a mansion, or all the money in the world. Not because you couldn't provide them, but because I wouldn't take them."

She put a hand on his cheek and forced him to look at her. He swallowed hard, a heat rising all through out his body. She was so beautiful, so perfect, like a painting or a statue sculpted by the gods that he could only appreciate from afar. And yet she was touching him, pressed against him, leaning into him.

His heart pounded firmly in his chest. "I don't want all those things, Inuyasha. I want something more. Something only you could ever give me. You, your love, your protection, your joy, your pain, your heart, as I would give you mine."

With that she closed the distance between them and kissed him. Not gentle and chaste as she usually did, but firm, needy, and so focused on him that his knees nearly buckled. He opened his mouth in surprise and she eagerly drove her tongue between his lips.

It was sweet, warm and moist, like a foreign delicacy. Instantly, he was intoxicated. His hands snaked around her waist and pulled her tight against him, as he sought to overpower her tongue with his. She seemed to melt in his grasp, flowing against him like water, and he molded himself to catch her, embrace her. He could feel her heart pounding against his chest, and knew she had to feel his racing as well.

Inuyasha had never felt so alive before. Using his strength and height advantage, he maneuvered her against the wall to leave his fingers free to explore the softness of her curves. Her hand roamed as well, moving up his chest, through his hair and up to his ears, caressing the furry appendages in a way that drew a low, hungry growl from his lips.

This had to stop, though. Now wasn't the time or place. He didn't want this moment to be rushed or full of empty lust with no true passion. He wanted to give the undivided attention and worship she deserved, not the frantic rutting tinged with the fear of being discovered by his brother or a servant.

Inuyasha drew her in for one last kiss, then held her back from himself. He panted now, feeling as flushed as Kagome looked. She took a deep breath and nodded her understanding.

"How did you know I was in here?" Inuyasha asked.

"Well, Sesshomaru mentioned what had happened, so I came to look for you," Kagome explained. "I figured you'd find somewhere quiet."

She took his hand between hers. "Are you ready to go back?'

Inuyasha hesitated.

"Please, will you come back with me?" she added suddenly. "I don't want to hurt Maika or Sesshomaru's feelings, but I'm bored to tears out there. I need you."

Inuyasha winced and turned away quickly before she could see the blush from all the subtle connotations that last phrase of hers had.

"Keh, I guess I do need to get you that punch I promised you."

The band had started a slow, lyrical music when Kagome and Inuyasha returned to the ballroom, hands clasped. The lights had been dimmed so that only the pale glow from various lanterns strung throughout the trees illuminated the dance floor. A number of couples swayed in graceful circles. Carefully, they picked their way through the onlookers, following Inuyasha's nose to find Sesshomaru.

They found him and Maika off to one side, miraculously free of reporters and well-wishers. A number of the trees created a sort of private grove around them, and a halo of soft lantern light bathed them like the aura of two celestial beings. Slowly they swayed back and forth in rhythm to the music, like a drifting leaf upon the wind, heedless of any around them. Sesshomaru gently pressed Maika against him with his hand on her back. Her head lay against his shoulder, her face tilted up towards his. He gazed down on her with such love and tenderness Inuyasha almost didn't recognize his brother.

Then suddenly the conversation he'd had with brother on the way back to the shrine last night came flooding back to him with a force that nearly knocked him over. "She does not make me smile, she is my smile. She did not make me fall in love, she is my love."

He gasped as if finally breathing when he hadn't even known he was drowning. He understood, though finding words to describe was almost beyond him.

There was quality in Sesshomaru that that he had never noticed before now, something like the difference in seeing the artist's sketch, then seeing the finished masterpiece. Completed. Perhaps that was the word he was looking for. His brother looked completed, the cold starkness of his former self had finally been filled with all the vibrant colors it had been lacking. And Maika had been the artist.

Inuyasha grinned as he regarded the great Sesshomaru, the killing perfection. The completed perfection. He smelled the salt of tears from Kagome, but knew better than to be concerned. Moved by the moment or perhaps still reeling from her kiss earlier, Inuyasha squeezed her hand affectionately and drew her against his chest. Hesitantly, then gaining in confidence, they joined the dancing couples. Shyly, she relaxed against him and laid her head on his shoulder. Inuyasha glanced down at her with a smile on his face. He had found his own artist. Now he simply had to let her paint.

The End

A/N: Well, I hope that was worth all that waiting. I have an epilogue planned for finishing up all the loose ends, but due to current personal events, it may be quite a while before it gets written. I really appreciate all of you loyal readers who have been so patient with me and my slowness in getting this up. Thank you so much for the support and encouragement!