Refreshment for my Soul

The heavy wooden doors closed behind Sesshoumaru with a satisfyingly solid sound. Throughout the castle, at various, strategic points, there were these heavy secure doors which could be locked to shut out any undesirables. Should the castle be breached, they would buy valuable time for the defenders. Sesshoumaru's mouth almost lifted at the corners in a smile of disdain at the thought of anyone entering without permission. So far in the history of the castle it had never happened.

Now however, they closed off the sound of debate and discussion, away from Sesshoumaru's grateful ears. Taking his hair out of it's low binding, Sesshoumaru shook his graceful head gently, enjoying the weighty feeling of his hair swinging against his back and legs. Released from the cradle that had been formed by the bound hair, Myouga the flea youkai, spoke:

"I will report back in two hours, Sire, is that acceptable to you?"

Sesshoumaru merely looked askance at the flea and inclined his head in confirmation, then listened to the sounds of Myouga's departure. His senses told him just when he was totally alone and he allowed himself a sigh of pleasure and ran his claws through his hair gently massaging his scalp. Sesshoumaru was not a self indulgent being, but he did relish his solitude and not being a total ascetic, he also enjoyed things of quality and right now, a wonderful hot, uninterrupted bathe and change into superior silk was a pleasure he was going to savour.

Knowing that the Lords of the lands and the other politicians would be comfortable in the guest quarters once they dispersed from the conference room, Sesshoumaru mentally ran over all his schedule for the rest of the day. Meeting with Myouga and the results of his surveillance team in two hours gave him ample time for relaxing and taking refreshment, then after Myouga, the late afternoon would be spent in socialising with the lords and their consorts and all the eligible females that had been brought along in the hopes that he would finally choose a mate.

Allowing himself another heavy sigh at the thought of the 'pleasanteries' that awaited him that afternoon, Sesshoumaru took his time, leisurely walking through the apartments that were the Royal family's personal rooms. Currently they were nearly empty, only he and his ward Rin had rooms here now, but the peace had not always been so still. The area had known the laughter and tears of children in the past and the hallways had rung with running feet and other signs of family bustle.

The slightest twinge of guilt flickered at the edge of Sesshoumaru's mind as he recalled that the last child besides Rin to run along these corridors had been Inuyasha and he had certainly not spent much time in laughter, especially since his mother died, leaving him to the not so tender mercies of his resentful half brother. But those issues had been resolved now, there was peace, even love between the brothers and had been for about ten years since the defeat of Naraku at the hands of his combined adversaries.

Shrugging into a light kimono and stretching his limber body to get the kinks out of his muscles, Sesshoumaru relished the lighter cool fabric against his skin. He chose the garments he would wear after his bath, laying them out on the futon and smoothing out not existant creases. Love. What a strange concept that was, it seemed to have no logic and therefore he found it almost incomprehensible, yet he had had to finally admit, it not only existed, but that he felt it on several different levels.

He first recognised love in the feeling he profoundly experienced when his father appeared to himself and Inuyasha when Sounga was defeated, he had longed for his father's embrace again and remembered his despair when the Dog Lord had left him to protect Izayoi and the newborn Inuyasha. He recognised a different love for the child he protected and again for his loyal servant and once acknowledged, he was too honest to deny it.

The fact that Inuyasha had any place in his heart was a surprise, he had long felt that the animosity they had for one another had been diminishing over time but it wasn't until Naraku had pierced Inuyasha's heart and his bloodied corpse fell at Sesshoumaru's feet, that Sesshoumaru finally understood and it was the final downfall for Naraku to face Sesshoumaru's blinding wrath. Naraku's last mistake was to taunt Sesshoumaru with hypocritically keening his brother's death.

His actual memories of the rest of the time were somewhat hazy, he knew he had revived Inuyasha and not let anyone else near him for some time, finding that once his bloodlust had cleared that he was petting Inuyasha's hair and ears and waiting for him to awaken. Inuyasha himself was in no hurry to leave Sesshoumaru's side either and from then on they acted as if they had been friends all their lives, much to the ill concealed amusement of all who knew them.

Remembering and marvelling at how easy it had been for Inuyasha to accept the new situation, Sesshoumaru smiled but it was tinged with sadness when he remembered hearing Inuyasha admit to his friend Kouga that he had never hated his older brother and had always wanted to be accepted by him. What wasted years, all his fault,years when they could both have been family and not lonely.

But now his bath beckoned, the familiar and relaxing scent of his favourite herbs tingled his nose, just another of those secret pleasures that Sesshoumaru allowed himself and so, dropping his robe to the floor he stepped into the hot water and sank deep into a blissful state of lethargy. Everything was going well, the meeting of the Lords were mainly formalities, re-affirming ties and keeping up appearences with neighbours.

Anything that might be construed as conspiracies would not be spoken of in public, which is why Myouga's teams of flea youkai spies was so invaluable, dotted all over the castle, they would report regularly on who met who, where and what was said. Sesshoumaru always knew just what was going on, and he enjoyed diplomacy, priding himself that with the clever use of words he would never stoop so low as to lie or decieve anyone.

However it was tiring always having to search for hidden meanings, keeping his mind alert for those who wished to manipulate others and keeping his own back covered. In reality there was no one who could not be bought, or would not work to their own agenda. Times of peace were most dangerous, it would not do to let his guard down at all, and the tension got into all his muscles.

His senses were automatically sending signals to his subconscious, therefore he knew that Inuyasha was in his old suite of rooms and he knew exactly when he moved out to come to disturb his solitude, he could feel Inuyasha's subdued aura and the hint of salt made Sesshoumaru's eyebrow raise as he turned to watch his younger brother enter his bath room.

"Join me Inuyasha?"

Sesshoumaru looked intently at Inuyasha, but could see no trace of spent tears, only that his brother's eyes were suspiciously bright. Inuyasha gave a small smile before turning his head away from Sesshoumaru's keen sight.

"No, thanks, not this time. If you want to dunk your head to wash it, I'll make sure you're safe, you want to look all pretty for the ladies later ."

Inuyasha smirked and threw a sponge at his brother's head and was rewarded with an irritated growl, but Sesshoumaru took him up on the offer and sunk into the water, amending his previous thought that he could trust no one. He suddenly realised he had always trusted his brother, even when they were enemies, Inuyasha would never have betrayed him or stabbed him in the back, and he let the thought warm his heart.

Rising from his bath, he took the towels Inuyasha held for him and then put on his robes all the time thinking of his brother's state of mind. Putting his arm around his brother's shoulders he held him firmly, then reached up to pet and scratch the puppy ears adorning Inuyasha's head, only he and Kagome were allowed to touch the ears and each had a different effect. Sesshoumaru made Inuyasha feel cared for and he leaned his head to rest on his older brother's shoulder and sighed. Sesshoumaru looked down at him in concern.

"You would be wiser to take up my offer of a new suite of rooms for your family here, Inuyasha, obviously the memories hidden in the old cause you to be too melancholy. I am sure Kagome and the children don't want you upset. There are other rooms just as pleasant, you are welcome to change to any of them."

"It's O.K. Shou, I never dwell on my memories, and my mate and pups will soon make happy ones for me. I want my family there, it'll be alright."

Sesshoumaru nodded, understanding the reasoning. He had changed the child Inuyasha's only safe haven into a place of fear, overpowering the security of Izayoi's scent and replacing it with his own scent of anger and hate. In his defence to himself, Sesshoumaru could honestly say he had not intentionally sought to do that, but in finding daily, some misdemeaner real or imagined that the child had done, he had been ruthless in punishing Inuyasha.

He was disgusted with the memories of his own behaviour, knowing that if anyone had tried to hurt Rin in such a way even once, they would have paid for it with their life. Inuyasha felt his brother stiffen and knew what path his thoughts had taken.

"It's past Shou, I probably deserved some of it anyway, I was always in your way. A bit like I am now eh? Still I'm too big to put across your knee, and I won't just stay put to be beaten anymore either."

Looking up at his brother with big expressive eyes, Inuyasha ruffled his brother's hair, knowing that he would be annoyed and sure enough the amber eyes glared at him. Inuyasha wasn't quite quick enough, and found himself propped over Sesshoumaru's knee.

"Too big hmm, Inuyasha, don't push it, I'm still your older brother."

With that Sesshoumaru swatted him, then, laughing, he pulled his indignant brother into a light hug.

"You did ask for that one little brother, but you are wrong, you never deserved it in the past, I am glad you have been able to forgive me."

Inuyasha turned once again to Sesshoumaru, looking at him steadily, but with surprise in his eyes, Inuyasha could never hide what his eyes said, unlike his brother, who was rarely readable.

"I have not forgiven you Shou, not for any of the times you have hurt me or rejected me."

Sesshoumaru was shocked at these words so calmly spoken.

"I don't think I understand Inuyasha, how can you claim to love me yet not forgive me. Do you still resent me for my neglect of you?"

Inuyasha moved away from his brother and wrapped his arms round himself.

"I've always loved you, I have tried to hate you, but I never could, even when you hurt me or made me so angry. I always wanted your love but I knew it was impossible. Thing is Sesshoumaru, you have never asked me to forgive you, you have never been sorry for what you have done to me. I've never even considered if you regret your treatment of me. I am a hanyou, everyone treated me like dirt, you were no different."

Sesshoumaru stepped towards Inuyasha and put his hands on his shoulders, turning him to face him.

"I should have been different Inuyasha, I was totally wrong, and I do regret my actions, Father would have been sorely disappointed in me. Can you forgive me?"

"Feh, of course, you were an orphan as well, not much older than a pup, you got saddled with a useless half brother as well as the Western Lands, it's gone Shou, forget it, it's now that matters to me."

With that he gave a wicked grin, noticing that they were near the edge of the bath and he pushed a startled Sesshoumaru straight back into the water then ran. Five minutes later, to the amazement of his nieces and nephew, stoic Uncle Sesshoumaru had caught up with his brother and was now rolling round on the grass in a bundle like any other pups they knew. Despite the growling and snarling that was going on, the younger pups soon joined in, and all the while Kagome just sat and stared.

The hectic romp came to an end with a lot of giggling from Inuyasha's twin girls and squeals from the younger boy. Kagome came to the rescue now and took her children to give them baths before their tea, leaving the older two boys with a wry comment about getting cleaned up themselves in time for the reception that evening. Inuyasha smirked as he pulled bits of twig and leaves from what had been Sesshoumaru's clean silver hair.

Suddenly Inuyasha spoke, quietly and gently, asking for a favour of his brother.

"I need a promise from you Sesshoumaru."

"You will trust me?"

"Always, you do not lie."

"Tell me what you require that is so solemn, Inuyasha."

"If anything happens to Kagome and me, will you take care of our pups, keep them together and protect them, and not let just anyone take the girls as mates. Make sure they are settled and happy as if they were your own, not just as pawns for alliances."

Inuyasha looked at Sesshoumaru with eyes full of trust and hope, this was important to him, Sesshoumaru was all powerful in these lands and Sesshoumaru knew just what Inuyasha was asking. He looked at his brother with an intense gaze, his brother's trust meant a surprising amount to him.

"You ask this of me, trusting me with your children, even though I was so cruel to you?"

"That is the past Shou, I have not forgotten anything, but it is the past, you have said so yourself, plus I have a more recent memory which I treasure and it is that which gives me the courage to ask this of you."

"I will honour your request of course, and I would never sacrifice the happiness of any child for gain, your children would be safe with me. I will have guardianship papers drawn up in the morning."

Inuyasha breathed a sigh of relief thanking his brother.

"Tell me though Inuyasha, what memory of me is your treasure?"

"There was white light, I was exhausted, but I was warm, safe and comforted. I could hear my name called by several people, but I was only listening to soft growls telling me to awaken, and be loved, that I belonged to that voice that was growling at everyone else, warning them to keep away. I was warmed and held secure like a little pup in arms that were strong, these arms told me I was cared for, almost as if my father were with me, but I knew that the silver hair shielding me from sight was my brother's. I knew then I had been revived by you and you loved me. I could have stayed like that forever."

Inuyasha's voice was quiet, but sincere, Sesshoumaru nodded, acknowledging the memory and he responded by saying,

"Your family will always be safe here Inuyasha."

The two brothers walked back in companionable silence to the palace, strangely Sesshoumaru felt relaxed and easy, he thought how strange it was that he had been looking for time alone and to be peaceful in his solitude, when he had been interrupted by his brash little brother. Yet, the time together, the understanding they had reached and the play with his family was more refreshing than any time he had ever spent alone.

Sesshoumaru felt truly wanted and had a place to belong because of who he was not what he was. For the first time he could be brother, uncle and brother in law; family. He could be himself. Half his soul felt complete, but having seen how happy Inuyasha was now, he wished for the same, a loving mate and pups of his own. But who to choose, could a loving mate be found from the bevy of beauties that were waiting for him?

The Daiyoukai sighed yet again, if he chose wisely perhaps love could grow, after all his parents had loved one another greatly until his mother was killed. He laughed cynically to himself, how foolish he had been to deny that true youkai could not love, his parents had been living proof that they could, and if a suitable mate could be found, even if she turned out to be a schemer, pups would always be a consolation.

Inuyasha, back to his annoying self was actually looking quite decent, but he was pushing his brother to the limit with his predictions of gloom and reference to him being a sacrifice to the harpies beyond. The Lord of the Western Lands was immaculate as always and he entered the reception rooms with his usual arrogant grace, his keen eyes taking in all who were there and accepting the bows with good humour as was his due and taking no notice of his disrespectful and wicked little brother's wide grin.

The general atmosphere was relaxed even for Inuyasha, the knowledge of his deeds in fighting Naraku were widespread, and he was the second Lord of the West, attitudes had begun to change slightly toward hanyous in all walks of society and the lords here now had no problem with his presence. No the lords were fine, it was the females that terrified him.

How could he know what they were thinking when all he could see a lot of the time were just their eyes from behind their fans, yet he did know, they were checking him out. Some brushed against his sleeve, or hand and he could hear little giggles and whispered words like pretty and cute, someone even blew a soft little breath in his ear, making it flick. How had he become surrounded by these girls, then just before panic set in, his arm was gripped by elegant claws.

"Ladies, excuse me, but I must remove my fascinating brother from your delightful company, his mate requires to speak with him."

With that Sesshoumaru led him away towards Kagome, the smirk on his face told Inuyasha that Sesshoumaru had enjoyed watching his discomfort as payback for his earlier taunting.

"Kami, Sesshoumaru how do you do this, how can you know what someone is like?"

"I have my ways and I am used to these gatherings Inuyasha, there is a language that is spoken other than with words, Kagome, I return your mate intact."

With that he shared a small smile with her and literally passed a dazed Inuyasha over. Kagome knew better than to kiss Inuyasha in public in this sort of company but she could show the rest of the ladies that Inuyasha was her mate in other ways. Reaching up to him she stroked his ears almost making him purr in delight but unfortunately it had an erotic effect on him so he had to stop her.

"Later my mate." he promised with a whine.

Kagome laughed, she knew she had no worries as far as Inuyasha was concerned, he was totally devoted to her, but she never took that love for granted, always making sure she let him know how much she loved him in return. Sesshoumaru meantime was the consumate diplomat and gentleman to his guests, the mamas all thought his manners impeccable and charming and the daughters were all vying for his attention, he passed easily from group to group pleasing everyone but himself.

This was as bad for him as any lord's meeting, intrigue was rife, the girls were all well aware of his status and therefore the status they would have as his Lady. Talking normally was impossible, once again his tiny spies had been at work and he knew what many really thought and were like. Most were carefully groomed for taking a mate of status by their mothers and spoke of little else when together.

He knew who thought they would change the way the palace was run, who would get rid of Rin to the servants halls, who would soon oust any like his brother and his family and how they thought they would influence himself. They were for the main part all beautiful of different sorts to look at from the statuesque and tall to the tiny and fragile looking dolls. Not for the first time he regretted the death of Kagura, she was so far the only youkai he had considered to be even near worthy of the position of his mate.

"Poor Sesshoumaru."

That remark got Kouga, Ayame, Kagome and Rin staring at Inuyasha.

"What you looking at, I'm sorry for the guy, when we all mated at least we knew who our mates really were, not just simpering eyes over the top of a fan."

Kouga just laughed.

"Well I suppose he does know what the parents are like and he has got responsibilities, he will make the best choice eventually."

"Yeah, well I feel sorry for him, the best alliance doesn't neccessarily mean he will be loved does it and regardless of what he appears, he is lonely."

Inuyasha finished mainly speaking to himself quietly, but they all heard him.

Meanwhile Sesshoumaru could feel a pair of eyes watching him, that was a silly thing to think, there were lots of eyes watching him, all in admiration or want, this he was used to. Just as he was used to reading people by their faces, he was experienced in what eyes were saying to him wether or not they knew it or not. These were different, he could feel them burning into his very soul, so much so that he spun on his heels to see who it was who was so unguarded near him.

He was disappointed, no one was looking at him to make his body respond as it was doing. All had turned to look as he moved except one, she was too busy chatting to friends. He noticed her trim but not tiny figure, the curves he could see were enough to tantalize him, and she was witty, she was making her companions laugh. Her hair was becoming and down her back, but not too long, he had a sudden urge to want to touch her, and feel her hair on his fingers. Where had these thoughts come from, she was a maiden he couldn't immediately place, and she became fascinating to him.

Inuyasha had noticed of course and understood, he gave a small smile of genuine happiness to himself, everything would be alright, his brother, noticing the smile gave him a suspicious look but turned away to speak to another protective mama. Sesshoumaru was getting weary as the evening for him dragged on. Once again the need for solitude seemed to be calling delightfully to him.

He had not had the time or opportunity to speak to or be refreshed by genuine speech with his family, who for all the pomp they were surrounded by seemed to be having a good time with their friends and he found himself feeling envy, a new emotion for him, one that had only recently made itself known when he saw how happy his brother and his friends from the past all seemed to be.

The eyes were back, they were close to him, this time he knew whose they were, they were eyes he knew so well but when he turned to her, he was overwhelmed, he had never seen that sort of love looking out at him from her before, the passion just for him, eyes he could drown in, he could not mistake that look of total honesty, it had always been there, she was his, she always had been and he would claim her as his mate. There were no doubts, he just hadn't seen it before, the child had grown and he hadn't noticed, but her soul called to his and he answered.

"Rin, mine."

"Yes my Lord, always."

When Sesshoumaru retired to his rooms that evening he felt complete, his mate to be was someone with whom he had only ever been himself and his brother, the other half his soul needed had reassured him saying that he knew Sesshoumaru had felt like his father when he'd held him, and he knew he would protect them all with his life.