My Brother's Keeper
A/N: This story is written to be fun brotherly fluff, so any semblance of a plot is simply an excuse to write more fluff. Enjoy it!
Oh, and it was brought to my attention by anime-catdragon that the formatting was messed up in a few places. Thanks to them and my apolgies to everyone else for not checking it more closely after I posted. I hope I caught it all, and just let me know if anything else is off. (I really hope doing this didn't send a bunch of alerts to people and my apologies if it did.)
Disclaimer: Nope, I still don't own Inuyasha or any of Rumiko Takahashi's wonderful characters.
CHAPTER 1 An Unexpected Discovery
A cool breeze stirred, signaling the approaching night. The insects had already emerged and begun their various melodies to bid farewell to the setting sun and welcome the rising moon. Most creatures were finding places to bed down for the night. Three weary humans and their two youkai companions were no exception.
Miroku had yet again discovered an ominous cloud darkening the finest house in the village, and Kagome, Sango, Shippo and Kirara sat in a semicircle, enjoying the small feast that the monk's "exorcism" had earned. A rather grumpy, white-haired, dog-eared hanyou, who also traveled with them, was missing from this little scene however.
Instead of joining his companions, or trying to find a nice, cozy tree-limb for the night, he was sprinting with incredible speed through the surrounding woodlands. He ignored all the harbingers of another pleasant spring evening and growled low in his chest. It had not been a good afternoon, and was not going to be a good evening.
Despite his numerous and valid protests, his companions had all decided to follow that deceitful monk and take up shelter in the village. After spending all his life as a hanyou, you think he'd be used to the stares and whispered insults, and he was, but sometimes even he reached his limit. And when he started to hear not-so-whispered plots about capturing him during the night and taking him out of the village to do his companions a favor by slaying him, Inuyasha had had enough.
Much to his consternation, even then his protests were ignored. Even Kagome had given him a stern look and said, "Now, Inuyasha, these nice people wouldn't do that. Look, they even served you food."
Giving up on them, Inuyasha had just growled and sprang from the hut, starting this mad race. It wasn't like he was hunting anything, he just needed to relieve some frustration. He paused in his mental grumbling and halted, balanced in the limb of a tree. He glanced back in the direction he had come from and could barely make out the dim twinkle of the village lights.
He'd gone farther than he'd thought, but that was not the reason he had stopped. Inuyasha knew he could go much further and still make it back by morning. No, it was the smell of blood in the air and a distant sound he knew all to well: the shouts of angry villagers. His ears and nose turned toward this disturbance. This was not in the direction of the village he had left, so it meant these were villagers from yet another village. And it was not the blood necessarily, but whose blood, that had interrupted his sulk.
The stench of toad and the unmistakable scent of a two-headed dragon that followed a certain asshole around were on the air. And faintly Inuyasha caught the scent of the asshole himself.
"I'm always saving those stupid humans, but they never seem to appreciate it," he grumbled out loud.
His brother may not have been there at the moment, but he would return for his vassals eventually and would be none too happy to find them as dead as the amount of blood on the air indicated. And where his vassals went, his ward went; and that meant that he would be even more pissed and immediately hunt down the little brat. Someone had to stop those humans before they got his brother angry enough to slay their entire village.
Inuyasha was on the ground, sprinting, before he had even finished this train of thought. He had covered a good distance and was nearly to the source of the blood, when a strong wave of Sesshomaru's scent struck him. He skidded to a stop in the small, flower-filled clearing and sniffed the air again. Yes, his brother had definitely been through here recently. And that little girl had been with him then.
Inuyasha saw something pale, just visible in the lingering glow of the setting sun. He jumped over to it and nearly landed on the spikes of his brother's body armor. Correcting just in time, Inuyasha landed just beyond the pale thing, which he immediately recognized as his brother's kimono and hakamas.
Was his brother running around naked somewhere? Inuyasha lifted the clothing between to fingers and sniffed. Yep, no mistaking that it was Sesshomaru's. But why was his brother not in them? He really couldn't picture Sesshomaru undressing, then searching for a stream or spring to bathe in. And the demon definitely wouldn't be bathing while his vassals were being attacked.
Just when he thought it couldn't get any more strange, Inuyasha's foot caught on something hard and sharp. His arms flailed wildly and he landed face-first on the ground. Immediately, he pushed himself up, spitting out mouthfuls of dirt and grass. Cursing filled the air as he turned to see what had tripped him. And there, like some discarded stick, lay Tokijin.
Okay, now Inuyasha was hopelessly intrigued. There might have been some (he could not bring himself to think "logical") explanation for the armor and the clothes. Or even for his brother allowing his vassals to die. (The bastard had the sword of life after all.) But there was no way in hell, heaven or earth that Sesshomaru would just leave Tokijin lying around.
Deciding that there were definitely pieces missing for this puzzle, Inuyasha went on to investigate the smell of blood. He sprinted more deeply into the forest, and just where the trees were at their thickest, he discovered the toad and the dragon.
They were in the center of a large swath of burned forest. All about them lay charred human bodies. Inuyasha caught the sooty scent of the toad's staff as well the sharp tang of the dragon's lightening. The stench of dead human was all over the place as well. They had not gone down without a fight apparently. The demons themselves lay not far from their attackers. The toad was face down, his staff still in hand, looking like a pin cushion for all the arrows in his body.
The dragon had managed to escape the arrows; they couldn't pierce his thick scales, but a couple of large spears had finally brought the gentle beast down. Inuyasha examined the ground near the beast. It was very torn and beaten, but from human feet rather than any of the dragon's large paws. Strange, for some reason the dragon seemed to have been standing still during the fight. Almost like he had been trying to protect something.
The little human girl came to mind, and he sniffed for her scent. It was weakening, but he could tell that it had headed somewhere to the east and it was mingled with the scent of those other humans. Maybe they had thought they were saving the girl.
From what he could tell, though, her scent had never been near the dragon. In fact, she had been safely hidden in the nearby brush and come running into the fighting and then out again.
Inuyasha paused and scratched his head. The more he found out, the less sense it all made. He turned slightly and caught sight of something pale protruding from beneath the dragon's large frame. Inuyasha sniffed the air and caught a trace of his brother's scent. It was hard to distinguish beneath all the blood and destruction, but it was there. For a moment he feared he might stumble upon his brother's body. Naked body, he corrected as he thought of the clothing and armor he found back in the clearing.
Moving over to the dragon's side, he realized it was just the fur his brother always wore over his shoulder. That would explain his brother's scent. But where was the bastard?
Just as Inuyasha turned to leave he heard a whimper. Whirling back, he caught the fur quivering slightly before it fell still again. What the hell? Is that thing alive?
Inuyasha approached it again, and took a very deep sniff. That was when he finally detected it: his brother's blood. He had thought this was just a fashion statement, though he had never seen his brother take it off. Maybe it was a part of his brother and the men had cut it off. But if that were the case, he would have detected a stronger trace of his brother among the other smells, and likely all of the attackers would be dead rather than the vassals.
The fur moved again and this time a small yelp accompanied the whine. Startled, Inuyasha reached forward and pulled part of the fur aside. A pair of tearful golden eyes peered up at him before they shrank back as far into the recesses of fur as they could go.
The first thought to cross Inuyasha's mind was, "When did that asshole have a pup?"
The second was more along the lines of, "OMG WTF!"
The smell of his brother's blood only grew stronger when he moved the fur, and the tiny pup did not smell related to his brother, but exactly like him. Curious, Inuyasha reached down into the fur to pull the pup out for a better look, but jerked his hand back and cursed when a pair of tiny, but sharp fangs dug into his palm. A soft growl drifted out after.
"Why you!" Inuyasha snapped as he inspected the tiny puncture wounds on his hand.
Standing up, he immediately jerked the entire fur piece away and tossed it over his head. There was a sharp yelp and whining as the pup inside tumbled to the ground. Inuyasha simply stared for a moment, trying to comprehend what he was seeing.
The pup was completely naked, his pale skin practically glowing in the dim twilight. He had long white hair and maroon stripes curling around his limbs and torso. Tiny clawed hands clutched at a leg where an arrow was still lodged. Its cruel tip glistened with blood as it had passed all the way through the tiny calf. Despite the injury, the pup still tried to curl himself up into a tiny ball and scooted as far beneath the dragon's belly as he could, whining exactly like a frightened puppy.
Still trying to deny what his nose was telling him, Inuyasha grabbed him by the back of the neck and hair and lifted the pup so he could see his face. The pup whimpered again and struggled weakly. He looked down at the ground rather than into Inuyasha's eyes, but the blue crescent on his brow and the red markings on his eyelids and cheeks told Inuyasha all he needed to know.
He smiled broadly at the pup and said, "My, my...hello, Sesshomaru."
The golden eyes flicked up at the mention of that name and the struggling stopped. Inuyasha found himself the object of a short investigation as that tiny nose worked out his own scent. After a moment, even the quivering of his brother's limbs subsided. Small hands reached up and clutched onto the arm that held him, and Sesshomaru turned his head and licked Inuyasha's arm.
Inuyasha nearly dropped his brother in surprise when that slightly rough tongue brushed his arm.
"Stop that," he ordered in annoyance and set his brother none too gently on the ground.
Sesshomaru whimpered as his injured leg made contact with the ground, and a few tears of pain ran down his cheeks. He quickly wiped them away, leaving a smear of dirt from one cheek to the other that spanned his nose, and turned his face as though trying to hide them.
Inuyasha wanted to feel the same hatred he always had for his brother, to just turn around right now and leave the bastard to his fate. But for some reason, that little display raised some very uncomfortable feelings of pity for his brother. He had to be what, three or four, and already trying to appear strong and emotionless. That may have been Sesshomaru in a nutshell, but it just wasn't right coming from a pup this small. He'd told Shippo numerous times that men didn't cry, but he knew it would somehow be wrong if the kit kept a stoic mask when he was hurt or terrified.
"I don't know why I'm doing this," Inuyasha told his brother with a sigh, as he knelt down and reached for the arrow.
Sesshomaru glanced up at him again, wincing even before the hanyou could touch him. Inuyasha growled softly. "Oie, brat, do you want me to pull it out or not?"
Sesshomaru looked down at the arrow, then back up at Inuyasha, and nodded.
"Well, then don't move until I tell you to," Inuyasha told him.
He reached for the arrow again, and that time, Sesshomaru didn't flinch. Inuyasha inspected the wound and was relieved to find that it only passed through muscle, not any vital arteries. Bracing the shaft so it wouldn't move, Inuyasha snapped off the feathered end, then jerked it the rest of the way through. Sesshomaru howled low and turned his face away as another tear or two escaped.
Once he had created another smudge to match the first, Sesshomaru turned back to inspect his leg. To Inuyasha's utmost surprise, his brother then set about licking the wound clean. It was awkward as the wound was on the calf, but his brother was apparently quite flexible.
Inuyasha rolled his eyes and went to search through the dragon's saddlebags for anything he could use as a bandage, and hopefully something the little brat could wear. Childlike innocence or no, he had no intention of letting his brother run around the forest naked as the day he was born.
The search resulted in a couple of the little girl's kimonos and obis. Without a thought for the fine silk, Inuyasha ripped a strand from the obi and tied it around the wound on Sesshomaru's leg. His brother sniffed it curiously, then stood up and tested it by limping a few circles around the clearing.
Inuyasha grunted at this and held up the kimono. As though guessing his intentions, Sesshomaru let out a small yelp and scrambled over to the large fur, crawling back inside it until the only thing visible was his dirt-smudged face. Golden eyes blinked out at Inuyasha, who growled low in his chest.
"Oie, brat, I know it's a girl's kimono, but you have to wear something and I ain't hauling your naked butt through this forest until I find something a little more masculine."
The fur lifted and took a couple of steps before collapsing in a heap with a loud yelp. Inuyasha laughed and walked over to the fur, waiting for his brother's head to emerge. When it did, he said, "See, this kimono is the only thing."
With a defeated look in his eyes, Sesshomaru nodded and tried to crawl out of the soft whiteness. Inuyasha watched in open amusement as the small pup struggled much longer than he had expected before finally whimpering softly and looking up at him with pleading eyes.
"I should just leave you here, you know. For all those times you've tried to kill me," Inuyasha told him. He frowned at the unpleasant memories. "What a nice present you'd make, too, for some passing youkai. All wrapped up in that fur like 'dinner to go' as Kagome would say."
Sesshomaru whined softly as though asking him not to do that. He then struggled even more furiously, which finally gained him an arm, though he was still no closer to freedom. Inuyasha glared down at his brother and sighed loudly.
"And then she'd also say a whole lot of 'sits' until I agreed to come back here and save your ass. So I might as well save my back and take you with me. I'm only doing this to keep those sentimental humans off my case, so don't think I like you or anything."
Sesshomaru just stared blankly up at him, not caring about Inuyasha's inner debates, only that Inuyasha would untangle him. Golden eyes followed every move of Inuyasha's hands as they untwisted the fur from Sesshomaru's body. As soon as he could move, the little youkai launched himself up at Inuyasha and clamped his arms around his neck.
Inuyasha squirmed at the contact and yelled out, "Get off! Get off, you little brat!"
He quickly dislodged his brother, who landed rather hard on his wounded leg, then fell to his back. Sesshomaru lay there, gasping to regain his breath that had been knocked out of him at the impact, then twisted his face as though fighting back tears.
"I told you I wasn't doing this 'cause I like you or nothing. So don't think you can just hang all over me."
The little youkai flipped over to his hands and knees and knelt at Inuyasha's feet whimpering apologies. Though he did not use words, Inuyasha still heard the meaning. He bent down to his brother's level, something he had never even imagined doing, and said, "Fine, fine, I know you're sorry. Just, don't do it again, or I will leave you out here to be eaten. That would solve a lot of my problems, you know."
Sesshomaru nodded solemnly, not even daring to look Inuyasha in the face. Satisfied, Inuyasha reached out to pat his brother on the head, but drew back quickly when the small youkai flinched away from him. He had wanted to make sure his brother respected him and would do as he said, but not for him to be terrified of him. Actually, he would have loved for his brother to be terrified of him, when he was in his normal state, but seeing a tiny pup, his brother or not, cowering away from him just made him feel dirty and a lot like Naraku.
He glanced at the human girl's kimono and down at his brother. The pale skin was covered in smears of dirt and what looked a lot like blood. His brother would need a bath before he could put clothes on him. Why me? Inuyasha thought.
"C'mon, pup. Let's go get you cleaned up, okay," Inuyasha told his brother.
Sesshomaru nodded again. Inuyasha turned to go, but felt the tiny pricks of claws digging into the back of his kimono and a weight scaling up him. Turning over his shoulder, he looked down at Sesshomaru, who was struggling up his back. Sensing his gaze, Sesshomaru looked up at him questioningly.
"What do you think you're doing?" Inuyasha demanded.
Sesshomaru seemed genuinely confused by this and whimpered once.
"I already told you I don't want you clinging to me. You got legs, so use them. I'm not your horse."
Sesshomaru bent his head and slowly made his way back down until he crouched on the ground behind Inuyasha.
"Good," Inuyasha barked. "Now come on. I'll find us a spring or something to bathe you in."
Inuyasha walked out of the burnt area and took a whiff of the fresh air. He walked until the nightly breeze carried away the stench of death, so he could search for a stream or spring. The little youkai behind him made no more sound in passing than he did, but his nose told him Sesshomaru was still following. He glanced up and noticed that night had already descended, and a waxing crescent moon was rising. This was going to be a long night.
Inuyasha continued on a little ways before he finally caught the pleasant scent of a hot spring. Turning to look back at his brother, he realized with a start that the pup had begun to lag behind. Waiting for him to catch up, Inuyasha noticed his brother limping along and panting. Pain was evident on the little youkai's face, but he didn't cry out or shed a tear. However, when he noticed Inuyasha watching, the limp vanished and he sank a fang into his lip in an effort to bite back any sound that would betray his pain.
Inuyasha turned and walked back to the pup with a sigh. "If you couldn't walk, you should have said something."
Sesshomaru shook his head and marched past Inuyasha. The hanyou rolled his eyes and scooped his brother into his arms, then swung him over his shoulder. Tiny claws bit into his shoulder as the youkai found a comfortable place snuggled up beneath his hair. A small chin pressed itself against his collar as a smooth cheek and pointed ear nuzzled against the side of his face. A low contented growl rumbled in the youkai's chest that both tickled and irritated Inuyasha.
"You comfortable now?" Inuyasha complained, but his brother simply nodded and growled a little more loudly.
Inuyasha took off, leaping at full speed. After the first initial jump, Sesshomaru loosened his grip and even laughed when they took an especially far leap. The wind whipped both their hair into streaking silver tails, and Inuyasha was really beginning to enjoy the small, but very real weight of Sesshomaru on his back. The pup was warm and Inuyasha marveled to feel the strong, swift beating of his brother's heart. For so long he had thought Sesshomaru didn't have a heart, but he could both hear and feel the evidence to the contrary for himself.
He allowed himself a laugh as they came to a stop by the hot spring. Steam rose and bathed everything in a pale haze that the moonlight caught and transmuted into silver.
Inuyasha pried Sesshomaru from his back. The pup smiled up at him as Inuyasha held him dangling in the air in front of his face. A rough tongue slipped out and licked his cheek before Inuyasha could pull his brother out of reach.
He wiped his cheek and snapped, "Stop that!"
Inuyasha released his brother, who fell with a sharp yip into the water. The youkai broke the surface, sputtering in surprise, then began to swim and splash, forgetting how he'd come to be in the spring. Inuyasha laid the kimono down on some nearby rocks and did a quick scan of the area to make sure there were no lingering threats nearby. He then stripped out of his own kimono and hakamas and bent over by the edge to see if he could catch his brother and scrub off all the dirt and blood.
The little inu youkai turned out be as slippery as a fish and just as difficult to catch. Thinking it was some game, Sesshomaru darted one direction, then the other, always managing to stay just out of Inuyasha's reach.
Growling softly, Inuyasha said, "Oh, so that's how you want to play, huh?"
Sesshomaru paused, dog paddling out in the middle of the spring, golden eyes just hovering above the water's surface as he watched curiously what Inuyasha was up to. Inuyasha turned his back to his brother and began to sniff the air, as though something had caught his interest. Then he walked along the edge of the spring, ignoring Sesshomaru as he peered deeply into the surrounding forest.
Curious, Sesshomaru lifted his nose from the water, giving the air a sniff, but the steam from the water went up his nose instead, causing him to sneeze. When the little inu looked back up, Inuyasha was gone. All that he could see was a swirling silver mist where his white-haired savior had been standing. A little frightened now, Sesshomaru paddled back toward the edge of the spring. Had he angered this person?
Suddenly, a pale streak flew out of the mist, right over Sesshomaru's head, and landed with a large splash in the spring. Caught in the large waves, Sesshomaru was pushed under, only to be snatched by strong hands and hauled back up to the surface. Sputtering and coughing, he found himself nose to nose with Inuyasha, who was now sopping wet as well.
"Caught ya, you little brat," Inuyasha told him.
Sesshomaru was nearly shaking with relief. So he had not been abandoned. He whined low and wrapped his arms tightly around Inuyasha, as he buried his nose in the crook of his neck and inhaled deeply. Sesshomaru shook as he silently fought back tears.
Inuyasha was startled when his brother attached himself to his neck and was a little remorseful when he felt the tiny frame shaking against him. He had not meant to frighten the kid, just have a little fun.
The guilt just made him angry, though. It wasn't like the bastard hadn't done worse to him. "Oie, brat! Next time I try to catch you, you'd better not pull a stunt like that, or I will leave you."
His brother nodded fervently against his neck, and the hot moisture of tears wet the skin. Sesshomaru quickly wiped them and whined apologetically.
"Good, now let me clean you up, then we'll dry off and go," Inuyasha told him, softening his voice slightly. He couldn't really fault the kid for being frightened. After all, he knew first hand how scary it was to be left alone.
Inuyasha scrubbed his brother as best he could with just his hands, managing to get the dirt and blood off. By then, though, the little youkai's fingers were pruning and his face was flushed from the heat of the spring.
"Okay, time to get out before you cook," Inuyasha told him as he none-too-gently tossed his brother into a thick patch of grass.
He climbed out after and proceeded to shake himself in true inu fashion, soaking everything else in the process. Sesshomaru copied his brother. Frowning at being sprinkled with water, Inuyasha shook off the drops, then slipped back into his clothing. Sesshomaru looked at him, then at Rin's kimono, and shook his head.
"Look here, you little runt, it's either that or I leave you here and go on my merry way. I'm not hauling your naked ass around. I'll let you change as soon as we find something else, but until then, deal with it," Inuyasha told him.
Sesshomaru dipped his head once and caught the kimono as Inuyasha threw it at him. With much difficulty, Sesshomaru managed to put it on upside down. Inuyasha noticed and let out an exaggerated sigh.
"Can't you do anything?" he complained as he roughly took off the kimono, put it on right, and sloppily tied the torn remainder of the obi he'd used for a bandage around his brother's waist.
The kimono was decidedly too big, but a much better fit than his usual clothing would have been. The little youkai frowned at the orange squares pattern and kept pulling up the sleeves that flopped over his hands.
Inuyasha caught sight of the now soaked bandage and bent to check on his brother's wound. It was healing nicely; already the flesh had nearly closed over. By morning his brother would be as good as new, but for now, he'd have to carry the little brat.
"Well, come on, we'd better go back and see what we can do about your things, then we'll head back to my group," Inuyasha told his brother as he knelt down for the youkai to have easier access to his back. He winced as the sharp claws pricked him through his fire rat. "Maybe they'll have some clue as to what happened to you and how to fix it, so I can get rid of your sorry ass."
Sesshomaru yipped contentedly as he burrowed deeply beneath Inuyasha's thick mane. A gurgling growl filled the air suddenly, and Sesshomaru squirmed on Inuyasha's back. The hanyou glanced over his shoulder into his brother's wide golden eyes and asked incredulously, "Was that your stomach?"
The little pup nodded. Inuyasha was a little unsure of how to handle this as he didn't really know what it was his brother ate. He doubted the youkai lived off air or would touch anything made by a human.
"Are you hungry?" Inuyasha asked. Better to make sure than go through the worry for nothing. His brother nodded again.
"Well, what do you eat?" he asked his brother, who just stared at him with golden eyes as though he were speaking a foreign language.
Inuyasha rolled his eyes and raced back to where he discovered his brother's things. He'd leave the pup there, then go hunt something for them. He was a little hungry himself; he just hoped the youkai would eat what he caught because he sure as heck didn't want to listen to his stomach growling all night.
Unfortunately, Sesshomaru had not been thrilled at the idea of being left behind alone. He whined and licked Inuyasha's cheek until the hanyou had told him that if stayed still and quiet, then he could ride on his back.
Sesshomaru's overjoyed response had been to nuzzle his brother's cheek with his nose and give it a quick lick. Inuyasha wiped his cheek, then tracked the scent of some rabbits that had passed through earlier.
Soon, both brothers sat around a small fire with two dead hares. Inuyasha slit the rabbits' throats and hung them to drain the blood, while he whittled two spits with his claws.
"I hope you like hare, cause I ain't hunting anything else," Inuyasha told his brother, who did not seem to mind the idea of hares at all. In fact, the little inu was currently crouched a couple of feet from the dangling pair with the concentration of a hunter clearly visible on his face.
Inuyasha scoffed at his brother. "They're already dead, pup. Not much of a challenge."
He then retrieved the first one and skinned it. Sesshomaru crawled over and watched every move of his hand like a dog waiting for table scraps to fall. Inuyasha tried to ignore him as he cleaned and gutted the thing, then placed it on the spit. Satisfied that it wouldn't fall off, he thrust it into the fire, nearly dropping it in surprise at a sharp bark from his brother.
Inuyasha scowled down at his brother, who was gesturing frantically at the rabbit with a look of utter horror on his face. Sesshomaru paused, looking up at his brother, and pointed at the rabbit again, whimpering.
"Yes, it's for you, just let me cook it first!" Inuyasha snapped, annoyed by the pup's impatience.
Sesshomaru growled softly and whimpered as the smell of roasting hare filled the air. Finally he turned and lunged for the other hare. He crouched and began to lap up the blood from the cut throat and tore a tiny bite of flesh without fur on it with his fangs.
Inuyasha glanced over at his brother, a little revolted to see the bright stain of blood on his lips. Sesshomaru glanced up at him, licked his lips and smiled broadly. He then scratched at the fur with his own claws, then held it up to Inuyasha for help.
"So that's what your problem was, brat," Inuyasha said. "You eat it raw. And now you want me to skin it for you, too, huh?"
Sesshomaru nodded eagerly and scooted closer to his brother, laying the rabbit gently on the hanyou's leg and whined his plea. Inuyasha complied and quickly freed the tasty morsel from its fur. He then gave it to Sesshomaru, who ravenously attacked it with his little fangs, impressive growls slipping out from the corners of his mouth.
Inuyasha had to laugh at how little success his brother was having, then kindly took the rabbit and sliced it into bite-sized chunks, which his brother accepted and consumed with great relish, even to the point of licking the blood off each of his claws with a satisfied smack.
Now fairly hungry as well, Inuyasha ripped his own meat out of the fire, tearing into it before it even had time to cool. The sizzling flesh burned his mouth, so he fanned it and panted before trying again. He tried to ignore the broad grin on his brother's face, as the little youkai smacked on his own meat and watched Inuyasha struggle with his as if saying, "Baka, you're the one who put in the fire in the first place."
By the time they had finished their hares, both realized they were now thirsty and Sesshomaru also looked incredibly sleepy. His golden eyes blinked as the lids grew heavier and heavier. Inuyasha shook his brother and snapped, "Oh, no you don't, you little brat. We get some water, hide your stuff, then find a safe place to rest before you go to sleep. I'm not doing all that on my own."
The youkai whimpered and forced his eyes open, staggering and limping after Inuyasha, who plunged through the trees back to where his brother's dead vassals lay. Inuyasha immediately went to the two headed dragon's bags, searching for water and any supplies that might be useful. He found a couple jugs of tepid water and decided to take the girl's supply of clothing. His group would definitely insist on finding the other brat once he showed up with Sesshomaru, and he was not going to waste money on a set of clothing for two kids.
Taking a deep swig of the water, he turned to find his brother crouched beside the dragon's heads. Tears ran down his striped cheeks and a tiny clawed hand stroked each of the faces. Heart-piercing whines drifted out of his brother that made Inuyasha cringe. Apparently his brother had liked his servants.
He turned his back, allowing the youkai a brief moment of mourning before he turned and snapped, "Oie, let's go, pup. We've still gotta hide that sword and your armor."
Sesshomaru quickly dried his tears on the long sleeves, then vainly pulled them back up his arms. He drank the water offered, then ran back to loop the fur around his body as many times as it would go. Inuyasha watched in amusement, then asked, "What are you doing?"
Sesshomaru whimpered and clutched the fur.
"Oh, no, I'm not dragging that smelly fluff all over the place!" Sesshomaru peered up at him pleadingly. "Fine! I'll hide it with the rest of your stuff." Inuyasha plucked it from Sesshomaru's grasp and wound it over his shoulder. How the hell did his brother stand wearing this thing, much less fighting in it?
The little youkai yipped his happiness and clambered after Inuyasha. By the light of the dying campfire, they found a hollow to store his sword, armor and the fur in. Inuyasha had Sesshomaru stuff his fancy silk kimono into the bag with the girl's, while he did a final sweep of the area for anything his brother might have left. That was how he found Tenseiga, hidden in a large clump of grass.
This sword he refused to leave hidden anywhere and tucked it beside Tetsusaiga. He turned to his brother and said, "Alright, pup, let's..."
But Sesshomaru was sniffing the air curiously, then disappeared in a flash of white somewhere to the left. Inuyasha blinked at the now empty clearing then shot off after his brother.
"Where the hell do you...?" That was when he smelled it, too. Damn, he didn't know his brother's nose was so much better than his. It was the smell of that little girl.
Inuyasha found his brother about the same time as Sesshomaru found the girl. The tiny inu was running top speed, when the little spot of orange stumbled through some bushes. To Inuyasha it was as though the world had slowed for a moment showing everything in extreme detail. Sesshomaru turned his head to look at the little girl and adjusted his course directly towards her. Unfortunately, that was all the time a tall, slender tree needed to introduce itself to Sesshomaru's face. There was a resounding thump, a yelp, and a soft thud as Sesshomaru bounced firmly off the tree and landed at its base, flat on his butt.
Rin stopped and gasped, while Inuyasha wasn't sure if he should follow the overwhelming urge to laugh his ass off, or check and see if the pup was okay. Sesshomaru just sat there, blinking for a minute, then he jumped up as though nothing had happened and threw himself into the little girl.
She giggled and looked down at him, since his head only came up to her chin, then asked, "Is Lord Sesshomaru okay?"
The pup nodded and smiled at her.
Inuyasha watched the two long enough to see his brother was perfectly fine, then tilted his head back and roared with laughter. Wiping tears from the corner of his eyes, he struggled to regain control as well as his breath. That had to be the funniest thing he had seen in a long time, and even better it was Sesshomaru who had done it. Oh, that alone made having to put up with the brats worth the effort.
Finally calm, Inuyasha glanced back at his brother, who whimpered as he discovered a number of tiny cuts all over the girl's arms and face, then proceeded to lick them. Rin remained still until he came to her face, then she started to giggle, and said, "That tickles, my lord."
"Oie, girl, what happened here? Do you know how he got like this?" Inuyasha asked, lifting his brother by the scruff of his neck and holding him up so Rin could get a good look.
Rin covered a smile with her hand and said, "I'm guessing you put him in those clothes, Master Inuyasha, because I couldn't get him to cover up with anything but his big fur."
Inuyasha growled, and Sesshomaru squirmed trying to pull up the sleeves of the kimono and get Inuyasha to let him down at the same time. "That's not what I meant, girl."
"I'm Rin," she told him cheerfully, unfazed by his growl.
"Okay, Rin, how did he get turned into a pup in the first place?"
Rin put her hands behind her back and dug her toe into the dirt as she studied it carefully. Her smile faded and her whole demeanor seemed to wilt.
"Um, Rin is not sure. Rin was picking flowers for her lord in the meadow earlier. Rin found a very pretty one that she let her lord hold. She went back for more, and when she turned around, all that was there was a pile of clothes and armor. Rin was so scared she went to look and that's when she found her lord like this."
She pointed at Sesshomaru, who had now abandoned the sleeves and was twisting his head trying to sink his fangs into the hand that refused to let him down.
"Only he didn't," she looked around and lowered her voice, "he didn't have any clothes on. Rin didn't know what to do, so she asked Lord Sesshomaru, who sniffed her then asked Rin's name. Then he asked for his father, and Rin didn't know what to do, so she took him back to Master Jaken.
"Lord Sesshomaru did not want to go at first because he said Master Jaken smelled funny, but Rin told him they would help. But then the men came. They tried to attack Lord Sesshomaru earlier as he led us down a road, and Lord Sesshomaru had allowed them to leave alive. They brought even more men, with weapons. Rin hid. All the blood scared her, she did not want to see more people die. Then Master Jaken died.
"Ah Un tried to hide Lord Sesshomaru, but the men were about to figure it out. So Rin ran and let the men catch her. Once they took her to the village, she ran away, and now she found her lord and Master Inuyasha."
She looked up at him and said, "Rin is scared for Lord Sesshomaru. You're going to help him, right?"
Inuyasha dropped his brother, who had nearly succeeded in biting his arm, and turned his back to them. "Feh, whatever. Now come on..." A sudden thought struck him, and he whirled and pointed an accusing finger at Rin. "What do you mean he talked? He hasn't said a word to me all night."
Rin nodded sagely at this and said, "Yes, he talked. But sometimes, when something very bad happens when you are too little to do anything, you don't feel like talking for a while. Maybe Lord Sesshomaru will start to talk again when he feels more comfortable, like Rin did."
"You made me do all that work to figure out what you needed just cause you didn't feel like talking, you brat!" Inuyasha shouted, lifting a hand like he wanted to strike his brother.
His brother sat there beside Rin, not blinking, not cringing in fear, not even whimpering like he did sometimes. Inuyasha couldn't stand the intensity of that look and lowered his hand in defeat as he sighed.
"Come on then, or I'll leave you both here to be eaten by youkai."
Rin giggled. "You are funny, Master Inuyasha!"
Inuyasha just rolled his eyes. Yep, only a girl this weird would willingly be a companion to his brother. He bent to pick up the bag of clothing and water jugs, when he felt a set of tiny claws and a pair of small hands pulling at the back of his kimono. He stood up, brushing them both off, and glared at them.
"I ain't a horse," he snapped.
Rin looked down at Sesshomaru, who had landed on top of her, but gotten his injured leg twisted beneath him somehow. He had a fang buried in his lip to hold back the yelp of pain as he clutched at the injury. She made a very concerned face, and tucked Sesshomaru's hair behind his pointed ears as she crooned soothing words to him.
He leaned into her caress and growled contentedly until he noticed Inuyasha watching. That got him to shove Rin's hands away and jump to his feet, wobble at the pain from his newly agitated injury, then try to appear as strong and brave as he could in a girl's kimono that was too large.
"Yeah, yeah you're tough, runt," Inuyasha grumbled. He crouched down and said, "You might as well climb on. I don't need you two slowing me down any more than you already are."
Rin giggled as she burrowed beneath Inuyasha's long white hair and met a pair of large golden eyes. "Hey, don't pull my hair either, you two. And hang on tight, I ain't gonna catch you if you fall."
To their credit, they both held on, despite the continual yawns he heard. When he started to feel the clenched claws grow slack, he stopped in the highest branch of a dead tree. Rin moved around to lie on his lap, while Sesshomaru, to Inuyasha's horror, crawled down inside his kimono and burrowed up against his inner shirt, already asleep. A low, rumbling growl vibrated from the tiny form and put Inuyasha at a very unwelcome sense of ease.
Inuyasha sighed, and looked out across the land, spotting the village barely a mile away. They would go back in the morning, once the pups had slept. He sniffed the air, and once he was certain there was no danger nearby, drifted into a light sleep. The last thing he saw was a pale little face with the familiar crescent moon on the brow tucked against him in a deep, peaceful sleep. And for some reason, it did not bother him as much as he thought it would.