For Warnings and Disclaimers, please go to chapter one.
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"Inuyasha, why do you not join myself?" Sesshoumaru asked in his usual colourless voice. "There is no reason for us to not converse as we bathe."
Inuyasha was sitting under one of the cherry trees surrounding the spring, uncomfortably aware of the naked demon lord bathing behind him.
"Che. I'm not talking to you until you get dressed. So quit your yapping and finish up already."
The demon lord said nothing in reply as he continued washing himself. It was rather difficult getting to all parts of his body, but after two seasons of practising Sesshoumaru had learned to make do.
Inuyasha could hear the sounds of water splashing not just from directly behind him, but also from his far left out of human earshot. He could hear Kagome and Sango chattering away with their girlie nonsense, while Miroku tried to stifle his perverted giggles as he peeped on the two ladies. It wouldn't be too long before he was caught by the patrolling cat and fox demon.
No reason to not talk while we are soaking he says. Inuyasha thought crossly, misquoting the demon lord.
Inuyasha could think of several reasons to not do just that. For one, it felt so very intimate to be holding a conversation while you are bathing, and there was also the implied understanding that the two sharing the bath were on friendly terms and of equal status. The former was highly debatable, and the latter Sesshoumaru would never agree with, so why put up with the illusionary farce of equality? It reminded him of the intimacy and empathy that Kagome and Sango shared, as they used their private time to discuss matters that were so crucial to the female heart but men cared little for. Even the lecherous monk respected it that the girls needed some time away from the males of the group and always peeped from a position from where he would be unable to listen in the the girls conversation held in muted tones.
Of course that did leave the option of talking to the demon lord while he bathed, but to Inuyasha that too was unacceptable. That scenario reminded him too much of the times when he was little and his mother would bathe by herself with her handmaiden standing close by, entertaining her with conversation while assisting the princess with washing her long dark tresses. Inuyasha refused to put himself in a situation where he would seem subservient to his arrogant older half-brother. He would just wait a few more moments for the demon to finish his soak, and then talk to him.
There is a third reason, Inuyasha reminded himself, why he would not strip before his half-brother and stay like that in his presence for any length of time.
The demon lord was in heat. Inuyasha could scent the thick hot sensual aroma from Sesshoumaru's discarded clothing. The flea demon, Myouga had informed him long ago when Inuyasha's sexuality had first awakened that both the incest taboo and the taboo on same sex relationships were human inventions and as such were held in little esteem by demons. It was arguably true that the demon lord would not try to jump his "filthy hanyou" brother, and as such defile himself by Inuyasha's "impurity", but Inuyasha had his doubts about that. The hanyou had not missed the appraising look in those sex starved eyes when the demon lord asked Inuyasha to strip and join him.
"Foolish hanyou..." Sesshoumaru murmured more in Inuyasha's mind than out loud. "This Sesshoumaru merely wished that you, Inuyasha would clean yourself while the opportunity was available."
Inuyasha snorted rudely.
The hanyou had not survived for so long by presuming good will. The entire world was out to get him, and he knew it. Inuyasha did not have the luxury of assuming anything if he wished to survive to see the rising sun one more time. Think and over think, that was Inuyasha's way of survival, and the only way to be for a hanyou to be considering that he was the eldest of the half-blooded creatures. There are two types of half-demons by Inuyasha's reasoning; the ones that are cautious, and the ones that are dead. In his heart, Inuyasha knew that the other half-demons he had met on his travels would not survive foe very long given their doting rural mothers and empty promises.
Izayoi-hime, Inuyasha's mother was not a very emotional creature, having been brought up within the strict boundaries of tradition. The noble lady had loved in her life only thrice. The first was her parents who had been killed by bandits when she was ten, the second her lover and Inuyasha's father when she was eighteen, and the third, her child when she became twenty one. The violet eyed lady had loved her half-blooded child with all of her being, however being demonstrative was not in her nature. Izayoi-hime expressed her love in the form of long adoring looks, shared silences and quiet kisses. Sweet warm words intended to comfort did not come to her naturally, and she refused to lie to her only child about the harsh reality of the world he was soon to face from the moment of her imminent demise. As such, Inuyasha had been blessed with a childhood without lies and illusions.
Inuyasha pitied the half-demons like Shiori and Jinenji whose human mothers would repeatedly reassure their halfbreed children that soon all will be well. The world was a cruel place for half-demons, Inuyasha knew from firsthand experience. Humans and demons would never learn to accept their mongrel brethren, it would just never be. Inuyasha treasured the memories of the long nights when his mother would hold him in her arms and together they would stare up into the starlit sky in silence.
Sesshoumaru quietly took his place across from Inuyasha, his white silk kimono open, and a towel spread across his back, soaking the moisture from his wet hair. The demon lord held out his yellow monstrosity of an obi to Inuyasha, which the hanyou immediately accepted and tied it about his half-brother's waist in an intricate knot. Inuyasha had always wondered why his temperamental brother tolerated the company of the sycophantic kappa that followed him everywhere. Seeing Sesshoumaru wordlessly requesting his assistance with something as simple as tying his obi, Inuyasha quickly figured out that while it was possible to learn to do most things one-handedly, some endeavours were impossible without the manual dexterity presented by two hands. Jaken, the water imp served to make the demon lord's life easier, and the price for the imp's services was to endure the imp's never ending babble.
Fingering the yellow silk, Sesshoumaru asked in that curiously supple voice that lacked inflection and was half within his mind."Do you find my obi to be so very hideous?"
Inuyasha briefly wondered if dog demons were colourblind. However after sensing the annoyance emanating off his half-brother, Inuyasha gathered that dog demons could see colours just fine, they just lacked good fashion sense. Startled, Inuyasha realized that this was something new. Never before had he been able to sense any of Sesshoumaru's moods, getting only a feeling of cool detachment from the demon lord, but now he could almost taste the bastard's emotions in the back of his mind.
When Sesshoumaru angrily narrowed his eyes at Inuyasha, the hanyou couldn't help but snap, "If you don't like what I'm thinking, stop reading my thoughts! And on that note, how are you doing it anyway? Have you always been reading my thoughts? Are all demons mind readers?"
Inuyasha noticed a smile touch Sesshoumaru's thin lips for a fraction of a second as the demon lord considered Inuyasha's many questions. In the back of his mind Inuyasha could feel Sesshoumaru sifting and searching answers that would satisfy the hanyou's curiosity and at the same time offer the least possible amount of information.
"As always you misunderstand, Inuyasha." Sesshoumaru murmured, the mental component of his voice mildly tinted with overtones of amusement. "This is how all demons communicate once they reach adulthood and once this ability is achieved, the physical form stops growing and instead it is our spiritual abilities that are further developed."
"Spiritual abilities?" Inuyasha questioned. He watched a rivulet of water trickle down from Sesshoumaru's bangs, down the side of his face. The demon lord made no attempt to wipe his face dry.
"Yes, Inuyasha. Spiritual abilities." Sesshoumaru replied blandly. "Different demons manifest different types of spiritual abilities, which sometimes translate into empowered physical traits. Your kitsune companion, his abilities lie in the realms of trickery and illusion. The wolf prince empowered by the jewel shards, his gift is the ability to harness the element of wind. My own spiritual abilities that you have yourself witnessed are the ability to move at lightning speed, transform into my animal affine, the ability to generate an energy whip and that I am able to release poison from my hands, to name a few."
Sesshoumaru caught himself there as he shook his head in self mockery. "It would perhaps be more precise to say hand, in consideration of the fact that you have relieved this Sesshoumaru of one of his limbs."
Inuyasha winced at that.
"Well what did you think I would do, huh? Stand there helplessly and scream in terror while you chewed me up and spit me out? And why isn't your arm regenerating anyway? I have had my guts blown away clean, and it also took me about two days to recover fully."
"Ignorant hanyou, it is impossible for a demon to regenerate bone mass. And as for your swift recovery rates, that is a trait common to all half-demons considering your dual heritage." Sesshoumaru said, his mental voice tinged with annoyance.
"Dual heritage?" Inuyasha questioned. "What does that have to do with anything?"
Inuyasha narrowed his amber eyes suspiciously.
There is something else going on here... some important piece of information that Sesshoumaru is deliberately withholding.
"Sesshoumaru..." Inuyasha hissed. "What aren't you telling me?"
The demon lord studied his younger brother with a calculating gaze.
"Are you desperate for these answers that you seek, Inuyasha." the demon asked coolly as he moved behind Inuyasha before the hanyou could blink.
"How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to find out what it is you need to know?" Sesshoumaru murmured, letting Inuyasha feel his hot breath on his puppy ears, as his razor sharp claws positioned themselves at the hanyou's throat.
"What do you want?" Inuyasha asked coldly, recognizing the intimidation tactics for what it was. Sesshoumaru would not kill him tonight, both of them knew this well, nor could he afford to weaken the hanyou in any fashion. They shared a common enemy, and until the pseudo half-demon Naraku has been defeated, both brothers needed to be at full strength. The Tetsaiga was crucial in their campaign against the sinister half-demon and his minions, and the legendary sword accepted only Inuyasha as its master. Should Inuyasha die, it would be a great loss for those who seek to destroy Naraku, as only Inuyasha was truly proficient in the use of the fang and its legendary powers. Given time, it was likely that Sesshoumaru would be able to overcome the barrier around the blade and learn to wield the Tetsaiga, but time was a luxury that they could not afford.
"A bargain... a trade of sorts..." Sesshoumaru replied as he rested his claws on Inuyasha's pulse. Inuyasha's heart beat smooth, strong and unhurried. The young man would not allow himself to be intimidated Sesshoumaru realized, causing him to almost smile and nuzzle the back of Inuyasha's head rewardingly, causing Inuyasha to stiffen.
"What do you want?" Inuyasha asked quietly, not allowing his voice to betray his nervousness. Behind him the demon lord smirked. Inuyasha's mind was an open book to him now. There was nothing the hanyou could hope to hide from him.
"You will allow me to retrieve my arm, and accompany you along with my companions on your quest to destroy Naraku in exchange for all of your answers."
"What!" Inuyasha yelled. "Why the hell do you want to travel with us anyway? Can't you hunt Naraku down on your own? Besides the black pearl in my eye doesn't work anymore, so you can't go back to get your bones."
Sesshoumaru chuckled almost inaudibly as he murmured, "You needn't concern yourself, Inuyasha. A part of myself resides on the other side of the gateway you hold within you Inuyasha. I will be allowed to pass. And as for Naraku, the half-demon seems to be unable to leave you in peace for long. He bears a heavy grudge against you that causes him to lose his reason and sometimes act rashly in order to cause you pain. The hanyou also seeks to humiliate myself through attacking me and my charge, and that cannot be allowed. Should our company travel together, our strength shall no doubt multiply while Naraku's remains the same."
"Che. Naraku grows stronger everyday with every demon he absorbs and every jewel shard he collects."
"Then you agree with this Sesshoumaru that a concentration of power is required?" the demon lord asked softly.
Inuyasha turned around to face the striped visage and cold eyes as he contemplated his reply.
"Jaken will be restrained." Sesshoumaru replied to the unspoken thought. "You have my word."
Inuyasha nodded as he stared into Sesshoumaru's yellow eyes that he was aware was now staring deep into his own soul. He wondered why he wasn't feeling more unnerved at having the sanctity of his mind trespassed upon. Another question that just got added to the list of things he needed to find out from his half-brother.
Yes... maybe... just maybe this could work... Kagome was always prattling on about how he should try and make up with his brother. Of course he wouldn't be trying to do any such thing, but it was a good reason as any to stop the priestess from demanding to know the real reason why the demon lord would be accompanying them.
Inuyasha was not blind to the abject terror with which the girl from the future regarded the dog demon. Here was a creature she had no hope of ever understanding or controlling. Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha's dislike for each other was mutual, and a priestess in a skimpy outfit could lecture all she wanted, however two hundred years of cultivated animosity did not go away so easily.
"What about my eye? Last time you plucked out the pearl, you almost blinded me."
Miroku, Sango and Kirara would be understanding of the need for Sesshoumaru's strength in battle, that also wouldn't be a problem, and Shippou would find himself a new playmate in Rin. It was no secret that the baby fox found the constant adult company tiring.
"I will be more careful." Sesshoumaru replied. "And as for any damage to your eye, your human blood will not allow you to remain damaged for long. You will recover fully."
Inuyasha noticed Sesshoumaru once again alluded to his human blood as being the source of his miraculous healing powers and not his demon blood.
"No games, Sesshoumaru." Inuyasha said, his voice hardening. "You will give me straight detailed answers to all of my questions and any other information you might find is relevant for me to know."
"You have my word." Sesshoumaru repeated his metallic eyes focused on Inuyasha's amber.
The eyes are the gateway to the soul, or so they say. Inuyasha had always been gifted with the ability to tell when a person was not speaking the truth and in Sesshoumaru's eyes he could detect no falsehood. Inuyasha sighed inwardly wondering exactly how much Sesshoumaru's word was worth. While it was true that the demon lord was speaking the truth at that moment, it was debatable if his sincerity would persist when come the actual time to deliver on his promise.
"Okay, deal." Inuyasha said deciding abruptly. He would deal with the consequences of his judgement later. "Go get your bones."
Sesshoumaru nodded sharply and immediately set about the task of extracting the pearl from Inuyasha's eye. Only this time, it did not hurt at all as silken energy threads from Sesshoumaru's fingers gently eased the pearl out of the pupil.
"You will not regret this." Sesshoumaru promised, as he disappeared across the portal.
Inuyasha sighed as he watched Sesshoumaru reemerge with all of his bones and close the gate behind him and begin the tedious task of aligning all of his bones correctly. Seeing that Sesshoumaru was preoccupied, Inuyasha went back to the spring, stripped himself and began washing his body. As Inuyasha washed his long silver hair, it occurred to him that he would not be very happy about giving Sesshoumaru his arm back when the time came for their scheduled battle after Naraku's demise. In fact the hanyou was very certain that he would regret his decision, no matter what Sesshoumaru had said earlier.
Inuyasha felt the pressure of Sesshoumaru's mind upon his own mind increase momentarily and then fade away again to match the steady beat of his pulse. There was distinct sense of curiosity colouring the demon lord's psyche along with a myriad of other feelings that Inuyasha had difficulty recognizing. The only other mood that stood out aside from the curiosity was a sense of wonder and confusion. Inuyasha gave the demon lord no more thought as he concentrated and resumed the tedious task of untangling and combing his messy hair with only his clawed hands.
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Constructive criticism would be especially valued.
To everyone who reviewed (Silvermane1, littlefiction, Sesshygirl, RKInu241, halwen, IvyLady, animelover6000, C-loke, Princess Sin, slyswn28, DemonGoddess061, petpeeves12, Priestess Reiko, Lady Yueh, SANGO QUEEN OF SLAYERS) thank you so much for your comments.
This chapter was for me rather experimental. I have always wanted to write introspective pieces, but unfortunately, my talent lies more in descriptive and narrative styles of writing rather than introspective. This chapter was intended to be introspective, and I hope I have had some success in my endeavour. Again, I have to say that my Beta has not had the chance to proof read this considering it is her exam time. So if anyone out there finds any grammar mistakes in my fic, please feel free to point them out to me. I will correct them immediately. I hope everyone enjoys this chapter.
Also, I would like to take this opportunity to publicize my C2 community: INUCEST that is devoted to well written fics involving the inu siblings in a romantic relationship. I am still looking for more staff members so that I am able to keep track of every single fic that may be a contender for the archive. Since I track by summary and character searches, I'm sure I probably missed quite a few. So all the help I can get will be appreciated!
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