Title: Brotherly Love

Category: Anime/Manga » Inuyasha

Author: Suiyou

Language: English, Rating: Rated: T

Genre: General/Drama

Published: 09-22-07, Updated: 09-22-07

Chapters: 1, Words: 28,637

Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Brotherly Love (Inuyasha)

Authors notes: This story is AU, parting ways from the canon about season 4.

Inuyasha snarled. It was the new moon and he was in hiding. He would be human until dawn. He was vulnerable to attack by even weak humans in this form and he hated it.

Kagome had gone to her own era for some ritual called a math test. Sounded painful to him but he couldn't argue her out of it. Sango and Miroku were beginning a mating ritual and Shippo was staying with Kaede to learn about healing herbs. So he was alone for the first time in over a year. He didn't like it at all. Not that Shippo or Kagome would be much help if things went really bad, but the company was welcome even if he wouldn't admit it.

He had holed up in a cave he used from time to time. All he could do was pace and wait, he hated waiting. He hated being so weak.

He paced until he wore out even his strong physique and fell asleep, leaning against the wall of the cave with Tetsusaiga propped on his shoulder.

When dawn came he was no more rested than he'd been when he fell asleep. He worried about Kagome. 'Stupid onna. All I want to do is protect her. How can I when she's hundreds of years away?'

He wanted to, he wasn't quite sure what, although he knew that if she even heard him call her stupid or onna she'd sit him until his head swam. He decided to give up on that whole line of thought, it wasn't doing him any good. 'Stubborn onna. Dammit'

He did have to admit that her going to the future era wasn't all bad. She did come back with some very tasty food. He was particularly fond of soba noodles in that funny cup. He wondered idly if there was any way to make them fresh. Kagome said that they were much better that way. He decided to ask Sango


Sesshomaru gave the seer a flat, cold look which she gave right back to him. She wasn't afraid of him, or anyone, she was protected by law, custom and a very big demon with a very big sword. Not that the Noble Sesshomaru would ever lower himself to kill a simple seer just because he didn't like what she had to say. And he really didn't.

"I apologize that my words displease the noble . . ."

Sesshomaru cut her off. "Enough. How sure are you of this vision?"

"Positive, my lord, it will come to pass as I have said. I am not the only one to have this vision. All the seers in my convent have had it, as well as several other seers both male and female. It will come to pass. I'm sorry."

Sesshomaru shrugged irritably. "Don't be. A vision is what it is. I . . . just have to figure out what to do about it." He waved his hand. "Leave me."

The seer bowed herself out with relief. That hadn't gone as badly as she'd feared. Many daemons of Sesshomaru's rank would have tried to have her killed or destroyed things in a rage. A loud crash from the throne room made her flinch. She physically dragged her guard out of the keep.

Sesshomaru snarled, he couldn't relieve his feelings like he really wanted to, it wasn't dignified, proper, or possible. He really wanted to kill the powers. He didn't want to kill the other subject of the prophecy. It wasn't his fault.

He had a scribe close and the scroll was ready for his perusal. He tapped one finger against his chin and read.

"The brothers shall destroy each other and in doing so destroy daemon kind. The brothers shall cooperate and in doing so shall save daemon kind. One or the other shall come to pass."

Since Sesshomaru only had one brother that meant that he had to make up with Inuyasha. He snarled and threw the throne into the wall.

"Well, enough of that. There's no help for it. You..." Sesshomaru pointed at one of his aids. "Find me Jaken!"

The daemon ran out to do as he was bid, thanking his luck that he was out of Sesshomaru's sight. His lord was on the very edge of a temper tantrum and he didn't want to be there when the gutting started.

He found Jaken in the garden with Rin and gave over his message. Jaken immediately scurried off to grovel happily at Sesshomaru's feet.

"Oh, stand up. I can't talk to the top of your head." Jaken stood up, straightening his robes. "Read." Jaken read, sputtered indignantly then realized exactly what the prophecy said. "My Lord Sesshomaru, what will we do. Inuyasha will never . . . that . . . oh, my."

"Precisely." Sesshomaru had never thought he would regret his treatment of Inuyasha but now that the entire existence of his world was at stake he did.

But he was Lord of the Western Lands and took his duties seriously. He would do what he must to see that it was protected.

"Send out foresters. Find Inuyasha. Do not try to catch him. I don't want him hurt in any way. We'll start out as we mean to continue. He will be treated with respect. No one will call him half-breed, freak, anything,except Lord Inuyasha. Do you understand?"

Jaken nodded. "Yes, my lord. But . . . when we find him, what then? He is powerful, not as powerful as you, my lord, but still. If we're to capture him unhurt. . ." Jaken waited for his lord to speak.

"That is why all I want you to do is find him. I'll take care of the rest. We have to capture him because he will never come willingly. We must prove to him that the discipline required of a prince of the West comes with real rewards. It's going to be a difficult thing."

Jaken nodded. Inuyasha had never been given the privileges of his rank, learned any of the ways of the court or even been allowed into the inner court. Now they were paying the price of their prejudice. He just knew they were going to have all kinds of trouble. Starting with getting Inuyasha to obey anyone about anything. He shuddered. Sesshomaru would have a great deal to put up with.


Inuyasha emerged from his hiding place and started for the valley where Kaede lived. He didn't make it very far.

The net alone he could have handled but the net combined with a drug-paste covered arrow, not a chance. He collapsed slowly, cursing furiously.

Sesshomaru thwacked him on the back of the head with the hilt of his sword, Tokijin, and ordered him wrapped in the net. His foresters did as they were told and tossed him over the back of Ah-Un who turned one head to gaze at him for a moment before moving off stolidly, heading for the palace.

Sesshomaru wondered, not for the first time what his father had seen in Inuyasha's mother, the young daemon was stubborn to a fault, ignorant and pugnacious; bothersome in the extreme. The Lord of the Western Lands didn't realize that most of Inuyasha's perceived flaws were mostly his fault.

Inuyasha, for his part, was furious and terrified. What the hell did his older half-brother want with him? He wasn't worth the effort to wipe off the map, according to Sesshomaru, so what was up? He decided to cooperate enough to find out but not much more than would keep Sesshomaru from crippling him so he couldn't make good his escape.

Sesshomaru on the other hand was wondering how to hold Inuyasha without hamstringing him, even temporarily. He decided to go to the daemon smith, Totosai, and have him forge shackles strong enough to hold Inuyasha.

When they got to Totosai's forge, he came out to see who was there. He sighed and grumbled when Sesshomaru told him what was wanted, then refused point blank. Sesshomaru told him about the prophecy and waited while the old man grumbled and groaned. Totosai finally allowed that he could do the job but he pinned Sesshomaru with a frosty glare.

"As long as you swear to do the lad no harm."

"I swear that I will not harm him. I will train him with the same diligence that was given to me. He will be treated properly." Sesshomaru gave Totosai a bland look. "Adequate?"

Totosai knew he was missing something but he couldn't for the life of him figure out what. "'Suppose so. It'll have to do at any rate. I know you. You get an idea in that head of yours and it's there forever. I'll forge the chains. You be sure to check them. I don't want him gettin' raw. I'll smooth them best I can but you never can tell. You hear me?"

Sesshomaru shrugged irritably. "I hear you."

"Make sure you do it then."

"I will tend to it personally. It might help us bond." Sesshomaru was above grumbling, but he wanted to. This was going to be a gigantic pain in his neck. Inuyasha was not consulted in these arrangements but his opinion was expressed the second he came to, loudly, profanely and at length, considerable length. Totosai didn't hear much as he was at the forge, but Sesshomaru did. He ignored it with regal silence.

"Sesshomaru, I'm talkin' to you! You hear me? Don't you look down your damn nose at me like that! I'll rip off your head and stuff it up Ah-Un's ass! Let me go! What the hell do you think you're doin'? Asshole! Bastard!"

That one got Sesshomaru, "You're the bastard, not me."

"Like it's my fault? Talk to our old man. He couldn't keep his dick in his hakama. And while I'm on that subject. . ."

Sesshomaru had something to think about. "Gag him."

Inuyasha snarled and fought but the gag was forced into his mouth, at the expense of one daemon soldier's finger. It would grow back but it hurt and the soldier reacted by smacking Inuyasha across the face. Sesshomaru broke his neck and disemboweled him then tore him limb from limb. Something he couldn't recover from.

"I said to treat him with respect. I will be obeyed." Sesshomaru eyed the mess for a moment. "Why is that mess still here?"

Inuyasha realized in that moment, one of the things that annoyed him about his brother so much. He never got mad. Coldly furious, icily annoyed, any feeling that was cold, but he never got hotly angry or lost his temper. Or at least that was the way it seemed to him. Inuyasha groaned behind his gag. What the hell did his cold-blooded, older, half, do not forget the half, brother want with him?

When Totosai was done making the chains, the next move was to get them on Inuyasha, not the easiest thing to do. They had to wrap the net to get to him. It was like trying to chain a greased eel. Inuyasha not only squirmed and wriggled, he jerked on whichever limb they clung to. He swore and bit and scratched and in general did not cooperate. After several minutes of this Sesshomaru stripped out of his lovely white robes and intervened.

He reached into the pile of struggling bodies, caught Inuyasha by the scruff of the neck and shook him. Inuyasha went limp. He was still, and always would be, younger than Sesshomaru. His reaction was instinctive. Sesshomaru held him up with ease and said softly, "Chain him." Daemons leapt forward to do Sesshomaru's bidding. Being careful not to so much as look at Inuyasha wrong.

When he was dropped to the floor, Inuyasha was still limp but it didn't take him long to recover, vocally, loudly, and profanely.

"Hey! Whadidya do that for? Fuck. Sesshomaru, you bastard, I'll get you for this. This is . . . not right. You asshole, you took advantage of cub's reflexes, didn't you? That's cheatin' that's what that is. God dammit! Creep! I'll get you for this." Sesshomaru regretted the accidental removal of Inuyasha's gag.

"You must like being gagged. If you don't shut up at once, I'll see that it's replaced."

Inuyasha shut up, mostly because he'd run out of breath. He knelt, panting for a moment, then realized that he was kneeling almost at Sesshomaru's feet. He dragged himself up and staggered. The chains were heavy, very heavy.

"Stop snarling. That is where you belong. At my feet." Sesshomaru had no idea that he was starting out on the wrong foot completely. This was his younger brother, and he belonged at the feet of his master, his lord and older brother. At his feet as a consultant, a voice, an aide. Sesshomaru didn't see the need to state the obvious.

Inuyasha didn't stop growling the whole way to Sesshomaru's home.

When Inuyasha found out that Sesshomaru had sent Rin away he threw another fit. One that made Sesshomaru think.

"Whaddya mean ya sent Rin away? She's the only one of the whole bunch of ya that has any sense."

"I was afraid that you might abuse her." Sesshomaru looked at Inuyasha out of the corner of his eye.

"What? What the hell kinda guy do ya think I am? I'm not . . . I would never . . . you're the only one around who might abuse her. Asshole."

Sesshomaru shrugged, his irritation getting the better of him. "And whatever gave you that idea?"

"Personal experience, ya prick."

Sesshomaru turned his head and wondered where Inuyasha had gotten that idea, then he remembered a tiny, slump shouldered figure walking away, clutching a ball in one hand.

"I see."


Sesshomaru settled in his chair on the engawa, the porch like walk way that surrounded his home. Inuyasha stood in front of him, snarling. Sesshomaru had thought all the way from Totosai's to here about how he was going to explain things to Inuyasha. He had finally decided to just tell him.

"Inuyasha, there is a prophecy about us. It's long and rather involved so I'll just tell you what it is. But first, do you believe that I would lie to you?"

Inuyasha snorted. "You? Lie? You're a lot of things, but a liar isn't one of them. What's this prophecy then?"

Sesshomaru gazed at Inuyasha for a moment trying to gage his state of mind. He was as blunt and sarcastic as ever and that didn't bode well for his acceptance of the prophecy. He suppressed a sigh.

"The prophecy stated that, unless we get along, the daemon races are doomed to extinction. None of the seers I have consulted can tell me how, or when. Only that this is so. Absolutely. I've spoken to every accredited seer I could find. Any questions?"

Inuyasha blinked at Sesshomaru for a moment. "You're sure?" Sesshomaru nodded regally. "Well, shit." Inuyasha studied Sesshomaru for a moment. "And what do they mean by that?"

"I don't know. I'm sending you to your quarters to think about this for a while. I'll send for you in a few days. Go."


Inuyasha settled in the cold cell. He'd fought all the way down the stairs and into the cell. He was exhausted, hungry, thirsty and the metal cuffs around his wrists and ankles hurt. He had watched Sesshomaru walk away from him, into the inner courts. He had told the guards in charge of him to take him to 'appropriate' quarters but Jaken had given the actual orders. There wasn't even straw on the cold stone floors.

If this was how Sesshomaru intended to treat him, his level of cooperation had just dropped from argumentative to combative. He shivered and pulled his rat hair monsuki closer around him. He wondered if they were going to feed him.

As he settled himself, he realized that there was no way for him to get comfortable, the ensorcelled iron bands around his ankles dug in no matter how he sat. He swore and lay on his side, head propped up on his hand, which also kept the bands around his wrist from digging in.

He looked around again, muttered 'Keh!' and went to sleep.

In the next few days Inuyasha found that pacing, while it wore at the skin of his wrists and ankles, kept him warmer.

They did feed him, but it was foul stuff, some form of pot stew that was mostly vegetables and rice, not nourishing enough by any standards. His stomach cramped with hunger.

After a week, Inuyasha was hungry, thirsty, and filthy. The cell didn't even have a hole in the floor for accommodations so he was using a corner as a latrine. Also, his wrists and ankles were raw enough that every move was painful.

Sesshomaru spent that week finishing as much of the business of the Western Lands as he could, in order to devote his time to training Inuyasha. He was in a foul mood when he ended the last of the business on the fifth day so he decided to take a day for himself, to calm himself enough to deal with Inuyasha. He knew the brat was going to try his patience to its limits.

He walked in his gardens and by the wandering stream there. He sat by the koi pond and fed his fish. He contemplated the flowers and the sand garden. He also worked out a bit. The lack of a left arm didn't hinder him that much anymore. He also wondered, rather idly, if he could recover his arm from the black pearl in Inuyasha's eye.

When the end of the week came he was ready to confront Inuyasha. He called Jaken and told him to bring Inuyasha to his throne room.

When Inuyasha entered the smell nearly knocked him over.

He took a good look at Inuyasha and felt cold fury wash over him. "Jaken, what is this? And make it good."

Jaken knew he had made a mistake but he wasn't sure how. "My Lord, you told me to assign him appropriate quarters. I ... thought that ... I put him in the dungeons until you made your decisions."

Sesshomaru turned his head slowly. "I see. He is my brother, you know, and a prince of my domain." Sesshomaru sighed softly. "Clean him up."

Jaken braced himself and headed for the bath.


Inuyasha let himself be dragged along by the guards. He was personally fastidious and hated to be dirty, so he wasn't about to resist. Sesshomaru noticed and wondered.

Inuyasha settled in the bath without complaint, they'd taken the chains off so he could wash himself. Now he was sitting in the furo soaking away the last stench of the dungeon. He wondered if he was going to a 'real' room or back to the dungeons then he realized that it didn't make any difference. He had a duty to fulfill and, despite what Sesshomaru or Jaken said, he took his duties seriously.

Sesshomaru looked into the bathing chamber then entered.

"There you are. Are you done? If you are, you will come with me."

Inuyasha snorted. "Or even if I'm not done. Right? Never mind. I'm gettin' out now."

Inuyasha suited actions to words and stood up. Sesshomaru watched as the water ran down Inuyasha's body. His brother was too thin and carried scars that proved that he was a warrior worthy of respect. Sesshomaru nodded. Inuyasha just grumbled at him and stood still as he was dressed in his cleaned clothing, he didn't bother to wonder how they'd done it, he really didn't care.


Inuyasha stumbled over the threshold and swore.

"Clumsy hanyou, watch where you are going! You nearly fell into My Lord Sesshomaru" Jaken chattered at Inuyasha pulling at his Bakama.

"Like I want to touch the jerk! These shackles are too short. I keep tripping because I can't walk. Creep!"

"So here we are, dear brother, locked in each others loving ...chains...you fuck!" Inuyasha turned left toward the dungeons. He figured Sesshomaru would lock him up again, just for spite or fun. After all, they had been trying to kill each other since Inuyasha had gotten old enough to fight him.

Sesshomaru ignored Jaken like he wasn't there.

"That is not the way to your quarters. Jaken ... take Inuyasha to more appropriate quarters. See to it that he is more comfortable. I will put off our conversation as I'm sure my brother is in no mood for it now. I am going to my quarters to meditate, I have much to think about. Do not disturb me."

Jaken grumbled but led Inuyasha to a different area of the castle. The room he was led to was a two-mat room, with a small table, a chest and a kneeling desk. Inuyasha knew it was a servant's room. He snarled softly at Jaken who just snorted and announced, "Be grateful for my lord Sesshomaru's indulgence. If it was left up to me, you'd be chained in the yard."

Inuyasha just snorted. "You're one to talk. Little toad."

Jaken just dropped a sealed scroll on the desk. "This is a scroll containing all the rules of the castle. Read it and remember. Lord Sesshomaru himself follows them. Enough. You will be fed in here until the master decides whether you're fit for table or not. Probably not. Humph!" Jaken directed the guard to chain Inuyasha to the back wall and left.

The guard gave Inuyasha an apologetic look and did as he was told. Inuyasha just grunted and picked up the scroll. He eyed the scroll with genuine misgivings, broke the seal and settled down to read what he could of it.

The next morning Inuyasha was awakened by a human woman. She told him that she was to serve him and teach him. Inuyasha just snarled. He shut up when the woman kindly remarked, "I know. But it's more than my position is worth to ignore my lord, Sesshomaru. So, please, here's your breakfast. My name is Hanako and I'm to teach you table manners. I'm sorry."

Inuyasha just shrugged. "Ok. I don't got no manners. So ... teach already. I'm hungry."

Hanako just sat a tray on the small table and knelt at one side of it.

Inuyasha contained his impatience and waited for her to serve his food. He was well aware that he was supposed to wait, he'd been sent from the table the one time that he'd been allowed in the dinning hall because he'd tried to serve himself. No one had seemed to care that he was only three or four at the time. His mother had been ill and sent him to the table.

Hanako took the top off one bowl and set it on the table. The next bowl was placed empty right in front of him. Then she took the last two bowls from the tray. One contained rice and the other slivers of smoked fish. Last she placed the tea cup and pot at his left hand.

Inuyasha had a few manners now. Kagome had managed to teach him a little working along with Sango. Miroku was almost as hopeless as he and Shippo wasn't much better. The only one of them who had any excuse was Shippo, who was still very young. He waited until she was done setting out the food then bowed slightly to her.

"Thank you for the food." Inuyasha picked up his chopsticks and started to eat. He wasn't that fond of plain miso so he left it for now. Instead he put rice in the empty bowl and picked it up. He served himself some fish, placing it carefully on the rice. He wasn't a picky eater but he did like his food to look nice.

After arranging his fish, Inuyasha poured his tea. He ate carefully minding what manners he knew. Hanako corrected him once then remarked that his manners were acceptable. Inuyasha just grunted, his mouth was full.

"I'm very pleased. Your manners aren't up to an appearance at court or a formal banquet but for family they're ... very nice. There are a few things that need work, but for now, enjoy your meal. I'll send in your servant."

Inuyasha choked on his rice. "Servant? I don't need a servant. What do I want with one? And who is it?"

Hanako just shrugged. "Master Jaken says that Lord Sesshomaru ordered you to have a servant. It'll probably be a different one each day. Please ... continue your meal."

Hanako bowed and left, sliding the shoji shut with a soft click.

Inuyasha returned to his meal.

After eating quickly and neatly, Inuyasha put the bowls back on the tray and set it as close to the door as he could. He knew he should put it out in the corridor but he couldn't reach. He kept the tea pot and cup. Carrying them carefully, he settled in the wide window seat and put the pot on the sill, he kept the cup in his hand.

As he sipped the tea, Inuyasha did a great deal of careful thinking. Contrary to popular belief he could think quite well. He just didn't bother much. His life was lived in the moment. He had no one to worry about but himself. Or he hadn't had until lately. Now he was going to have to reevaluate every facet of his life. He had to deal with Sesshomaru or the whole of their world would disappear. He wasn't about to take a chance.

Inuyasha sighed and worried at his lip, this wasn't going to be easy and Sesshomaru wasn't taking no for an answer. He'd just have to relax and take things as they came. And contain his notorious temper. Especially with the unaccustomed attentions of a servant.

The human woman entered silently, bowed and cleared her throat. Inuyasha turned his head and waited, gazing at her with bright amber eyes. She stepped carefully forward.

"My Lord, if you are done with the tea, I'll take the pot and cup."

Inuyasha just motioned for her to take them. She skittered around him nervously, eyeing him as if he might bite her.

"If you're that afraid of me, get out. I'll put stuff near the door when I'm done with it. I can knock or something, so you'll know. I'll be here, by the window. Chicken."

The woman blushed and scrambled out the door, shutting the shoji with a decided snap.

This went on every day. Three times a day. Inuyasha was pissed by it but didn't do much, he was wise enough to realize that throwing a fit would only scare the servants even more.

The servants also cleaned Inuyasha's rat hair bakama and monsuki. He found out that it was a relatively simple spell that kept it clean, the same spell that kept Sesshomaru's white clothing so pristine. He wondered if he'd ever have more than the red rat hair set and the nearly worn out yakuta he'd had since Kaede had found it for him.


Sesshomaru had spent quite a bit of time determining how to go about retraining Inuyasha. He'd decided the best way was to start with martial arts. Inuyasha was very good, almost as good as Sesshomaru himself. This would provide grounds for intelligent conversation as well as carrot and stick; reward and punishment. Inuyasha didn't respond to much else in Sesshomaru's experience.

"Jaken. Bring Inuyasha to the inner court yard. Tell him to be prepared to work out with me. Go."

Jaken babbled and bobbed. As he scurried away, Sesshomaru heard him mumble something but he didn't pay any attention. What trouble would the little toad daemon cause?

When Inuyasha appeared in the court yard he was dressed in his bakama and an under kimono with his sword at his side. He took a deep breath and bowed slightly to his older brother. "Onii-sama, I'm pleased to see you."

Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow but replied, "Ototo-san, I am also pleased. Would it please you to workout with me?"

Inuyasha bowed slightly. "I'd be glad of the exercise. If you could have these chains removed."

Sesshomaru motioned to Jaken who came forward with the key. "You let my lord Sesshomaru win, disrespectful hanyou, you understand?"

Inuyasha snorted. "Keh! I understand that it's more than my skin is worth for him to find out that I let him win. If he wins, he wins. If not, too bad. Shut up."

Jaken fussed around but Sesshomaru sent him away. The little toad was getting on his nerves.

Inuyasha waited as Sesshomaru struggled out of his over kimono then dropped it on the nearby bench along with his swords and boots. Inuyasha added his sword to the collection and turned to Sesshomaru.


"I am."

Those three words unleashed a torrent of attack, defense, blow and counter blow that took them from one end of the yard to the other and from ground to the eaves of the engawa. Inuyasha took time to figure out all Sesshomaru's attacks and he in turn realized that Inuyasha was a very good warrior, if completely untrained.

When they finally stopped, both of them were sweating slightly. Inuyasha picked up a piece of roughly woven linen and wiped the sweat off his face and neck. He turned to Sesshomaru who was struggling to get his under kimono back on. He knew that if he didn't cover up, he was going to get a chill, unpleasant to say the least.

Inuyasha just reached over and held the shoulder of the kimono allowing Sesshomaru to turn into it. Sesshomaru surprised Inuyasha by nodding and saying, 'Thank you.'

"Welcome. Water?"


Inuyasha handed Sesshomaru a cup of water and took another for himself. They drank in silence then Sesshomaru put down his cup and demanded, "You should have been trained, why weren't you?"

Inuyasha bristled but contained himself. "No money." That simple, short explanation ended all hope of conversation. Sesshomaru bit back the snide reply that Inuyasha's mother never asked for any for his training and Inuyasha refrained from further remarks because he didn't want to start a fight.

Jaken came into the room and Sesshomaru told him to return Inuyasha to his rooms and make sure that he was taken care of. Jaken chose to interpret those words in his own way.

He had Inuyasha returned to his rooms and chained by one ankle to a ring in the floor. The chain was ensorcelled, when it closed around his ankle, Inuyasha snarled softly. It was strong enough to hold him. The band around his ankle was just tight enough that it bit into his flesh if he got careless.

For the next week Sesshomaru sent for Inuyasha every morning so that they could work out. He offered advice carefully and was glad to see that Inuyasha received it in the spirit it was offered. Inuyasha was polite, avoiding most nasty comments and cutting some of the rest off in the middle. Sesshomaru didn't make his usual snide remarks. They got along well enough.

Inuyasha even swore, at Sesshomaru's request, that he wouldn't try to escape.

But every time Inuyasha returned to his room he was chained to the ring. He wondered if it was worse than being chained to the wall or better, then he decided that it was worse. At least the other chains hadn't chafed him so much. He was just lucky that his daemon healing could heal the damage while he was unchained and working out.

Inuyasha snarled, he felt every movement. The chain around his ankle a constant aggravation. Why Sesshomaru insisted on chaining him when he'd given his word he couldn't understand but he was tired of the insult. Jaken just insisted it was 'My lord's will.' Well, it was time to return the insult.

"Girl! Come here. I need you." The human woman whose turn it was to see to him peeked in the door warily. Inuyasha was always in a bad mood anymore. No one but Jaken knew that the chain used to chain him to the ring in the floor was a cursed chain.

Chains like this were usually used to chain petty criminals as a punishment. Usually for drunkenness or petty thievery. They stung and tingled keeping the prisoner aware that they had done something to lose their freedom, Sesshomaru usually sentenced the victim to no more than two or three days. Inuyasha had been kept in them for most of the day for three weeks now and it was telling on his already limited patience.

"Yes My Lord. How may I serve you?" The woman was trying to keep out of reach of Inuyasha if she could.

"Come here! I can't talk to you if you won't come close. I'm not gonna bite ya." Inuyasha glared at the woman, his look giving the lie to his words; he looked like he would bite her any second.

Scooting closer; the woman bowed low and hoped she could please the impatient young hanyou.

"Braid my hair! You know the style. Do it!" Inuyasha snarled at her gasp of dismay. "What?"

"Oh, My Lord; please don't make me! Lord Sesshomaru will be so angry. He'll punish me! I know he will!" The woman knew what style Inuyasha wanted and she was terrified. If Lord Sesshomaru lost his temper it would be bad. He didn't rage and break things, his anger was much too cold for that. He just let it be known that he wasn't happy and had people killed.

"Na! If he punishes anyone, it'll be me. Braid it, damnit!'

So the poor woman braided Inuyasha's hair; trembling all the time.

As she finished, she looked at her handiwork; she had parted his hair behind his dog-like ears and braided each section 'French' style to the nape of his neck then continued on to the end of each lock; she had braided the braids shortening his thigh length hair to just under his shoulder blades. Then she'd folded the braid three times and wrapped it with a ribbon from the nape of his neck to the end of the clubbed braid. She'd braided his dragon locks, those locks of hair in front of where a human ear would be. These were also bound, pulled back to be tucked into the top of the club. The only loose hair on his head was the short locks on top and his bangs.

This style hadn't been seen in over a hundred years. An Inu Lord had never worn it, ever. Inuyasha had declared himself Sesshomaru's slave. The poor woman just knew she was doomed. Sesshomaru had no patience with stupid people and she was stupid, she hadn't been able to persuade the Young Lord not to do this.

"Inuyasha, are you ready? I've asked you to come to lunch so you may learn how to act at a banquet. I requ..." Sesshomaru stopped speaking and looked at Inuyasha. He was trying to decide if he was going to lose his temper or not. Sesshomaru didn't lose his temper. It wasn't proper. But he was as close as he'd been in his life.

Inuyasha had kneeled on the floor half in and half out of his room. That was as far as he could get into the hall. The chain around his ankle wouldn't let him fully into the hall. He knelt as a common vassal would. He peeked at Sesshomaru out of the corner of his eye and had the satisfaction of seeing the slight blush on his brother's cheeks.

Then Sesshomaru saw the chain. "Jaken, what is the meaning of this. I told you he wasn't to be restrained unless he showed signs of being uncooperative."

Jaken cringed but thought quickly. "My Lord, just look at his hair. If that isn't being uncooperative, I don't know what is. He's been nothing but trouble from the time you let him into the family quarters. Insolent, uncooperative, rude, vulgar, hanyou that he is, I don't see why you even put up with him. Why not just lock him up in the dungeons and leave him. You . . ."

Sesshomaru slashed his hand through the air. "The seer was very clear. She said we had to get along. I don't think locking him up in a dungeon is getting along. Don't second guess me, Jaken. Your head will fit on a pike as well as any other."

"Yes, My Lord! Of course, My Lord! I'm sorry, My Lord!"

"Shut up, Jaken. Grovel later." Sesshomaru nodded to the guards. "Bring him." They reached down to pull Inuyasha to his feet.

"I'm coming. I can get up by myself. Hands off." Inuyasha snarled and stood up, chain rattling loudly. He made sure it rattled as loud as possible. The hanyou who went to unchain him hissed as the chain 'bit' him.

"Inuyasha, If you would just cooperate, things would be so much easier. We will get along. I will not have it said that I did not do every thing in my power to save our race. You will not cause trouble. You know what the rules are. I had Jaken give you the scroll. You will come now. I require you to learn proper table manners. I won't have you embarrassed at table; sooner or later you will be eating at a banquet. Your manners are atrocious."

"Yeah? Well, I didn't have the benefit of eating at the family table to teach me manners. Mother did the best she could when we lived on our own but then we didn't have the table ware. So what? I don't eat elegant, at least I don't eat with my fingers." Inuyasha smirked.

Sesshomaru, with only one arm; was forced to eat by leaning down so as not to drip sauce. But Sesshomaru could force people to accept almost anything simply by force of personality and ignoring his own awkwardness. He ate some things with his fingers simply because it was easier; sometimes he tolerated being fed, but only by Rin; and only when he was truly weary.

"I eat as I eat. If you don't like it, you can eat elsewhere." Sesshomaru just walked away, not waiting for Inuyasha to follow. He knew Inuyasha would because he'd told the guards to bring him.

Inuyasha endured a long and tiring meal, every thing he did was criticized and he wound up snarling at everyone and threatening to stick a chopstick in Jaken.

"I don't know why all of a sudden you get worried how I eat. I put food in my mouth and chew, what's so difficult about that? Lady Hanako said my manners are acceptable." Inuyasha grabbed a joint of meat and bit off a hunk, chewing vigorously. He wiped his face on his sleeve. Sesshomaru just looked at him.

"What? You act like you never saw me eat before." Inuyasha stopped eating for a moment. He couldn't remember ever eating with Sesshomaru even when he'd lived in the palace.

"I don't think you were ever allowed at table with the family." Sesshomaru had the grace to flush remembering the only time Inuyasha had tried to eat at the table with the youkai family. It had ended badly; the youkai had taunted Inuyasha for being hanyou and the little hanyou had left the table in tears; he couldn't have been more than three or four years old at the time. He'd never come to the table again, preferring to eat either in his quarters or the kitchen.

"Yeah, I ate with Mother or in my room or the kitchen; sometimes, but mostly I ate in the servants dining hall after they got done." Inuyasha gave Sesshomaru a fulminating look. He didn't like to think of those times. His mother hadn't been allowed to keep him with her in her quarters, he'd had his own rooms but the servants delegated to care for him when he wasn't with his mother hadn't done their jobs; they'd spent as little time as possible with him.

They made sure he was clean and his quarters were clean, but he remembered nights when he'd shivered because no one had tended the braziers meant to keep him warm and days when he'd gone hungry because no one remembered to feed him. He'd gotten use to tending himself as best he could. It had been a relief to him when they'd left the palace for the village

Sesshomaru stood up indicating the meal was over.

"Yeah! That's right! Just get up and take off. I'm still hungry but that don't mean a thing to you, does it?" Inuyasha stood up too, but he held onto the joint he had in his hand and snarled at the servant who tried to take it from him.

"Leave it! If he's still hungry let him eat his fill. Then take him back to his rooms." Sesshomaru gave Inuyasha his blandest look. "If you get bored enough, you might consider making yourself a little more companionable. Perhaps I might allow you to come into the garden to play Go with one of the guards. I doubt you are up to my skill. Or if that doesn't appeal you might actually read something educational."

Sesshomaru didn't hear Inuyasha's snarled, "Read a book. You ass! I don't read well enough to read books."

Inuyasha finished eating and allowed his guards to take him back to his room. He didn't even protest when they re-chained him; only flinching slightly. He was trying not to cause more trouble, maybe if he tried hard enough Sesshomaru would leave the chain off. Inuyasha thought, 'If we can't get along our whole race will die. I'm not gonna be the one who gives up.'

Inuyasha jerked at the chain, "Damnit!"

Two days later his temper finally gave out. The woman who braided his hair argued with him as usual. But instead of snarling at her, Inuyasha lashed out in frustration and pain. He grabbed her by the arm and jerked her into his face. He started to snarl at her but one look at her white face stopped him.

"Stupid woman! What the hell is wrong with you? Hey! Where ya goin'?"

The poor woman managed to scramble into the hall before she collapsed. Inuyasha had dislocated her shoulder when he'd jerked on her arm. She called the guards and they took her to the healer, the healer reported to Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru spoke to the woman and then called Jaken.

"Jaken, did you give the scroll of rules to Inuyasha? Into his very hand?" Sesshomaru wanted to be very sure before he punished Inuyasha. His rules were all written down, that way there couldn't be any question of interpretation; Lord Sesshomaru liked everything clear.

"Yes, My Lord. I put the scroll into his hand and told him plainly that he was to read it. Without fail." 'Of course the way I put it practically insured that he would do the exact opposite. Stupid hanyou.' Jaken snickered softly at the thought.

"Inuyasha! I will not have you abusing the servants. Especially the human ones." Sesshomaru looked at Inuyasha, he had drooped where he sat.

"How bad did I hurt her. I never meant to. I lost my temper, but that's no excuse for hurting someone like her." Inuyasha looked at one of the guards. "Hey, You! Tell her I'm sorry; will ya?"

Jaken produced the scroll, showing it to Sesshomaru he put the blame directly on Inuyasha

"Here is the scroll of rules. The seal is broken so he must have read it. He was aware of the dire consequences of abusing the human servants." Jaken gave Inuyasha a self-satisfied smirk.

"I see that you had the scroll as I ordered and, since the seal is broken, I can only assume that you read it. The rule against striking the human servants is most strictly enforced. The human servants all serve Rin; she will be severely agitated when she finds out that one of her favorites was injured because you can't control your temper. You dislocated her shoulder with your little temper tantrum."

Inuyasha just hung his head. He hadn't meant to hurt the woman all he'd wanted to do was stop her arguing with him every morning. "Ok, I know you're going to enjoy this, so why don't you tell me what my punishment is going to be. No supper? A week on rice and tea? What?"

Sesshomaru handed Inuyasha the scroll. "Look it up for yourself. I don't want you thinking for one moment that I am punishing you more harshly than I would another."

Inuyasha took the scroll and threw it at the wall. "I can't read it! I can't read that old kanji, only that modern stuff Kagome's been teaching me."

Sesshomaru turned slowly to look at Inuyasha in disbelief.

"You can't read the scroll? You weren't taught to read?" He couldn't believe that, even though Inuyasha was a half-breed, he hadn't been educated properly.

"NO! Damn you, I can't read it. I never went to school here and Mother didn't have the heart to fool with trying to teach me much. I never saw the use of most of it for me. I'm only a half-breed mongrel after all." Inuyasha couldn't hide his bitterness. He'd always wanted to read, so many doors were closed to him because he couldn't.

Sesshomaru looked at Jaken, "I believe that seeing to the education of the children here is one of your responsibilities. Why…"


"If you say I'm sorry. I'll have your head on a plate."

Inuyasha had managed to find the pertinent rule in the scroll. Now he was struggling to read it; all he could really manage was 'whip' and thirty.

"Damnit! What the hell does this say? Thirty what? What's this word?" Inuyasha had a good idea what was in store for him and he wasn't happy. Jaken had set him up and he knew it. The little freak had set him up before; many times. All his life the frog daemon had managed to get him into trouble and never gotten caught.

"The rule says you will be given thirty lashes for harming a human servant. If you'd only bruised her, I could have gotten away with giving you ten but not when you did her so much harm. I will not have it be said that I favored you over others who have served me longer and better." Sesshomaru felt truly weary. This was not going well at all. Inuyasha seemed to get some kind of perverse pleasure from driving him to the ends of his temper.

"As much as you may disbelieve me. I do wish to get along with you. It is for the benefit of all youkai. If we must do this, I would like to enjoy it at least a little. If I am willing to let bygones be bygones I don't see why you can't."

"Let bygones ... Damnit, if you can do it so can I, but I don't see how I'm supposed to believe you when you do things like this to me." Inuyasha stuck his foot out shaking it to make the chain rattle. "It's almost more that I can stand. It won't let me rest. I can't sleep, I can't get comfortable. What are you tryin' to do, drive me crazy? I wouldn't mind bein' chained so much if you'd just tell me what I did to deserve it and not use one of those..."

Sesshomaru looked at the chain for a full minute before he turned to Jaken. The look he gave the frog should have boiled him in his own skin. He turned to the nearest guard who gulped, dropping to his knees.

"Remove that at once. Never tell me he's been chained with that cursed chain for the whole time he's been here."

"No, My Lord. I mean... Yes, My Lord. It was Master Jaken's own order, My Lord. He said it was to teach him that you are master here." The guard scrambled to remove the chain from Inuyasha's ankle. Sesshomaru blinked at the mark around it. Inuyasha's ankle was bruised and raw; he'd obviously fought it; most likely in his sleep; what he got of it.

"I now regret this even more. I did not order this. Jaken, you are a fool. I wished to make sure Inuyasha did not leave before we had a chance to create some kind of relationship."

"Inuyasha, there is no way I can ignore my own rules even for you. Especially for you. If my other vassals believe that I will favor you above them it will destroy discipline and cause a great deal of trouble. I cannot ignore my rules even for my own brother."

"Yeah? Well, I never expected much from ya anyway. So? Let's get this over with."

Inuyasha stood for a moment thinking, then he took off his haori and his hakamashita. Then he slid his under kimono off and tossed it onto his futon. He picked up a yakuta and draped it over his shoulders; it was obviously old, so old it was thread bared.

Sesshomaru turned to one of the other human servants. "Where are the rest of his clothes?"

"Rest? My Lord, this is all he has. We were never instructed to do more than care for his basic needs. I... I do not question the Master of the House. Lord Jaken was very explicit in his orders and we followed them to the letter." The man happily got Jaken into as much trouble as he could without lying.

"He is to have a wardrobe befitting his station. You have three days. He is to have clean futon and coverlet daily. Food is to be brought to him three times a day. Proper diet, not just rice and tea. He is to be treated in every way as my honored little brother should be. Jaken I will deal with you later." Sesshomaru now understood the reasons for most of Inuyasha's difficult attitude. He'd been getting mixed signals from the first. "See to the arrangements for the punishment now. Go!" Sesshomaru watched as Jaken hurried out, waving the Two-Headed Staff to clear his way.

Sesshomaru turned to one of the daemon servants. "I want everything that belongs to Inuyasha to be moved to his mother's old quarters. Whoever is there now will just have to move somewhere else. See to it. And I do expect him to have an adequate wardrobe, befitting his station within three days."

The daemon bowed deeply and replied. "As my lord wishes. If Master Jaken should object?"

"Tell me at once." Sesshomaru swept out to see to his brother.

Inuyasha stood in the court yard waiting for Sesshomaru to quit yapping and get the whipping over with. He knew it was going to hurt; probably quite a lot. He thought Sesshomaru would have one of his guards do it, he was too good to do something like this himself; so he was surprised when Sesshomaru reached for his wrists with a loop of cord in his hand.

"How the hell do ya think you're gonna tie me with only one hand? That's stupid. You're not gonna tie me anyway. Give me that!" Inuyasha took the cord from Sesshomaru and tied it into a loop; sticking his hands through the loop he twisted his wrist around twice to shorten the slack between his hands. He reached up and flipped the slack over the spike in the beam over his head

Looking over his shoulder, he snarled. "Well? Get started! I'm not gonna wait all day. I got better things to do."

Sesshomaru produced his magical whip. It was an intrinsic part of Sesshomaru himself. All he had to do was hold his index and middle fingers together and 'call', the whip just appeared. It was a powerful weapon and Sesshomaru knew that if he wasn't careful he could cut Inuyasha to the bone. But he was nothing if not controlled. He snapped it a couple of times to get his aim then brought it down across Inuyasha's back. The lash snapped around his body and left a deep welt. Inuyasha gasped sharply, thinking, 'Damn him, he's gonna cut me to pieces.'

"Hope you're gettn' your jollies, Sessh, cause I won't give you a reason to sneer at me."

Sesshomaru knew if he struck Inuyasha that hard again he'd wind up making him scream which he didn't want to do, he didn't want to shame his brother. There was enough resentment built up in Inuyasha without causing him to be shamed in public.

The next blow wasn't quite as hard, Sesshomaru had Inuyasha's measure and he balanced two needs. His need to make an example of his impartiality and his desire to avoid shaming his brother. But still thirty lashes. He couldn't remember why he had decided on so many.

Inuyasha counted until the pain made each lash blend into the next. He held onto the spike to keep from hanging from his wrists. When Sesshomaru quit, all he could think was, 'How'm I gonna get to my room without falling down?'

Inuyasha lifted the cord over the end of the spike. Steadying himself, he pulled his kimono over his shoulders and straightened his back. He wasn't going to stagger, fall down or worse yet pass out entirely.

Inuyasha forced himself to walk, albeit slowly, to the door that led to his quarters. The opposite direction from the family quarters. He didn't hear the spectators whispering to each other. "Look at him" "Thirty lashes from the Lord's own hand." "He's still standing?"

When he entered the shadow of the hall, Inuyasha staggered once, then leaned against the wall. He knew he was failing fast, all he wanted was to get to his room without falling down. He didn't think he would be able to get up again.

Then he found himself hanging up side down. "What the hell? I don't remember fainting. I don't faint!"

"No you didn't faint. It was a near thing but you didn't and I'm carrying you to your room myself so there will be no question that I have accepted you. So shut up and be carried."

Sesshomaru had put his left shoulder in Inuyasha's belly and dumped him over that shoulder; putting his arm around his brother's thighs, he held him in place and headed for his room.

Sesshomaru carefully put Inuyasha down in the bed, he'd taken one look at the quarters Jaken had assigned him and snorted in disgust. It was a servants room, little better than a closet. He'd thought to take him back to his old room for a little while so that he could make sure that his new rooms were ready. Instead he had done an about face and taken him here.

This futon was thick and soft. The quilts stuffed with down. Sesshomaru noticed that the sheets were linen and wondered. He'd ordered the best of everything, the sheets should be silk. He decided he'd deal with that later. Now he had to see to his brother.

"Fool. You're ... never mind that now. I'll lecture you later. Now you need seeing to."

Inuyasha just grumbled under his breath. "Now you want to pamper me."

Sesshomaru motioned to the daemon standing in the door. "Bring me warm water, soft cloths, salve and a clean yukata. Also change these sheets."

Inuyasha turned his head, a puzzled look on his face. "These sheets are clean."

Sesshomaru replied to the unasked question. "They're not silk. You should have silk. Besides, by the time I'm done, they'll probably be wet."

Inuyasha shrugged then hissed in pain. "I hate silk sheets. They're cold and slick, like a poocha daemons belly. And how the hell will they get wet."

"I'm not very good at this and I'll probably dribble water. Wringing cloth is beyond the capabilities of one hand."

Inuyasha snorted, "Keh! Have a servant wring it out for you." He mumbled grumpily and settled back on his stomach.

Sesshomaru asked the name of the daemon who brought the water and other things he'd ordered. The daemon stopped in his arranging of the objects to bow and reply. "I am called Hidiki, my lord."

"Wring out the cloth for me." Sesshomaru held out his hand. Hidiki put the damp cloth in it.

Sesshomaru carefully dabbed at Inuyasha's back. The welts were beginning to bruise quite vividly.

"Why don't you take that necklace off? It's in the way."


Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"

So, while Sesshomaru cleaned his back Inuyasha told him about the necklace ending, "And sometimes I swear the girl doesn't have a brain in her head. One time she sat me right after I got gored by a pig daemon. Broke the wound open again. But then she cried all over me. Stupid onna."

Sesshomaru gazed at his younger brother and realized something. Inuyasha loved Kagome. This could be a complication, or not. Sesshomaru decided it was only a complication if he chose to make it so.

"So, you cannot remove the necklace and she uses it to 'punish' you for imagined transgressions? How . . . annoying."

Inuyasha snorted. "Annoying isn't the word for it. Humiliating, painful ... you think up a few."

Sesshomaru just called for a miko. She examined the necklace and announced that only the miko who'd made it or the one who controlled it could remove it.

Sesshomaru snarled sourly. Inuyasha just sighed, fingered the necklace and shook his head.

Inuyasha healed quite quickly, Hidiki made sure that he used the salve that lord Sesshomaru provided. Sesshomaru visited every day, checking on Inuyasha and impressing upon him that he was important. Inuyasha was surprised and please although he wouldn't admit it.

On the third day after his whipping, Inuyasha was called to Sesshomaru's office. He entered the sanctum and looked around with interest. The wall behind Sesshomaru was covered with cubby holes filled with scrolls and books. He turned his head and gazed around. The room was huge, with a vast expanse of highly polished floor, a few rugs scattered around, a hard chair and a softly cushioned one placed directly in front of Sesshomaru's desk and not much else.

Sesshomaru looked up from the paper he was reading and motioned to the chairs. "You will sit ... please."

Inuyasha started to sit on the hard chair but Sesshomaru pointed to the soft one with a lift of one eyebrow. Inuyasha settled into the soft chair with a jerky nod of his head.

"Now, I want to know why you weren't educated as you should have been. I know ..." Sesshomaru eyed Jaken for a moment then just turned his gaze to Inuyasha and waited.

Inuyasha grumbled and squirmed for a moment then decided that maybe Sesshomaru didn't know what had happened, the haughty lord didn't lie.

"When Father died, Mother didn't have the heart to stay here. We left and went back to her village. She took all her jewelry and fine robes with her. They were hers after all. But Master Jaken came and took them all away from her. That left us with no money and nothing to sell to get any. She did sewing to make enough to keep us fed and a roof over our heads. I planted rice, hauled water, chopped wood, whatever I could do. When she sent to you for money to send me to school, she got a letter back telling her I wasn't worth the trouble. She taught me numbers and a little reading, but she was sick and didn't have the heart for it. So I'm stupid and it's your fault. If you'd sent us the money we were entitled to or even let Mother keep her things ..." Inuyasha trailed off, the look of fury on Sesshomaru's face was surprising.

"Jaken. Come here." Inuyasha almost felt sorry for the little toad. That tone of voice, so calm and reasonable sounding, was a sign of how very angry Sesshomaru was. "Now. Tell me why I never got a single letter requesting anything from Lady Sakura. I'm very interested in your answer. And, Jaken, it would be inadvisable for you to prevaricate even a little." Sesshomaru watched Jaken and just waited.

Jaken babbled and whimpered, saying, "But my lord, he was and is a threat to your rule. He had to be suppressed. Besides, why would you want to support the nasty human woman who replaced your own beloved mother in his lordship's affections?"

Inuyasha snorted at this, snarling, "My mother never wanted to take your mother's place. She wanted one of her own."

Sesshomaru gazed at Inuyasha for a moment, a thoughtful expression on his face, finally saying. "I've never thought of it that way."

Jaken squawked, "My Lord, don't listen to him, that human woman was a usurper of the worst sort. She would have put us both out in a second."

"My mother would have never done such a thing. All she ever wanted to do was love you. You're an ass." Inuyasha was indignant. His mother had been a sweet person and would never have abused Sesshomaru in any way. This was one of the reasons, the main one in fact, that he despised Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru settled in his chair and thought hard, resting his chin on his clasped hands. Something was teasing at the edges of his memory. Something important. He raised his head from his clasped hands, lowered them to the desk top and tapped one finger nail on the polished surface.

"Inuyasha? Would you recognize your mother's writing if you saw it?"

Inuyasha nodded, eyeing the ranks of books and scrolls with misgivings. "Yeah, I would. I can't read it but I'd know it if I saw it. Why?"

"She sent her things to me when she died. Or they were brought here by someone. It doesn't make any difference. I want you to find her box for me. Bring it right back here."

Jaken started to say he'd find it but Sesshomaru just pinned him in place with a cold glare. "You will stay right here. I have some questions to ask you and I don't intend to allow you to dodge them. Inuyasha, you will go now... please."

Inuyasha nodded, the please that Sesshomaru had belatedly added soothed his pride a great deal. "Ok. I'll get one of the other servants to come with me to show me where it should be. I'll be back as soon as I can ... but when I get back, I'd like to know what you're up to."

Sesshomaru nodded regally, saying softly. "When you get back I'll have the beginning of an explanation."

Inuyasha motioned to one of the servants standing in the hall and told him he was supposed to show him the way to the storage rooms and help him find his mothers things. The servant sneered at him and turned away. Unfortunately for him Sesshomaru had thought of this and was standing behind the door.

"Fool! That is my half-brother you are being insolent to. If you want to die just ask, it'll make life so much easier. Go."

The servant groveled and scrambled, Inuyasha nodded to Sesshomaru and followed him. He wondered if Sesshomaru had some nasty trick up his sleeve then decided against it. This was much too elaborate for a practical joke. He wished he could talk to the miko who'd delivered the prophecy.

Inuyasha followed the servant into the first storage room and sniffed, he didn't smell his mother's potpourri. She always tucked little bags of it into every piece of clothing she stored.

"It's not here. Where's the next room?"

The servant didn't argue he just showed Inuyasha to the next room. Inuyasha sniffed again, this time he smelled the potpourri. He even managed to trace it to a small box back in the back.

He checked for anything else and didn't find much, only an even smaller box behind the clothing trunk. He pulled both out and started to pick them up. The servant hurried to grab the larger box, it was more than his life was worth to let Inuyasha carry it and he knew it. Inuyasha just let him.

It didn't take long for Inuyasha to bring the boxes to Sesshomaru, who raised an eyebrow at the sparse possessions.

"Well, she didn't have much when I was pinned to that tree and I know she had even less when she died. I wonder if she ever knew what happened to me?"

Sesshomaru frowned. "I don't even know what happened. I'm sure she didn't either. Why don't you tell me now."

So Inuyasha told Sesshomaru exactly what had happened to him and how he'd spent 50 years pinned to a sacred tree by a miko blessed arrow.

"I see. That answers several questions I've had for years. Did you know that there was a war? A war during which I sent for you?"

Inuyasha shook his head, loosening his braids. "No. I was more unconscious than conscious. I remember flashes of things. Pain, heat, cold, Kagome. When she pulled the arrow out the first thing I had to do was fight. But she ... she was kind to me when everyone else was afraid and trying to kill me. I was still weak ... she put the necklace on me by Kaede's device. She ... hasn't really used it on me in ages, mostly she just threatens a lot."

Sesshomaru managed to unravel this slightly tangled explanation and nodded to himself. He had his own ideas about Kagome and one of them was that she only 'sat' Inuyasha when he was being particularly obnoxious. Or when he'd pushed her temper to its limits.

"I must apologize to you. When I sent for you, Jaken said you refused to come. I desired your help and when you didn't come, I lost quite a few soldiers. I realize that your absence wasn't your fault. Jaken!" Sesshomaru stopped the toad daemon from slipping out the door. "Stand right there. I'll be asking you for an explanation in a moment. It had better be a good one."

Inuyasha nodded to himself. He'd known that Jaken disliked him, but he hadn't known that he actively hated him. The toad had always sided with Sesshomaru, which was natural as Sesshomaru was his lord. But he hadn't thought the daemon would stab him in the back. Now he knew Sesshomaru had gotten false information from the little creep.

Sesshomaru opened the small trunk and carefully took things out. There wasn't much, only a kimono, obi, underthings, and a few bits of toiletries; brushes, hair pins and such. Underneath it all was a journal. Sesshomaru settled to read it.

It was a sad tale, Lady Sakura wrote to Sesshomaru for things, mostly things to make her life easier. Like food and clothing. To her growing despair, he never answered and when Inuyasha disappeared with no explanation it was the last straw for the poor sad lady. She pined away and died. Sesshomaru had gotten the letter about her death and had seen to it that she was properly cremated and her things were brought back and stored. He shifted the few bits of things with one finger.

"Jaken, this Sesshomaru would like to understand why the Lady Sakura's letters never reached him. Produce them at once."

Jaken couldn't help the shiver, he was in more trouble than he wanted to contemplated. He'd intercepted the letters and just put them in a box never thinking that anyone would ever find out.

"I meant it for the best, my lord. I didn't think you would want to be bothered with that ... I just filed them."

Sesshomaru glanced at Inuyasha who was following this with a blank expression. Sesshomaru wasn't sure what to make of that and it worried him.

"Bring them to me. I will read them all."

Inuyasha fidgeted for a moment then asked, "What's going on? What did that little toad do?"

Sesshomaru shifted carefully in his chair, his stump was aching, although he'd never admit it. "Jaken is an officious little ..." Sesshomaru cleared his throat. "He never liked you or your mother and he has always gone out of his way to protect me from things he thinks will upset me, you being one of them. So ... I believe that he never passed your mother's letters on to me. And I'm very unhappy about it. I never liked you either, but I would have done my duty by you and your mother. She was my father's wife and you are my younger brother. Duty to family is an important aspect of any ruler's life. I'm not pleased, not pleased at all." And with that Sesshomaru clamped his mouth shut and refused to say another word until he'd read the letters.

Inuyasha gave up and declared that he intended to walk in the gardens, if Sesshomaru would have his shackles removed. Sesshomaru nodded absently. "As you will."

Inuyasha walked in the garden and thought, he knew that Jaken was an interfering little sneak. He had ideas of Sesshomaru's station that even Sesshomaru couldn't meet. Inuyasha had a suspicion that Jaken was really the one responsible for a lot of his past misfortune.

Inuyasha walked for quite a while, he glanced at the sun once or twice and noticed that it was nearly noon. He looked around and realized that he had no idea where he was. He was still on the grounds of the castle, he was sure of that, but exactly where he was in relation to where he should be wasn't clear. He decided that he'd better be finding his way back or Jaken would tell Sesshomaru that he'd tried to escape. Which he hadn't, he was just, he had to admit it, lost.

He found a gardener and simply asked him to show him the way back to Sesshomaru's office. The daemon gave him one glance and refused. Inuyasha snarled, smacked the daemon and ordered him to do as he was told. "I'm Prince Inuyasha, Lord Sesshomaru's younger brother and you better do what I say. Sesshomaru'll have your head on a plate."

The daemon grumbled but did as he was told. They arrived at Sesshomaru's office just in time to hear him say, "I don't care what you think, Jaken. He gave his word and I trust it more than I trust you. He has probably wandered too far in the gardens and gotten himself lost. Send out soldiers to find him. Give ... no ... I'll do it myself. I don't trust you not to give them the wrong orders and destroy whatever trust we've managed to create between us."

Inuyasha walked into the office and bowed to Sesshomaru. "You're right, I went too far and got lost. This person brought me back here." He turned to the goggling daemon and said, "Thank you for your help." Then more softly. "Even if you didn't want to do it."

Sesshomaru eyed Jaken with more disfavor than he'd ever shown before. "This Sesshomaru would see that one out of sight ... now." Jaken cringed. When Sesshomaru started referring to himself that way he was seriously angry. Jaken scurried out of the room, giving Inuyasha a dirty look as he went.

Inuyasha looked at Sesshomaru for a moment then started to say something. He was distracted by the jingle of his chains. He sighed and extended his hands for the shackles. Sesshomaru looked up from a book he was paging through. "That won't be necessary. I can bind him more effectively than any chain. Can I not, Inuyasha?"

Inuyasha just blinked for a second. "I donno. Maybe."

"Give me your word of honor that you won't escape from me. Swear that you will do all in your power to ensure the survival of daemon kind. I'll tie you with words stronger than any chain."

Inuyasha just nodded and said, "I swear. I have honor and I understand duty. I'm an impatient asshole, and I have a temper on a really short fuse. But I know what I have to do and I'll do it no matter how unpleasant it is. Sesshomaru?"

Sesshomaru bowed to Inuyasha. "You are my blood and I acknowledge you. You are a prince of my house and my only blood relative. I ... apologize for the way you were treated when you were small. It was never my intent that you do without. I just couldn't bear the sight of you. Your mother replaced mine in my father's affections and Jaken convinced me that you wanted to replace me as heir to the seat of my father."

Inuyasha just sighed. "I thought we had this out once before. Mother didn't want your mother's place. She wanted one of her own and she'd have been delighted to love you and care for you. She was a good woman. It hurts me that I wasn't there when she got ill and died. She must have been so hurt." Inuyasha turned his back to hide his upset from Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru just started reading. "I know that Yasha must be in great trouble. He hasn't been to see me in over three months. I'll send out a few letters and see what I can find out. I may not be Lady of the Land but I do have some contacts. They'll help me for My Lord's sake." He flipped a few pages. "Here's the result of her letters. I read ... Inuyasha has gotten himself into trouble beyond my abilities to help. The Miko who imprisoned him has died and her curse can't be broken. I sent to Lord Sesshomaru but, as usual, no answer. I just know that that nasty toad, Jaken is behind this. I'll just have to hope and pray that my dear son is released from his bonds. I wait until the day."

Sesshomaru read Inuyasha several more passages from his mothers journal, each one relating her love for her son and her knowledge that he would be with her if he could. She even contemplated making a journey to see him, but her health failed before she could do anything. The last entry was made by someone else.

"We have sent to Sesshomaru to come to Lady Sakura's side. He has sent to say that he will come as quickly as he may. I do not think he will be in time. She is too frail and too old to last much longer. She will be missed. It is the 84th year of her life."

Sesshomaru closed the journal. "She lived with Lord and Lady Hidio for the last years of her life. They took her in shortly after you ... disappeared. She seemed to be happy, or so they said. She didn't ask for much but they treated her like an elder aunt. ... I'm sorry, truly. Jaken has much to answer for."

Inuyasha just shrugged. "Let him be. He's going to choke on this and serve him right." Inuyasha shocked Sesshomaru to his core by kneeling at his feet. "Brother. Accept my submission. You are my lord, and my master." Inuyasha knelt and put his hand on the floor at Sesshomaru's feet then waited.

Sesshomaru put his foot on Inuyasha's hand, pressing down gently. "I accept your submission. You are my brother, my vassal, and my second. Stand up. Never kneel to anyone but me."

Inuyasha just nodded once. "Keh! What now?"

"Now you will be groomed as you should have been. I will do it myself. Be here tomorrow morning."

Inuyasha just nodded. He returned to his quarters and settled in the window to gaze into the garden and ponder the odd turn his life had taken now.

Inuyasha was awakened the next morning by a human man of indeterminate age. He used a long stick with a padded ball on the end of it to pat Inuyasha on the foot. Inuyasha woke easily and lay on the futon for a moment getting himself together.

He finally sat up, grumbling, "What? Where's breakfast?"

"Here, Lord Inuyasha. I brought you tea, miso, rice and a smoked fish. If that's not sufficient, let me know. I'll bring something else."

Inuyasha got out of bed and knelt in front of the small table the man set out for him. The food was well prepared and pleasantly presented. He was pleased to see that there was plenty of both tea and rice. The miso was rich and contained bits of tofu and mushrooms. He sniffed at the fish suspiciously but it was well smoked and fresh.

"Very well. It looks good. If I want more, who do I call for?"

The man looked startled and a bit scared. "Sasuki is my name. I'll be right outside the door."

Inuyasha nodded, avoiding speaking as his mouth was full of rice. He eyed the fish speculatively but decided that he'd wait until he was done with this before he asked for more.

Sasuki scuttled out, grateful that he hadn't gotten the rough side of the irascible Inu prince's tongue. He knelt in the corridor waiting for Inuyasha to call.

It didn't take long, but Inuyasha just called his name and asked for more rice and another fish. He made it to the kitchens and back in record time. When he reentered the room, he had a message for Inuyasha. Sesshomaru wanted him in the courtyard as soon as he was finished eating.

Inuyasha eyed his food and started to rise. Sasuki shook his head. "Lord Sesshomaru means exactly what he says. Finish your food first." Inuyasha picked up the rice bowl and began to eat again.

Sesshomaru was pacing the courtyard warming up with a practice sword. He turned when he heard Inuyasha enter.

"There you are. Did you enjoy your breakfast? Did you have enough?"

Inuyasha started to make a nasty remark then bit it back. Sesshomaru was looking at him as calmly as usual but there was something in his eyes. Inuyasha decided to take his questions at face value.

"Breakfast was good, especially the fish. And I had plenty, thank you." He fell in beside Sesshomaru and began to pace with him. "What did you want to see me about?"

Sesshomaru regarded Inuyasha for a moment. "You need to begin your training." At Inuyasha's inquiring look he had the good grace to look embarrassed. "The training you should have had when you were young. The training of a prince of the Western lands. We will begin by learning to read."

Inuyasha started to bristle up but a sharp look from Sesshomaru and a soft 'Don't' made him change his mind. Besides, he really wanted to learn.

So Inuyasha began the training he should have had from the beginning. Sesshomaru showed him how to hold a fude properly. "Shodo is not difficult. It's just a matter of practicing. And, while you're impatient to a fault, I'm sure that you realize the importance of practice. Swords or fude, it's the same."

Inuyasha held the fude just as Sesshomaru showed him. He practiced the little flicking movements that made the stroke Sesshomaru had set him to learn. They didn't look anything like what Sesshomaru had written. He snarled in frustration.

Sesshomaru glanced over and raised an eyebrow. "Something wrong?"

Inuyasha grumbled. "I don't get it. It looks so easy when you do it. When I do it, it's crap."

Sesshomaru held out his hand for the fude. "Let me show you again. You're not holding the fude quite correctly. That is very important. If you hold it wrong, the bristles will bend the wrong way and your stroke will be off."

Sesshomaru demonstrated how to hold the fude again. Inuyasha took it back and corrected his grasp. The next strokes looked better. Sesshomaru looked over his shoulder and announced, "Yes, much better. Now all you have to do is make the same stroke several thousand times." Inuyasha frankly gaped at Sesshomaru. "Yes, several thousand. I remember writing that stroke until I thought I'd lose my mind." He managed a faint grimace, meant to be a smile, for Inuyasha. "I don't expect you to go through that. But, if you want to excel, you'll practice diligently. You should accomplish much if you'll practice. Try one hundred times for now."

Inuyasha went back to his practice, grimly determined to finish a hundred repetitions. He managed but just barely. Now he knew why Kagome groaned so loudly when she had to write an essay. Sesshomaru looked up and saw Inuyasha flexing his fingers to try to get some feeling back.

"What's wrong?"

"Fingers cramped up. Feels like ... pins and needles, Kagome calls it."

Sesshomaru called Jaken. The toad daemon scrambled in the door, bowing frantically. He knew he was in disfavor and was anxious to make it up. "Yes, master. What may I do for you, master?"

Sesshomaru motioned to Inuyasha. "Rub his hand."

Jaken yelped, although Inuyasha thought he sounded more like a chicken, and started to argue.

"My lord! He's nothing but a filthy hanyou. A nuisance. An insult to the family. A disgrace to the blood."

Sesshomaru looked up from his contemplation of his talons. His expression was cold. "What did you just say?"

Jaken drove the nail deeper into his coffin. "I did all I could to keep him from soiling your name. And that whore of a mother of his."

Inuyasha stiffened but Sesshomaru beat him to it. "Excuse me?" Jaken whimpered. "I've been asking around amongst the lower courtiers and the servants. No one has anything even remotely unpleasant to say about Lady Sakura. Every single person I spoke to had nothing but glowing praise for her."

Jaken dropped to his knees.

"And I finally found your ... stash. These letters were meant for, and addressed to, me. I'd like an explanation of how they wound up in a box in the trunk file in your office." Sesshomaru tapped one finger on his desk, spoiling the polish with his talon.

Jaken just stared at Sesshomaru and stammered. Inuyasha snarled and started to reach for him.

"Please do not." Inuyasha glared at him. "Do not dirty your hands with his blood." Inuyasha backed down with a small seated bow to his older brother. "Jaken. You will pack one kimono and hakama. You may take the equivalent of one koku of rice. Return to your people and your throne. You are no longer welcome here."

Jaken whimpered, groveled and in general made a nuisance of himself, until the guards dragged him out. They gave him the things Sesshomaru had told him he could have and that his possessions would be sent to him. Then they barred the gates to him with magic and physical force.

Inuyasha turned to Sesshomaru and asked rather quietly, "He kept letters from you? What letters?"

Sesshomaru tapped the pile of letters on his desk. "Every letter she ever sent asking for help, for herself, for you, anything she sent, he hid." Sesshomaru stood up and bowed to Inuyasha. "I'm sorry. I would have helped if I'd gotten the letters. Only because it dishonored my house not to, but I would have. Please excuse me for not being more diligent in my duties."

Inuyasha stood as well. He bowed back. "Thank you for the apology. It would have meant a great deal to me to know that my mother was being taken care of. But ... now who's going to do Jaken's job?"

Sesshomaru sat down easing himself into the chair carefully. As usual when he was exceptionally stressed, his stump ached. He pushed his sleeve back and rubbed at it with his other hand. The wound was raw and oozing again.

Inuyasha eyed the still raw wound and sighed. "Let me see that." He eased to his knees at Sesshomaru's side, feeling no embarrassment or shame. "This isn't healed? Why not? This isn't good."

Sesshomaru gazed at the top of Inuyasha's head. He searched for words then gave up and just explained bluntly. "I have been to the best healers in the daemon world. Since my arm is in father's tomb, it hasn't ... decomposed. It's still there, whole and fresh. My wound won't heal until that arm is destroyed."

Inuyasha looked up at Sesshomaru. "But ... that means that it's still possible to reattach it. Doesn't it?"

Sesshomaru didn't look at Inuyasha. "Yes, it's possible. If the limb is recovered, it could be healed. But I will not ask that of you. The pain will be great." Inuyasha made a rude noise. "I wish to be ... friends with you. Friends don't ask such things of each other."

Inuyasha snorted. "Yes, they do. Or they offer without being asked. How do we do this?"

Sesshomaru started to refuse Inuyasha's offer, then realized that; one, he wanted his arm back and two, Inuyasha had that especially stubborn look that meant he wasn't taking no for an answer.

"Since you're now Prince and Second of the Western Lands. It's up to you to make the arrangements. Besides the fact that it's your eye." Inuyasha gave him a startled look. "Oh, didn't I tell you? Since Jaken was doing your job, now that he's gone, you have to take up the slack."

"I don't know how. I'd do it if I did."

Sesshomaru just nodded. "I know you don't know how. But I am going to teach you. You make your plans as best you know how. I'll go over them with you and help you get them right. Then you'll execute them. See how it goes?"

Inuyasha did. He didn't like it. He didn't have to. If he and Sesshomaru were going to get along together, they both had to bend. Inuyasha realized that Sesshomaru was trying very hard to be a good big brother, just as he was trying to be a good little brother. The titles were ill fitting for both of them, but they were succeeding.

Inuyasha settled onto the futon. It was positioned between four strong rings in the floor. He knew that he'd have to be tied down for the healer to work on him. He was especially touchy about his eyes and they were going to have to cut into his left one to retrieve the black pearl of his father's tomb.

Sesshomaru swept into the room, elegant, cool and commanding. He gazed around and nodded. "Very good, Inuyasha." He turned to the healer. "You do understand that, should there be any permanent damage to Prince Inuyasha's vision, your life is forfeit."

The healer nodded vigorously. "Yes, my lord. I understand perfectly. But, my lord? I don't understand exactly what it is that you're doing. If I did, I might be better able to provided My Lord Inuyasha with proper care."

Sesshomaru nodded at Inuyasha. "What do you want to tell him?"

Inuyasha settled into a lounge on the futon. He picked at the sheet for a moment. "If this goes any farther, I'll hunt you down and play with your guts. Got me?" The healer nodded, eyes wide. "Onii-dono's arm is in father's tomb. You knew that, right?" The healer nodded once again. "The tomb is in a pearl lodged behind my left eye. You have to get it out so that brother can enter the tomb, retrieve his arm and have you reattach it. Then you have to replace the pearl and heal my eye."

The healer sighed softly. All he had to do! He'd been told by the messenger but he'd thought that it was two different operations.

"I'm afraid that I can't do all that at once. I'm not strong enough. I need help." The healer cringed slightly.

Inuyasha just stood up. "Fine. Who do you want? I'll send for them. Good that you admitted it now instead of waiting until it was too late to get them." Sesshomaru raised an eye brow but the healer smiled his relief.

He told Inuyasha that his senior student or sempai was more than capable of attaching Sesshomaru's arm. He was keeping the more delicate task of repairing Inuyasha's eye for himself.

The sempai was duly sent for and arrived very quickly. The healer explained that he'd brought the man with him for companionship on the short journey from their home. The sempai, the healer confided, was also entrusted with carrying all their belongings.

They began again. This time Inuyasha was tied to the rings. At Sesshomaru's insistence, his wrists and ankles were carefully wrapped with strips of fine silk cloth to protect his skin from the possibility of chafing from the ropes. Inuyasha knew it was going to be difficult. He knew it was going to hurt like hell. Sesshomaru knew it too and expressed his gratitude in the only way he knew how.

"If he feels an instant of pain, you'll feel years. Understand?"

Inuyasha snorted. "It's going to hurt no matter what. Just let's get this over with. Ok?"

The healer shook his head at Inuyasha, "It won't hurt, or rather, it will but you won't feel it. This potion will knock you out. Then I'll ..." The healer looked at Inuyasha askance. "Are you sure you want to hear this?"

Inuyasha huffed then snarled, "I'm sure I don't. Just give me the general idea. I don't need the gory details."

"Very well. I'll gain My Lord Sesshomaru access to your father's tomb. He'll retrieve his arm, which my student will reattach. While he's doing that I'll repair your eye. I'll be as careful as I can not to do too much damage in the first place. When you wake up, you'll hardly know anything happened. You might have a bit of blurred vision for a day or two. If it doesn't fade within four ... please don't kill me, my lord ... I'll have to give you a potion to help it heal completely."

Sesshomaru made a disgruntled little noise in his throat then glared at the healer. "I'll only tolerate so much, healer."

"My Lord." The healer bowed from his position sitting beside Inuyasha.

The healer put the vial to Inuyasha's lips and helped him drink it. Sesshomaru watched carefully. Inuyasha drank the potion, which tasted fairly nasty.

"Well, that's awful. Why the hell do those things always taste like shit, or grass?"

Sesshomaru gave Inuyasha a tiny smile and dipped his fingers into his obi, producing a sweet. "I believe you like honeyed Ume? Open your mouth."

Inuyasha rolled his eyes but did as Sesshomaru asked. Sesshomaru popped the sweet into his mouth and settled to wait until Inuyasha was sleeping. Inuyasha sucked on the sweet, relaxing as the bitter taste yielded to the sweet and sour taste of the honey and dried plums. He was asleep before the last of the sweet was gone.

Inuyasha woke to the feeling of being held in two strong arms. The smell told him that it was his brother holding him.

"Ah! Um! Good, you're healed." Inuyasha turned his head to squint at Sesshomaru. "You're a little fuzzy. How ya feelin'?"

"Correct your grammar. And I feel fine. The healer left some eye drops for you. He said the operation was successful in every way, but that you'll probably have blurred vision for a few days. Can you sit up?"

Inuyasha managed to get himself settled cross-legged on the futon. He rubbed his face and started to rub his eyes but Sesshomaru stopped him.

"No. The healer specifically said that you're not to do that. If they itch or burn, you're to use drops."

Inuyasha clenched his fists on his thighs and groaned. "I hate drops. Kagome uses them sometimes, but I can't get them in. I blink."

"I could do it. If you permit?"

Inuyasha sighed. His eyes were itching and burning like crazy. "Please. This is makin' me nuts."

"I have no idea how to go about this. The healer said to dip this bamboo into the fluid, block the end with a finger and then let the liquid out in drops into your eye. But ... that doesn't make sense. How do the drops get in?"

Inuyasha smiled slightly, this was going to be a test of Sesshomaru's sincerity. "I have to lie down. I could put my head in your lap to make it easier."

Sesshomaru nodded once. "Yes, that is eminently sensible. Please, make yourself comfortable."

So Inuyasha lay down and settled himself with his head in Sesshomaru's lap. Sesshomaru tried to drop a drop into Inuyasha's eye, Inuyasha blinked. They tried several times, with no better success.

Finally, Inuyasha apologized for the last time. "Look, sorry. This isn't working. I can't stop myself from blinking. I'm really trying, I swear I am."

Sesshomaru nodded. "I can tell that you are. You always were a trying thing." Inuyasha snorted at this, but without rancor. "Perhaps if I held your eye open with one hand and dropped in the medicine with the other?"

Inuyasha allowed that this might work. So they tried and it worked very well. Inuyasha told Sesshomaru that his eyes felt much better. Sesshomaru announced, in his no nonsense voice, that they would do this every four hours, no arguments. Inuyasha managed to say 'Yes, brother.' without sounding sarcastic.

He found himself still tired and rolled over to go back to sleep. Sesshomaru stood with a rustle of silk brocade and announced, "I have some business to take care of. When you wake, if you feel up to it, come to my office and I'll teach you some more kanji."

Inuyasha sighed, snuggled down in the futon and mumbled, "I'd like that. Thank you."

Inuyasha woke again about dusk. He decided that he wasn't in the mood to try to write with his vision still a bit blurry so he stuck his head into Sesshomaru's office and explained. Sesshomaru just nodded, telling Inuyasha that a walk in the gardens might be a good idea.

Inuyasha agreed with his brother and headed out into the fine inner gardens to feed the koi and generally slack off for the evening. He stopped by the kitchens to get some bread for the koi and was instead given some special food for the beautiful fish.

As he was feeding the koi, Inuyasha gazed at the emerging stars. He felt strangely at peace. He shifted around and dabbled his toes in the pond, idly kicking glimmers of water into the air. He had to laugh when one of the koi nibbled on his toes. He wiggled them and snickered again. It tickled.

Sesshomaru, working on some contracts, raised his head and glanced out the open door. Seeing Inuyasha playing in the water he had to admit that the stubborn, hardheaded hanyou was turning out to be worth every bit of trouble he, Sesshomaru was put to. He smiled at Inuyasha's laughter then went back to work.

Inuyasha got up and wandered on, deeper into the gardens. He smelled the lilies and admired a bright yellow iris. He smiled gently, this strolling garden was one of the few places in the palace that he remembered fondly. His mother used to bring him here to play. He settled next to the small stream that ran through this part of the garden and watched as the last of the stars came out. When the moon rose he decided to go in, but a small noise in the bushes caught his attention. He stiffened, realizing that he was on the borders between the inner more formal gardens and the outer gardens. A place he'd promised he'd tell Sesshomaru before entering. Now he wondered if he should call the guards or go investigate himself.

He had his Tetsusaiga and, while his vision was a bit fuzzy, he was in good shape. He carefully parted the bushes and peered under the weeping maple tree.

"Rin! What the hell? Rin, how did you get here?" Inuyasha crawled in under the tree and gathered Rin into his arms. "Oh, baby girl, what have you done?"

Rin looked terrible. She was dirty and ragged. Her feet were a mess and she looked half starved to death. Her lips were cracked and bleeding. Her hair was full of leaves and thistle thorns.

"I came home. I missed My Lord Sesshomaru. Will you tell him I missed him?"

Inuyasha just stood up with her in his arms. "You tell him yourself. He's in his office. I'm taking you there. Hush."

He made it to the open terrace doors in three bounds.

Sesshomaru looked up from his work and started to glare at Inuyasha who just snarled, "Here's Rin. She's a mess. Come on."

Sesshomaru stood up with a dismayed expression in his eyes. Inuyasha wondered for a second if he ever showed expression then decided to worry about that later.

"Where are her quarters? Take us there."

Sesshomaru strode out the door calling for servants, the healer and a hot bath. Inuyasha followed him, carrying Rin gently.

As they went Sesshomaru demanded the story from Inuyasha. He explained what he knew and told Sesshomaru that he was convinced that Rin had walked all the way from wherever she'd been because she missed 'your cold ass.' Sesshomaru just snarled at him. But it was half hearted at best.

Inuyasha stormed into the bath room and started stripping Rin out of her filthy kimono. It was of excellent quality but ruined by dirt and tears. Sesshomaru started to object but silenced himself when he saw how gentle Inuyasha was being. He called servants to attend to Rin and stepped back to supervise. He'd never cared for Rin himself. He was afraid that he'd inadvertently scratch her. Since his talons were poisonous to humans, this wasn't a good idea.

The servants scrambled around filling the tub, helping Inuyasha undress Rin and in general looking helpful and getting in the way. Inuyasha finally ran all but two out. The two remaining were told to stand at the side of the room until something was wanted.

Inuyasha efficiently stripped the under kimono off and tossed it to the floor. He slid Rin into the tub and motioned to one of the women to come and wash her.

"I'll hold her and you wash. She's slippery as a fish now. Brother, where's that damn healer. And ... damn. I wish my eyes were better. Come look at her feet. What's she done to them?"

Sesshomaru opened the door and demanded the healer then went to look at Rin's feet. "She's blistered and cut them. She must have walked from the temple where I sent her all the way here. But, why?"

Inuyasha snorted in disgust. "Because the silly girl loves you and can't bear to be separated from you. Why the hell didn't you send for her? I told you I'd never hurt her. And now look. Poor kid. She told me to tell you she missed you. And where the flaming hell is that damn healer. I'll have his head on a plate."

"In that case I couldn't help her. What is going on?

Inuyasha eased Rin out of the water, the woman had just calmly gone about her job of washing the girl while the two brothers argued.

The healer had Inuyasha put Rin on her bed so that he could look her over. After his examination he just shrugged off Inuyasha's demands that he give her medicine.

"She doesn't need any. She's worn out, hungry and thirsty. All she needs is rest, food, tea and some salve for her feet. She'll be hopping around like a bird in no time. Now, here." The healer fished out a jar of salve and set it on the floor. He salved Rin's poor feet, wrapped them in bandages and stood up.

"I'll come back tomorrow to care for her again."

Sesshomaru shook his head. "No. I will do it myself. I should have seen that she stayed where she was. Thus it falls to me to do the job myself." Inuyasha gave Sesshomaru a disbelieving look. "Silence, brother. I will do as I will."

The healer had stood by patiently while the brothers talked. When Sesshomaru looked back at him, he just said, "All you need to do is change the bandages twice a day. Wash them first, or have a servant do it. Then put on more salve, bandage them again and keep her off them until I say she can walk again." He gathered up his things, dumped them in his bag and left.

Inuyasha eyed Rin for a moment then turned to Sesshomaru but the look in his brother's eyes as he gazed at the tiny girl shut him up. Instead he found himself comforting him.

"Well, she's a tough little thing. She'll be fine. I'll carry her myself. I know you're afraid you'll scratch her. But, you know? If you wore gloves ... that'd work. You think?"

Sesshomaru turned his gaze from Rin to Inuyasha and replied in a preoccupied manner. "Gloves? Perhaps. Will you stay with her for now? I have to finish that work. I've put it off too long as it is. I don't wish to start a war with the Lord of the Frozen Valleys. I'll return in short order."

Inuyasha nodded. "Sure. I'll stay with her. Wouldn't do for her to wake and there be no one here but servants. Don't hurry. She'll be out for a while. I'll have a servant bring some miso. I can set the pot in the brazier to keep warm until she wakes. She got a favorite food? Something that'll keep. I'll order that too. And tea. The healer said that she's just hungry and thirsty. Go. "

Sesshomaru just nodded and left, issuing orders for food, tea and soup for both Inuyasha and Rin. He settled back at his desk to finish his work as quickly as possible. He wanted to return to check on Rin again.

Sesshomaru slipped into the bed chamber quietly. He had to smile gently, he couldn't help it, Inuyasha had lain down beside Rin on her futon. He was curled around the little girl in such a protective manner that Sesshomaru couldn't believe that he'd ever thought that his little brother might hurt her.

"Inuyasha? Wake up."

"I'm awake. She's all worn out, poor kid. And she's afraid that you'll be mad and send her back again." He stretched then moved a soundly sleeping Rin from his kimono sleeve. "She'll sleep now. She woke up for a bit and I got her to finish most of the soup. She also had some tea and rice. Come on. I need to get to my own bed and so do you. I'll have one of the serving women stay with her."

Sesshomaru shook his head. "No. I'll stay with her. She'll want me as soon as she wakes. Tomorrow, you need to be in my office early. I'm going over the accounts with the cook, the wash mistress and several other people in charge of the details of the daily life of this place. You'll need to be there to learn what needs to be done. This is part of your job as my second and the master of the palace. Please be on time."

Inuyasha just nodded and left. Sesshomaru settled himself to sleep seated on the floor, leaning against the wall where he could see Rin in a shaft of moonlight. If she stirred he'd awaken.

But when Rin woke it wasn't only Sesshomaru she saw. Inuyasha was there too. He gotten up a little early, had his servant put drops in his eye, and braid his hair. He stopped by the kitchen on his way to Rin's chambers. He got breakfast for himself, Sesshomaru and Rin. He knew a servant could do it but somehow he just felt that it was better his way.

Sesshomaru looked up from his doze and gave Inuyasha a small twitch of his lips that passed for a pleased smile. Inuyasha realized that what Rin had told him once was right. Sesshomaru did smile, if you knew what to look for.

"You didn't have to do that. I was going to send for a servant as soon as Rin woke."

Inuyasha simply put the table on the floor beside Sesshomaru and sat on the other side of it.

"I know but it seemed like the thing to do. How's she been."

"She hasn't awakened yet. Should I wake her, do you think? The healer said she would sleep a great deal."

Inuyasha eyed Rin for a moment. "Better wake her. She needs the food. I told the cook to make her favorite tea."

"Good. I'll wake her. You serve her food, please." Inuyasha had to smile. His brother wasn't much for thanking anyone. But he'd been in his face about it and Sesshomaru had troubled to remember.

Sesshomaru shook Rin gently. Rin blinked once and looked around. She smiled at Sesshomaru. "My Lord. I'm home. I'm so happy." she peeked at Sesshomaru. "Are you angry? Please don't be."

Sesshomaru sighed. "I should be. I should be very angry. I find that all I feel is relief. Relief that you are all right. And some anger. Why didn't the school send to tell me that you were missing. I'm going to have that head mistresses head on a platter."

Rin made a face. "Ugh! That's so nasty. I'm sure they wrote to you. I kept hoping and hoping that you'd come find me. I got so tired. ... oh, thank you." Rin turned to thank what she at first thought was a servant. "Master Inuyasha! What are you doing here?" she accepted the small table and set it in front of her futon. She picked up her chopsticks and started to eat.

Inuyasha eyed Sesshomaru for a second then stood up. "You tell her what happened. I'm going to my office and see if I can't find those letters. I bet that nasty little toad kept them too."

So Inuyasha left while Sesshomaru told Rin all about what had happened. When he was done Rin smiled at him. "That's nice. You're going to learn to love Master Inuyasha. You should you know. He is your brother. Brothers are precious treasures. To be loved just because. Please love Inuyasha. He needs it so much."

Sesshomaru just eyed Rin for a moment. "And how did you get to be so wise, so young? Tea?"

Rin held out her cup with a shrug. "Just lucky, I guess. Thank you. And another bowl of rice please. I was always so hungry. Like the bad old days in my village. This is nice again. All the miso, rice and tea I want. And a nice warm bed with clean covers. I bet Inuyasha is just as glad." she sipped at her tea then peeked at Sesshomaru through her bangs.

"Go ahead and ask. You'll give me no peace until you do." Sesshomaru helped himself to some soup.

"How did you get your arm back? And why does Inuyasha have his hair braided. I never saw a youkai with braided hair."

Sesshomaru didn't bother to correct Rin, he'd learned that correcting Rin was a waste of time. Once she decided something she was immovable as a mountain.

"I got my arm from father's tomb in Inuyasha's eye. He was kind enough to allow me to retrieve it. And, as to why he has his hair braided? I'll see to it that he has a more acceptable hair style soon. Now eat your food and drink that tea. Then I'll see to your feet." Rin started to object, but Sesshomaru held up one hand with a bored expression on his face. "And do not be tiresome. I will do as I will do. Accustom yourself to that." Rin wisely settled in to finish her food.

Inuyasha made a thorough search of the office that Sesshomaru had turned over to him and found some interesting things. Things that included the letters to Sesshomaru from the school. And lots of other letters. He wasn't sure who they were from he could only read a little of the addresses. He could read his name and Sesshomaru's and parts of the rest. Kagome had been teaching him to read a little and Sesshomaru was continuing his education so he could read enough to tell that Sesshomaru should have gotten all of them. He snorted then called a scribe into the room.

"Here. Take all these letters and open them. Sort them according to who they are from then who they are about. Understand?" The scribe didn't but he was hesitant to ask questions. "I see you don't. First sort all the letters into piles by who wrote them. Ok?" the scribe blinked at this unknown word but nodded his understanding. "Then sort each pile by who the letters are about. See?"

"Yes, I do. But what if they are about a lot of things?"

Inuyasha bit at his lip, then decided, "Put those on the bottom of the pile. Get started." The scribe gathered up the mess and carried it away.

Inuyasha waited for a bit then called for another scribe. When the daemon came in, he told him to write a letter. The scribe settled down and set up his kit. As he ground his ink and prepared the parchment, Inuyasha collected and organized his thoughts.

"You ready?" the scribe set a piece of scrap rice paper on his desk and looked up. "What's that? Why did you put the parchment aside?" The scribe looked scared for a second until he realized that Inuyasha wasn't angry, just curious and abrupt.

"I don't write the letter directly on the good parchment. I write it out on a piece of cheap paper first. That way I can line out and rearrange things until you're satisfied. Then I write out the clear copy. That way it looks nice. Ready?"

Inuyasha nodded and started to dictate his letter. "Kagome. I hope your math trial went well. I'm not sure what it was but I hope it didn't hurt too much. When you come back to Kaede's village, you won't find me there. I'm with Sesshomaru. There's a prophecy that says if he and I don't get along the daemon world is doomed. The seer is one of the best regarded in the daemon lands and I'm afraid we're stuck with each other. It's not that bad really. He's trying and so am I. He is really mad about the necklace and wants you to take it off. Please do this for me. It's very uncomfortable to know that you could embarrass him at a second's notice."

Inuyasha watched as the scribe finished his notes and examined the results. "How's that? Is it good?"

The scribe just nodded absently. "I'll work on it a bit and then present it for your signature."

Inuyasha nodded. "Fine. I have to meet with some people. Bring the letter after I see ... um ... who's coming? Do you know?"

The scribe shook his head. "No. But I'll send in someone who'll know how to find out. You'll want notes taken?"

Inuyasha nodded, admitting that it sounded like a good idea but just that second Sesshomaru stuck his head in the door.

"Are you coming? I thought I told you to come to my office."

Inuyasha nodded. "You did. But I thought you'd changed your mind when I told you I was going to look for more letters that Jaken had intercepted and you didn't remind me to come there. I'm sorry." Inuyasha's apology made Sesshomaru smirk a bit.

They walked in companionable silence to Sesshomaru's office and settled at their desks. Sesshomaru had instructed that Inuyasha was to have a smaller desk in his office until he was capable of taking care of business by himself. It was also better for Inuyasha's classes as Sesshomaru could see it easily from his desk.

A soft tap made Sesshomaru snap. "Enter."

A man opened the door, knelt, bowed, closed the door and came to kneel before the desk. Sesshomaru snarled, "Stand up. I can't see you."

Inuyasha snorted and waited to see what came next.

"Well, report." The man turned pale, stammered a bit then thrust a scroll at Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru took the cheap paper and unrolled it silently. He scanned it and snorted. "You're terrified. Why?"

Inuyasha just snorted then told Sesshomaru. "Your glare scared him. What's the scroll say?"

"It's a report of the amounts spent and what for. From the head cook. Why he doesn't come himself is beyond me. He says it's beneath his dignity to wrangle about money."

Inuyasha snorted. "He's just scared to come up. So, will you read it to me?"

Sesshomaru read the scroll in his soft careful manner while Inuyasha sat with his head propped on one fist, ears twitching. When Sesshomaru read him the totals, he raised his head slowly. "That's not right. The total for rice is off by eight koku and six sho. The money amount is right."

Sesshomaru silenced the cook's assistant with a glare. The man had sputtered indignantly when Inuyasha said the totals were off. Sesshomaru added the columns again and announced that Inuyasha was right.

"You held all the amounts in your head and totaled each column? That's proof positive that you're anything but stupid. You remembered all that. You can learn to read and write if you'll just put your mind to it." Sesshomaru corrected the totals and handed the scroll to a scribe. "The laundry mistress is next. Do you see what you're to do?"

Inuyasha shrugged slightly. "I think so. I'm supposed to check what they are using and ... then what?"

"Compare it to what they've been using and find out why they're using more or less than usual. If they are. If they manage to cut costs without affecting the outcome, you praise them. One of the reasons I want you to take over. I don't seem to be able to praise them without convincing them I'm going to eat them."

Inuyasha nodded. "I see. And if they have problems, help them solve them. Right?"

"Exactly. When the laundry mistress comes in, I'm going to let you handle it yourself. She's illiterate so she'll give you a verbal report."

Inuyasha immediately turned to the scribe. "Take notes. Especially record amounts and costs. Send her in."

The wash mistress entered, bowed and just started talking and sweating. She finished her report and bowed again. Inuyasha nodded to her to attract her attention from her toes. She flinched slightly but turned her gaze to his face. He smiled slightly then tapped one talon on his desk.

"You've done quite well. Your expenditure hasn't risen and all your duties are taken care of. As far as I can see, all the laundry is done properly. Would you like for me to come inspect the wash yard? Or would you rather I not?" Inuyasha didn't see anything wrong with his question but Sesshomaru gave him a sharp look. He just shrugged at his brother and waited.

The wash mistress took the time to think about Inuyasha's offer. "I think you'd better not. The girls are all silly and you'd either scare them half to death or have them falling all over themselves trying to attract your attention. Or a little of both. If I need you to come in, I'll ask you ... if that's acceptable, I mean."

Inuyasha glanced at Sesshomaru, who gave a tiny nod. "I'll stay away then, unless you call for me. Is there anything else?" the wash mistress shook her head, bowed and left. "Well that went well. Now what?"

"Weapons master and head of the palace guard."

Inuyasha winced, he remembered both of them from his early days in the palace and his beating. He wanted to snarl at them both but remembered something Kagome had said. She'd said, 'Smile and make them wonder what you're up to. It'll keep people off balance.' He couldn't remember why she'd told him that but it was good advice.

The two daemons came in and stood at attention before Sesshomaru's desk. Inuyasha suddenly realized that they now reported to him. This was going to be interesting.

Sesshomaru just pointed to Inuyasha when the weapons master started to give his report. The daemon warrior turned pale when he saw who he had to report to. Inuyasha gave him a small smile and a dignified nod of his head. Sesshomaru was impressed, little knowing that Inuyasha had copied the gesture from him. The weapons master started to sweat.

"You have a report to make, I believe." Inuyasha couldn't help but lay his ears back a bit. The weapons master gathered his wits and made his report. He also handed a scroll to the scribe. "Well, sounds like you've got everything under control. I'll just emphasize that Jaken isn't welcome back under any circumstances. You got me?"

The weapons master allowed that he did and turned to the captain of the guard. "I told you he wasn't. Little bastard." The weapons master the left to go back to training his new recruits. The Captain sighed and began his own report.

Inuyasha's ears flicked back and forth, laying back and pricking up. He finally snarled, "What is it you're not telling me? Don't hold back."

The youkai snarled but refused to say another word, looking instead to Sesshomaru, for what he wasn't sure.

"My brother holds house now. You report to him. If there's some problem, repair it,now." Sesshomaru stood up, tossed his fur stole across his shoulder and walked out.

Inuyasha laid his ears flat and snarled. "Well, that's torn it." He turned to the Captain and snapped. "You got a problem? Get over it. Now. I don't intend to upset the status quo, but if you start it, I'll finish it. And don't think I can't. I know more about dirty fighting than you do and I've held my own against fifty strong daemons at one time. I killed the centipede queen. You want a full run down of all I've done. We'll be here for days." Inuyasha had been stalking around the captain as he talked sniffing occasionally. "You got two choices, or three, get over it, fight it out, or leave. Don't think you'll really consider the third choice. So, what's it gonna be?"

The captain stood and thought about it for a moment, considering all he knew about the relationship between Inuyasha and Sesshomaru. "Can I ask a question?"

"Sure. Go for it."

"That prophecy, that for real?"

"Not takin' a chance on it. Brother and I will get along if it kills us both. Seems we're findin' our way."

"I see. Can I get a second chance?"

Inuyasha returned to his desk. "Good morning, captain. How are you today?"

The captain bowed. "Good morning. I'm fine. How are you?"

They concluded the pleasantries with offer and acceptance of tea. The captain made his report, with the scribe making notes, then he listened as Inuyasha asked intelligent questions made a suggestion and then dismissed him. He left with a much lighter heart and a better impression of Inuyasha.

Sesshomaru looked up from the game of Go he was playing with Rin. She smiled at Inuyasha and went back to considering her next move.

"Well, little brother, how did it go?"

"Not too bad, after I batted his ears down. He's a good soldier. He's worried about the Northern Province, they're planning some kind of uprising. We might need to take a personal look."

Sesshomaru squirmed, in a subdued and polite way. "Inuyasha, I might have ... a-hem." Sesshomaru cleared his throat again and glanced at Inuyasha.

"Ok, I'm not gonna like this, am I? Just spit it out."

"We are going to have to make a progression. To introduce you to the people. And you're not going to like how it's made."

"You do it?"

Sesshomaru raised one eyebrow. "Of course I did."

Inuyasha just shrugged. "If you did it in your day. I'll do it. Not like I have to like it. Right?"

Sesshomaru stood up. "I'll make it as easy as I can on you. We'll workout every day and I'll continue your lessons as well. Rin will come. I have a scroll." Sesshomaru stopped speaking as he realized that Inuyasha couldn't read it. "I'll read it to you."

Inuyasha furrowed his brow in thought. "I'll set down and ... no, we'll sit down and read it together. I'll read what I can and you can help me with the rest. I need the practice."

Sesshomaru ducked his head. Inuyasha was really trying to get along. It seemed that his younger brother was turning out to be much more cooperative than he'd expected. It made a warm spot right below his breast bone. Very strange.

So they settled together on side by side zabuton's and bent their heads over the scroll. Inuyasha struggled from the first but gamely pushed on until Sesshomaru took pity on him and read him the scroll, telling him he'd find something easier for him to read later.

As Sesshomaru read, Inuyasha growled, louder and louder. He finally burst out. "You mean to tell me that father actually did that? To you? And you let him? Are you nuts?"

Sesshomaru blinked once. "Yes. It's tradition over twenty generations old. Father was much kinder to me than his father was to him. I'm sorry but you must do this. I'll be careful not to humiliate you. I swear it. Please don't fight me over this."

Inuyasha sighed. "Ok, but I swear, if you pull one stunt, I'll gut you. Got me?"

Sesshomaru nodded gravely. "Yes. If I violate your trust, I'll deserve whatever you do. I'll have a care to my baby brother, I swear it." All Inuyasha could do was snort.

"How long is the procession supposed to last?"

"I'll only take you to the four principle towns. I don't intend to parade you through every three hut village in the Western lands. And you won't have to endure traveling 'in honor' as I did. Most annoying. The actual honor parade will be from one end of the town to the other. You'll be presented to the people and expected to kowtow to me. Can you do this?"

Inuyasha appreciated the question and nodded, instead of losing his temper. "Yeah, I can do it. You had to travel that way? Damn, the old man was a rough customer."

"I endured."

"Still. Glad I don't have to. When are we leaving?"

Sesshomaru stood up. "As soon as Rin is able. I'll not leave the silly girl again. She'll just follow and re-injure herself. I'm going to see her now. Will you come also?"

"Yeah. I'll tag along. She like peaches? They're in season now. I'm going to get some."

Sesshomaru smirked at Inuyasha. "Have a servant bring some. I like peaches, as does Rin."

Inuyasha caught one of the serving women and asked her to bring peaches and honey to Rin's quarters.

Inuyasha took a peach and dropped it into the boiling water, he immediately dipped it back out and put it into a bowl of fresh well water and ice. He enjoyed the ice very much. He was looking forward to helping cut it from the nearby lake next winter. He took the peach out of the ice water and laid it aside on a clean cloth. He treated two more peaches the same way.

Sesshomaru watched as Inuyasha fished in his sleeve for a small personal knife. It was old and very well worn, in fact, it was so worn as to be little more than a thread. Sesshomaru smiled a bit. Inuyasha had been so poor that he had literally no more than he could carry on him. That was going to change.

"Here, use mine. That one should be retired. Did your mother give it to you?"

"Yeah, it's just about all I've got left. Thanks." Inuyasha took the knife Sesshomaru offered and peeled the peaches with quick efficient motions. He sliced each peach into neat slices and placed them in bowls, pouring honey over each. "There. Rin, for you. Brother." Inuyasha handed out the fruit.

Sesshomaru took his with a slight bow. Rin smiled happily and accepted her peach with both hands. "Thank you so much. Master Inuyasha?"

"Yes, Rin. I know you have a question. You have that look in your eye. Go ahead and ask."

"Thank you. How did My Lord Sesshomaru get his arm back? It was in your eye. So ..."

Inuyasha forestalled one of Rin's long speeches by shrugging and saying, "He just went to the tomb and got it. And that's all I'm tellin' ya. It's not a story for someone your age." Rin subsided when Sesshomaru shook his head at her. Inuyasha was beginning to speak better, but his accent came back when he was upset.

"Yes, Lady Rin. Not a story for your ears. Just be glad I have it back and leave it at that."

Rin considered this for a moment then smiled at Sesshomaru. "As you wish, my lord. But I do want to say..." Rin turned to Inuyasha and kowtowed gracefully. "Thank you so much for giving My Lord back his arm. It was very kind of you."

Inuyasha squirmed uncomfortably and snorted, grumbling, "Eat your peach girl, before it turns brown."

Rin wriggled on her zabuton, getting comfortable. "Thank you. That trick with the water made it so easy to peal. Who taught you that?"

"Kagome's mother. She's a very nice woman."

Sesshomaru nibbled at his peach and thought about Kagome and the necklace that bound Inuyasha.

Inuyasha and Sesshomaru spent the next week preparing for the procession. They also worked out together, both with swords and without. Sesshomaru wore gloves so that he wouldn't scratch Inuyasha accidentally and Inuyasha insisted on doing the same, announcing, "Well, don't argue with me. I don't want to scratch you either. Fair is fair."

Sesshomaru also made the effort to wear gloves when he visited Rin. She didn't like them at first, but Sesshomaru made sure to pat her hand or touch her hair when he was there. He wasn't up to much more yet, but he found that the small shows of his affection made Rin so happy that he was encouraged to try more later.

Rin turned out to be quite a cheerleader when they worked out. She cheered impartially, whoever got in the best hit was encouraged. The 'loser' was told, 'that's all right, you'll do better next time.' Inuyasha nearly laughed himself silly when she patted Sesshomaru on the shoulder and told him that she was sure he'd do better when he got used to two arms again. Sesshomaru's sour expression was carefully hidden in a towel.

Rin also enjoyed the privilege of sitting on Sesshomaru's lap for reading lessons, which Inuyasha shared with her. They enjoyed reading together. Rin knew a bit more than Inuyasha did at first but he proved that he was anything but stupid by catching up to her in two days and learning twice the kanji she did each day. Sesshomaru cautioned him about working too hard but he insisted, saying, "I'm not stupid I can do this. I'm tired of being ignorant. I want to learn as fast as I can. What if I need to read something and there's no one I can trust to read it to me?"

Sesshomaru bowed slightly at this and said in his pedantic way, "As you will. I do, however, reserve the right to put a halt to your studies if you overdo it too much. I won't have you going blind or ruining your health. Now, here are the kanji for today. And no, Rin, you may not try to keep up with Inuyasha. You don't need to." Rin started to pout but Sesshomaru put a stop to it at once. "Do you wish to work from the scribe's desk?" Rin shook her head vigorously. "I thought not. Sit in your chair and make your ink."

Rin settled into the chair provided for her and started to make her ink. This required the use of an ink stone, a simple slab of slate with a shallow impression in it. The ink was a solid stick of compressed pine soot and a binder. Rin dropped a few drops of water into it using her fude as a dropper. She picked up her ink stick and began to rub it over the stone, the tip of her tongue poking out of the corner of her mouth.

Inuyasha also began to make ink. He smiled at Sesshomaru as he took his ink stone out of the writing box. It was pure dark grey slate, carefully finished just so. His ink stick was of the very best quality and ground into an ink of such quality that Inuyasha felt a bit guilty using it for practice. Sesshomaru had haughtily announced that his brother only used the best quality materials, no matter what he was doing. Inuyasha decided not to argue with him. Besides, the ink was beautiful, flowed smoothly and made writing a pleasure, instead of a chore.

Inuyasha finished grinding his ink and dipped his fude into it. He made the first line of the character he was learning and examined it carefully. Sesshomaru clicked his tongue. "Don't do that. You have to not think about it."

Inuyasha eyed his brother for a moment. "Not think? What the hell does that mean? I don't understand."

Sesshomaru came to stand behind Inuyasha, a thing he would never have allowed two months ago, and took his fude from him. "Here. Let me show you." He dipped the fude into the ink. "Excellent ink, by the way, very smooth. Now,I clear my mind of all but an image of what I want to write and ..." The fude danced over the smooth rice paper leaving a snail trail of glistening black. "See?"

Inuyasha nodded. "Yeah, I see. Neat trick. Just not that easy."

"Did I say it was easy? Simple and easy are not always the same thing."

"No shit."

Sesshomaru smacked Inuyasha on the back of the head, none too gently. "Language, please. I do not desire Rin to acquire your vocabulary."

Rin blinked for a second then remarked in a bland tone of voice. "I don't need Inuyasha's damned example to learn the hell how to fucking cuss. Thank you so much."

Inuyasha nearly had a heart attack but Sesshomaru turned to Rin and said in a tone of voice that nearly froze them all. "Excuse me? I do not believe you just said that. You will never allow language such as that to pass your lips again. Do. You. Understand?"

Rin raised clear brown eyes to Sesshomaru's cold blue ones. "Certainly, my lord." She returned to her work so calmly that both brothers weren't really sure that it had happened at all.

Inuyasha also returned to his work, muttering, "Well, hell. That's sure a hit in the head." Sesshomaru opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it and returned to his seat to work on some petitions.

The next month saw an increase in Inuyasha's duties as he learned each task. He spent more time in his office and less wandering around with nothing to do. He over saw the daily running of the castle and home farm now, and found that he enjoyed the work. The people he dealt with found him abrupt but willing to listen. He didn't put up with foolishness any better than Sesshomaru did but he listened better when they offered explanations. And his dressing downs didn't usually include a whipping.

Sesshomaru was not only pleased but surprised with Inuyasha's progress in reading and writing. He now realized that what he'd always seen as stupidity had really been lack of education. He tried to make up by showering Inuyasha with books and scrolls. Inuyasha licked it up like honey, basking in his brother's obvious approval.

An approval that was evinced by his gesture of making sure Inuyasha attended court and his obvious displeasure if any visitor had the temerity to sneer at him.

Inuyasha eyed the plate he was offered and nodded at the servant. "It's fine." He picked up his chop sticks and settled to eat. This had been one of his hardest lessons, eating at a banquet was quite different from eating en famille. Sesshomaru had insisted that they dine as formally as possible at least once a week until Inuyasha could wend his way through the intricacies of dining without a fault. Sesshomaru accepted his plate as well.

Each person was given a plate of beautifully arranged bites of different foods, a bowl, rice in another bowl as well as small saucers of condiments. There were all sorts of rules about how to eat everything, as well as rules about the different courses. Inuyasha ate with a studied ease that made Sesshomaru quirk his lips at him. He smiled back.

When Sesshomaru stood up to signal the end of the meal, Inuyasha stood too. He took his place behind and to the right of Sesshomaru. This put both of them in a position to draw their swords at a moment's notice and a simple pivot would have them back to back, ready for anything. Needless to say, everyone at the banquet noticed this. Sesshomaru smirked slightly at the minor lord in charge of the mountainous area that was threatening to cause trouble for him.

"We're having a rice planting tomorrow. Will you join us?"

Inuyasha noticed that the lord looked very uncomfortable. Why a rice planting would discomfort the daemon lordling so was beyond him. He turned to Sesshomaru to ask, "You going to actually plant or is that one of the duties I have?" He turned to the troublemaker. "I'm sorry. I can be somewhat ignorant. Will you plant with us? Please excuse me if I've been impertinent." The daemon bit at his lip, glanced at Sesshomaru who chose to look amused.

"I ... we don't have rice in my area. We import it. I don't think we'll join you." He bowed to Sesshomaru. "My lord." He started to turn away, but Sesshomaru gave Inuyasha a pointed look. The lordling gave Inuyasha a grudging nod. Inuyasha gave him a bow proper to his station. Since Inuyasha's status was just below Sesshomaru's, it was barely more than a nod.

As he walked away, he was heard to ask, "And he wears his hair like a slave because ... why?"

Sesshomaru stiffened. Inuyasha noticed of course but declined to say anything.

Sesshomaru turned at the door of Inuyasha's quarters. "Brother, I must ask. Why do you still wear your hair braided? I find it ... upsetting."

Inuyasha led Sesshomaru into his bed chamber. Shedding his kimono he stretched his shoulders, cramped from so much bowing, and sighed. "That's better. As to my hair? I donno. I just ... well, you never said not."

Sesshomaru sighed. "Again my taciturnity has led us to misunderstanding. Come here." Sesshomaru settled himself on Inuyasha's futon. Inuyasha joined him with a puzzled expression on his face.

Sesshomaru clapped his hands causing Inuyasha to smirk at him, just a bit. A serving woman scurried in and Sesshomaru asked for a hair brush. Inuyasha snickered and pointed out that his brush was on the dresser behind him. Sesshomaru merely remarked that his brother didn't do the work of a servant, if he, Sesshomaru wanted a brush it was the woman's duty and pleasure to get it. Inuyasha just thanked the woman, dismissed her and handed the brush to his brother who thanked him and told him to kneel in front of him.

Inuyasha did as he was told and settled comfortably. Sesshomaru untied the string at the nap of Inuyasha's neck and started unraveling his braids.

Inuyasha's hair was a silver white and as fine as a baby's. It was thick and smooth. Sesshomaru ran his fingers through it and smoothed it down carefully. Then he began to brush it. Inuyasha sighed softly. "No one's brushed my hair for me since mother got sick. It really feels good. I'll give you about a year to stop."

Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow even though Inuyasha couldn't see it. "A year? I'm not ... oh, another of those sayings that Kagome has."

"Yeah,Just means it really feels good." Inuyasha relaxed and enjoyed his pampering. Sesshomaru brushed and brushed. He finally gathered Inuyasha hair in one hand and used the other to tie it back in a loose tail with one of the cords he'd removed.

"There. If you tie it back at night, it won't be tangled in the morning. I've never seen your hair look so nice. Why didn't you comb it every day?"

"I used to. Mother insisted and I did feel better if tangles weren't tugging at my scalp. But I finally wore my comb out. I never managed to get another. So ... and the servants here are all scared of me since I ... well, you know. And I feel really bad about that, is she better now?"

"Yes, she's fine but she is one of Rin's women so I sent her back. I'll see to it that you have servants of your own. I should have done that long ago. I'm sorry."

Inuyasha fell over on his side and kicked his feet, making strangling noises. Sesshomaru just swatted at him irritably. "What is wrong with you?"

"World is commin' to an end." Inuyasha peeked at Sesshomaru through his eyelashes. His puzzled expression everything he could have wanted. "You apologized."

Sesshomaru snorted. "Stop that. I apologize." Inuyasha gave him a look. "I do. Don't I?"

"No. You usually just ignore the insult until it goes away."

"Humph. I think I'll do exactly that right now. Time for sleep. Good night, little brother."

Inuyasha bowed from a seated position and wished his brother a good night.

The next morning was interesting to Sesshomaru. Jaken had always taken care of the ritual rice planting. Now that he was gone, it was up to Inuyasha to do it. Sesshomaru realized that he'd never actually gone to one. His father had taken great pleasure in it and when it had been Sesshomaru's time, Jaken had already ingratiated himself enough that Sesshomaru had never thought about the custom.

Now he was somewhat reluctantly involved in the 'First Field Planting' a ceremony to ensure the fertility of the rice fields. The field was plowed by an old man, with a plow pulled by young girls. They giggled and he laughed. The field had been thoroughly plowed the day before, this plowing was symbolic. After the girls floundered out of the flooded field and helped the old man out, Inuyasha took up a bundle of the rice seedlings. He held it up over his head and called out, "Time to plant. Come on. Let's go." He started out into the field with the bundle in his hand. A man came to take it from him but he shook his head. "We all plant. Except brother. He'll plant it wrong side to."

All the villagers stared as Inuyasha skinned out of his kimono and under kimono. He waded out into the field in nothing but his hakama which he had used an extra obi to pull the legs up to mid thigh. He immediately began planting the rice seedlings with an expert hand. Others hurried to join him.

Sesshomaru watched for a while and realized that Inuyasha was very good at this. He also remembered him saying that he'd done it every year to help support his mother. Sesshomaru shook his head making his hair swing across his back. He was really considering finding Jaken and taking some vengeance on the 'nasty little toad'.

The day went quickly because while Inuyasha planted rice and listened to the complaints of the home farm villagers, Sesshomaru held 'small court' He felt that it was worth his trouble when he found out that Jaken hadn't done it in more than fifty years. He vowed to check to see what else Jaken had slacked on.

Sesshomaru sent a servant to call Inuyasha. It was almost dusk and he was hungry, he wanted to go home. Inuyasha walked up with his kimonos slung over his shoulder. He was filthy as only someone who'd been planting rice in a flooded paddy could be. His hakama were smeared with mud, as were his feet, face, and hands. The rest of him was sweaty.

"You look like a slave. Are you well?"

Inuyasha shrugged. "I'm tired as all hell. But a good bath, a meal and some sleep and I'll be fine."

"That is good. But you look ... I hesitate to say sad but that is how you seem."

Inuyasha shrugged. "I miss my friends. Last year it was all of us in Kaede's village. Sango spent half her time smacking Miroku for mauling her. And Kagome and Shippo both fell and got covered with muck. Kaede was laughing so hard she nearly fell. It was a good time." Noticing the look on Sesshomaru's face Inuyasha sighed. "Not that I didn't have a good time here, it's just different when good friends are around."

"I do understand. I envy you them. But I thought you didn't like Kagome much. She keeps you chained with that foul necklace." Sesshomaru eyed Inuyasha out of the corner of his eye.

"I hate the necklace and the fact that she sometimes loses her temper and sits me too many times. But I love her. She's the best thing to happen to me in a long time. Until you came and ... gave me a real home." Inuyasha shrugged again, shrugging off irritation and sadness. "Come on. I'm hungry and I want a bath. I stink."

Sesshomaru let it drop for the moment but made a mental note to have some things investigated. He had some ideas he wanted to check out.

It was several days before Sesshomaru got his information but it pleased him very much. All Inuyasha's friends were frantic. They'd looked for him everywhere they could think of. Sesshomaru took great delight in informing them that Inuyasha was fine, in his care and they could see him after the progression. He also asked Kaede to remove Inuyasha's confining necklace. She'd politely sent a letter stating that she'd be glad to but that she couldn't. Kagome was the only one who could.

Sesshomaru immediately sent a letter to Kagome asking her to meet him at her convenience but suggesting that viewing their progression would be convenient.

He was going to put an end to Inuyasha's pain. He was well aware that the necklace chaffed him, not physically but mentally and emotionally. He played with it from time to time and Sesshomaru had asked him. Inuyasha had explained that it reminded him of unpleasant things, including the fact that Kagome didn't trust him. And that he missed his friends. Sesshomaru intended to remedy the situation, using the procession to do so.

"Tell me, little brother, do you trust me now?" Sesshomaru handed Inuyasha a bowl of honeyed nuts, one of his favorite treats.

"Sure do. You've had opportunities galore to have me whipped and just given me a dirty look. And I've made plenty of mistakes learning to run the household. All you've ever done is shake your head. So yeah, I do trust you. Why?"

Sesshomaru picked up the hair brush to begin their nightly routine of brushing each other's hair. "Do you love Kagome for herself or because she looks like Kikio?"

"She's Kikio reincarnated. I don't understand it at all but that's what Miroku and Kaede say. And yes, I love her for herself. I just wish she loved me back. But never mind that."

"I do mind. I have it on the best authority possible that she loves you back."

Inuyasha snorted. "Sure. Who?"

"Kaede. She'd know if anyone would. Don't you think?"

Inuyasha blinked at the wall for a moment then just gave in. He'd learned that Sesshomaru cared for him a great deal more than he was capable of showing. He was also well aware that he had learned to love his stubborn older brother. He leaned into his brother's shoulder while Sesshomaru brushed his bangs and side locks.

"Yeah, I guess she would. So what's up with Kagome. She treats me awful sometimes. I don't understand."

"Kaede says that she's afraid to admit that she loves you. Why, I'm not sure. I don't understand the vagaries of women. Of any species. But if you love her, I'll see what I can do. With your permission, of course."

Sesshomaru braided Inuyasha's hair loosely for the night. And exchanged places with him. Inuyasha accepted the brush from him and began his task. "Sure. Have at it. If nothing else, I'll know that she's not going to come around. And, foolish as it is, I'd really like to get rid if this damn necklace. What if someone else figures out how to activate it? That'd be just so much fun."

Sesshomaru nodded his head, earning himself a smack on the arm and a growled. "Be still."

"Sorry. But I believe the proper response to that particular sarcasm is ... not. I want that off for exactly that reason. And that it's humiliating for a prince of the Western Lands to be ... cursed, controlled by magic, and I'm going to fix this for you. It's my duty."

Inuyasha shuddered a bit. When Sesshomaru said that, he'd move the moon with a chopstick as the saying went. "As you wish, brother mine. All I ask is that you hide the bodies well."

"I don't need to hide them. I'm Sesshomaru, Lord of the Western Lands. And you are my brother. Leave things to me."

Inuyasha braided Sesshomaru's hair, put his brush away and wished his brother good night. Then proceeded to spend the night worrying about what his rather bloody minded brother had come up with. He didn't have long to worry.

Inuyasha settled at the table for breakfast the next day looking a little the worse for wear.

"Good morning, Inuyasha. Didn't you sleep well?"

"No. What are you planning to do?"

Sesshomaru handed Inuyasha a cup of tea. "Not much. We'll start the progression in three days. Can you be ready? That means, you make all the arrangements for our journey."

Inuyasha took the tea cup, sipped at the tea then nodded. "I may need a little help with the details. But I can plan a trip. Itinerary? And how formal do you want it to be?"

Sesshomaru dished up rice, poured soup, then placed a fish on top of Inuyasha's rice and drenched it in sauce. "Full formal progression. At least three hundred guardsmen. We won't need many servants as the guardsmen are also trained to serve. If you want to bring any of your personal servants, tell them today. If you take my advice, allow them to stay home. They could use the vacation. Rin has decided that she won't come. I gather that she has realized that it will be extremely boring. She'll go to the temple and continue her education in deportment instead."

"Ok. If guardsmen are all right with you, I'm sure I can manage." Inuyasha nibbled at his fish, casting an amused look in Sesshomaru's direction. Sesshomaru just smirked at him over the rim of his cup. "I'm glad Rin decided not to come. I know you dote on her and so do I. She really could use the education though. And she really would be bored to death. I'll start making plans now and have a preliminary report for you this afternoon. If that's acceptable?"

Sesshomaru just bowed slightly and changed the subject to a review of their last work out. Inuyasha listened carefully and ate his breakfast.

When they finished breakfast they went to their offices and went to work. Inuyasha still had lessons to do, so he did those first. Sesshomaru had been surprised to find that Inuyasha wasn't the least bit embarrassed to ask a common scribe for help when he needed and even forbad them to do his work for him. So Inuyasha settled at his desk to write out his lesson for the day. His one concession to the scribe was to allow the monkey daemon to make his ink and set up his supplies.

So Inuyasha did his lessons then settled in to make notes for the preparations for their journey. He thought, wrote, paced and worried. He knew that Sesshomaru had gone through almost the same thing when their father had taken him on his progression. But Sesshomaru had stayed chained the entire time. Inuyasha was disgusted by that and more than a little relieved that his Onii-sama wasn't going to insist he do the same. It seemed that they both had learned a great deal about the other. He couldn't believe that they'd made such progress in only a few months.

Inuyasha finished his notes and sent them to Sesshomaru. It wasn't long before they were back with a few changes, very few and the instructions that they would leave as soon as Inuyasha implemented his plans. Inuyasha sent a short note that they would be leaving at the end of the week.

Sesshomaru immediately sent a letter to Kaede with their itinerary, asking if she could get the entire group he referred to as the Inuyasha-gumi to the first city on the list.

Kagome nibbled on the rice ball Shippo had brought her. She wasn't sure why they were here, she was worried about Inuyasha. Kaede had said she had word of him and that they should come see the progression of Sesshomaru and his new second on their way to find him. All she wanted to do was find him and sit him silly for scaring her so much.

Miroku walked up behind Sango and started to grope her, she smacked him and told him to stop. Then they heard it, the sound of marching feet. A full honor guard was approaching them, fifty daemons before a sun shade carried by eight daemons under which walked Sesshomaru and Inuyasha, they were followed by fifty more soldiers. All the group could do was gape at the show.

Sesshomaru mounted a platform situated on this side of the town, with Inuyasha following meekly. Sesshomaru pointed to a spot beside him.

Inuyasha stood where Sesshomaru pointed, he was wearing a collar around his neck which was attached to a leash that Sesshomaru held. Another chain went from the collar to his hands his hands were shackled together the cuffs around his wrists engraved with leaves and flowers. The chain around his waist restricted his movement even more as the cuffs were attached to it by eight inches of chain. The bands around his ankles were also engraved but they were heavier and wider than the ones on his wrists. The chain that dropped from his waist to the middle of the chain between his ankles wasn't necessary but it was very pretty, glittering in the sun light

But the most humiliating thing of all was the muzzle. It looked like a ninjas dust mask but it locked behind his head. It was also prettily engraved with scrolling lines.

Sesshomaru tugged on the leash gently

"Hey! Watch it, Onii-sama. You'll trip me." Inuyasha's voice was muffled by the muzzle. "This had better work or I'm going to get you back."

"Oh, it'll work. If you can keep your mouth shut. No outbursts, no matter what. Remember!" Sesshomaru kept a bit of tension on the leash. He was to lead Inuyasha from one end of the main street to the other. Custom or no, Sesshomaru intended to make this as easy on Inuyasha as he could, after he'd impressed Kagome with the fact that one chain was as bitter as another. "We'll walk slowly. One, to make sure that everyone sees that you are properly submissive to me. And two, so that you don't trip. I do not want you injured. Now be good."

Inuyasha snorted. "Be good? Onii-dono, how the hell could I be anything else?"

Sesshomaru just laughed lightly. "Knowing you, you'd find a way if you really wished to."

Inuyasha sighed. He was already tired and the day was only just begun. Sesshomaru had decided to travel to the city then set up camp just outside the city. He'd summoned the city fathers and made his demands. Inuyasha had winced but given up when the men and daemons just groveled and chorused 'Yes, my lord' then scurried away to build the three platforms that Sesshomaru wanted. They would stand here for a while to wait until people gathered then Sesshomaru would present Inuyasha, demand his submission which Inuyasha had promised to perform as gracefully and ungrudgingly as he could. They would then move on to the next platform in the middle of the town square, do the same thing again and move on to the third platform. Inuyasha was hoping to be done by night fall. He didn't think Kagome would be here. Kaede would come and Shippo, Miroku and Sango, maybe.

Sesshomaru noted the sigh and turned his gaze to the crowd and quite a crowd it was. He counted heads quickly and realized that most of the town had crammed themselves onto this semi open field. Inuyasha's presentation this morning might as well be his last. But Sesshomaru knew he'd have to do one more in the center of town. The city fathers would be waiting there, per his orders.

Sesshomaru's address to the population was notable only by its total soporificness. Inuyasha nearly fell asleep on his feet. Sesshomaru concluded his speech with a soft, "Brother, it's time." Inuyasha knelt at Sesshomaru's feet and kowtowed, a bit awkwardly because of the chains, knocking his forehead on the small pillow in front of his toes. He staggered a bit as he stood up and Sesshomaru reached out to steady him, hissing softly. "Be careful, baka."

The Inuyasha gumi all just stood and gapped as Sesshomaru droned on and on. Kaede glanced over Inuyasha, realized that he was in better shape than she'd ever seen him and settled back to watch the show. And a show it was.

Miroku just stood and stared, trying to take it all in. He saw things that Kagome and the others didn't. Like the careful way the bands were fastened over pads of the softest silks. And the fact that Sesshomaru had made sure that there was a pillow for Inuyasha's kowtow. Not to mention that the very recognizable red robes weren't Inuyasha's well worn fire rat ones. These robes were of the very finest silk brocade with tiny mon or personal crests embroidered all over and the large kamon on the back and front were Sesshomaru's family crest

Sango didn't notice all this but she did notice the expression on Sesshomaru's face. He fairly glowed with pride, as far as he was able. And he had kept Inuyasha from a fall. She leaned against the nearby tree and also settled to watch. Kaede gave her a friendly nod.

That left Shippo and Kagome. Shippo just clung to Kagome's shoulder as she stomped up to the platform and glared. "What is going on here? Inuyasha?"

Inuyasha couldn't help glaring just a bit. Although the muzzle wasn't a gag there was no reason for Kagome not to believe that it was. Sesshomaru just raised his eyebrow and said at his coldest. "Something? You do understand that it is specifically against custom for you to address him directly while he's on progression?"

Kagome visibly seethed. She straightened her clothing and raised her head proudly. "I demand that you let Inuyasha go. This isn't right."

All the villagers gasped but Sesshomaru just raised one eyebrow in his most supercilious way. "Oh? And why not?"

"Well, it's wrong to chain him up like that. And what have you done to his hair?" she eyed Inuyasha's braided hair in puzzlement.

"It is braided in the style of submission. It declares for all to see that he considers himself my slave. My subject. I, however, consider him to be ... most precious. Thus, I make progression so that all the people will know that he is my second. "

Kagome nearly hurt herself trying not to scream at him. "And so you chain him up and humiliate him? Are you crazy?"

"As you chain him and humiliate him? No. His chains are as beautiful as I could make them. They are padded so they do not even touch his skin. And I ... I make sure that his feet are the only part of him that touches the ground. Unlike you, who ... er ... I believe the term you use is sit him, until he bleeds. I will not cause him pain because I am angry at him. Only if he truly deserves punishment." Sesshomaru tugged the necklace from under Inuyasha's kimono and laid it across his chest.

Sesshomaru struggled to keep from growling at Kagome and Inuyasha turned his ears toward his brother. This wasn't coming out like he'd thought it would. He wasn't sure he liked it.

Kagome just started to make a hissing noise that Inuyasha connected with an imminent 'sit!' "How dare you? Inuyasha doesn't. . . oh! You! But!"

"You have used this ... thing against him when he couldn't protect himself from you. I understand that you even re-injured him once. And, while you may consider me cold, I find that I'm not cold enough to do such a thing. It's cruel."

Kagome seethed and fumed. "Well, at least I don't chain him up."

Sesshomaru reached out and removed the muzzle from Inuyasha. "How bitter is this so called slavery, my brother?"

Inuyasha shrugged. "Not real comfortable right now. But so what? All daemon kind depends on this. And it's not like you're going to keep me chained all the time. Just for the public submissions. And, can I have some more of those sweet bean buns for lunch?"

Inuyasha carefully avoided looking at Kagome. He didn't know why Sesshomaru had given him the instructions he had, but he wasn't about to disobey him just now. He wasn't going to foul Sesshomaru's plans.

"Slavery? Doesn't sound like it to me. What is going on?" Kagome grabbed at her hair like she wanted to yank on it. Shippo looked over her shoulder, blinked at Inuyasha and Sesshomaru and exclaimed, "The prophecy! I heard about that. So you two have to get along or we're all going to just disappear? That's weird. So what's up?"

Sesshomaru hissed at Shippo who reflexively tossed a foxfire charm at him. Inuyasha stepped between Shippo and Sesshomaru, taking the full blast on his chest. Sesshomaru snarled harshly and caught Inuyasha as he staggered back.

"Ow! Fuck, Shippo, what the hell are you thinking? If that had hit brother, you'd be chopped into mince by now. Stupid brat."

Shippo whimpered, scampered down Kagome and hurried to Inuyasha. "I'm sorry. He scared me. Here, let me."

Sesshomaru snarled at the crier to dismiss the people and lifted Inuyasha in his arms. Foxfire wasn't deadly but it could burn quite badly. Inuyasha grumbled. "I'm only a little scorched. I'll be fine."

"Be quiet. Not another word."

Kaede came forward and explained to one of the guardsmen that she was a healer. He let her through and Sango and Miroku just sort of followed after. They all climbed onto the platform and settled near Inuyasha.

Sesshomaru removed the chains and cast them aside without regard to them, a servant quietly came forward and took them away.

Kagome reached out to touch Inuyasha and he just sighed. "Not now Kagome, I don't feel like arguing with you." He turned his head slightly to look at Sesshomaru. "It stings. And it's getting worse. What's going on?"

Shippo crept up to Inuyasha eyeing Sesshomaru fearfully. "I'm really sorry. Foxfire clings and burns for a while. Let me. I have some salve here that will cool it." Shippo pulled a small box of salve from somewhere in his clothing. He opened it and started to pat the salve on Inuyasha's face. His hands were shaking so badly that he wasn't doing a very good job so Sesshomaru took the small box from him with a soft, "Allow me." He tenderly smoothed the cream over Inuyasha skin.

Kagome watched in despair as she realized that Sesshomaru was right. She lost her temper with Inuyasha too easily. She was impatient with him when he didn't understand things, although she thought it was a bit unfair that he got to snarl at her for studying.

She reached out to Inuyasha and was startled when he said. "If you're going to sit me, wait until I get off Sesshomaru. You'll hurt him."

"And it doesn't hurt you, ototo-chan?"

"I'm used to it. I'll survive."

Kaede sighed. "A home truth, child. Kagome, you do understand that Inuyasha and Sesshomaru and little Shippo too, feel pain as sharply as a human does, don't you?" Kagome gave Kaede a horrified look. "Ah! I see that you didn't. Humans and daemons feel pain the same way. It is only that daemons can withstand the effects of pain better. And they heal faster. "

Inuyasha sighed. "It's ok, Kaede. I know she doesn't understand. Don't fuss at her."

Kagome took Inuyasha's hand. "Why didn't you explain to me?"

"Would it have made a difference?" Inuyasha turned his head a bit to look at Kagome.

"Yes. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to be cruel. I just ... lose my temper more than I should. Searching for shards and all the traveling we do doesn't do much for my studying. And you ... never seem to care that I'll have to go back some day and if I don't do well in school, I'll never get a good job. I'll have to get married just to survive and I don't want that. I want to be independent. And ... well, you have no idea how hard it is to study without a proper desk, lighting or a teacher around to ask questions from. So I get mad and take it out on you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me?"

Inuyasha sighed. "I forgive you. I didn't understand about studying. Until Sesshomaru caned my ass for fooling around in my studies. Oh, don't look like that. A child's punishment for a childish action."

Sesshomaru made a face at Kaede, a face that she easily interpreted. "Come, children. We'll leave Inuyasha and Kagome to speak alone. Miroku, if you touch Sango one more time today, I'll do something hasty."

Miroku put on his most innocent face, Sango glared at him once then walked away, head held high. Sesshomaru gave Kaede an assessing look then followed snapping his fingers at Shippo, who knew better than to argue with him even though he wanted to stay and hear what was going on.

No one over heard exactly what was said but when Inuyasha and Kagome came to the camp, they both were a little flushed and mussed. They were both smiling happily. Kagome handed the necklace to Sesshomaru with a twinkle and the suggestion that he should put it somewhere safe incase he needed it.

Sesshomaru snorted. "Doubtful. Inuyasha has become very dear to me. I need only scowl at him to command his obedience."

Inuyasha raised an eye brow at his brother. "You wish. But ... I need to ask you for a life time favor."

"Hhmmmm. I don't feel the need. Lady Kagome will come to stay with us. .. No, I believe you call it, hanky-panky allowed. You will be chaperoned at all times. Lady Kagome will have her own office and a scribe to help her study. You will base your search for shards from home. Sango and Miroku are welcome as well."

Shippo blinked, he wasn't welcome? His tail and ears drooped sadly. As he turned to walk away, he sniffled a bit.

Sesshomaru turned a sharp look in his direction. "Young one?" Shippo turned around, eyes suspiciously bright. "You're welcome anytime your parents allow."

Inuyasha reached over and snagged Shippo around the waist. "His folks are dead. He stays with us. Kaede keeps track of him when we're not traveling. I want him home with me. He needs more than an old human woman can offer." He smiled at Kaede. "Not that you're not doing a great job. It's just that he needs guidance from an older daemon male. Like Sesshomaru. He'll come visit you any time you like. Is that all right?"

Kaede had to admit that it was a relief to have Shippo go to Inuyasha. She'd been worrying about exactly that thing. He needed guidance that she couldn't give, no matter how hard she tried. "Tis a good thing I think. He's welcome anytime he wants to come. But he needs you, Inuyasha. And Lord Sesshomaru as well."

Shippo scrambled around Inuyasha's body to cling to his shoulder, hiding behind him. "Is it really ok? Can I go with you? Not that Kaede isn't kind to me, she is. But I miss having a real dad. Will I have a real bed of my own again? And ..."

Inuyasha gently bonked Shippo on the head. "Shut up. Too many questions. Onii-sama hasn't agreed yet. Please?"

Sesshomaru shrugged. "If you want him, he's welcome. Far be it from me to refuse my Ototo-chan such a simple request."

There was a little argument from Miroku but the others all just went along. Kagome gave them what Inuyasha called 'the pitiful eyes' and they buckled like cheap armor. A small escort was sent with Kaede and the others to take her back to her village, let Kagome, Sango, Miroku and Shippo gather their things then escort them on to the palace. Inuyasha refused to have Kagome go on the progression with them. He said it was too hard for her, she started to argue and found herself on the receiving end of one of Sesshomaru's coldest glares. "Brother says he thinks it will be too hard for you. Do you really want to travel through the entire of the Western Lands, watch Inuyasha make his obeisance three times in 5 different major cities and put up with his temper after each?"

Kagome shook her head. "I did not think you would. You will go back to the capitol. You will settle in in the quarters supplied to you. You will greet us when we return." Kagome started to argue, thought better of it and replied with a soft huff. "Fine. You're right. I'll see you in a month?"

"More like a year. You should go back to your own time, get your schooling caught up. Do you- I believe the phrase is graduate–soon?"

"Yes, I graduate this year. That's one of the reasons I'm so ... tired all the time. I have to study, hunt shards and everything else. And it's catching up to me. But what about ..."

"I'll deal with the problem at the appropriate time. I have plans. Come back as often as you like. I'll station a man in the village, good excuse to leave a man to help Kaede. He'll send word for an escort when you need one. Now. Bed for everyone."

Inuyasha laughed. "Brother, we're not six."

Sesshomaru just stood up and motioned for the rest to do the same. "I know. But you all have to be settled for the night. We have to finish the progression tomorrow. I don't want anyone to be able to claim insult. We all need the rest. Understand me?"

Inuyasha surprised everyone by nodding. "Yes, Onii-dono. Good night."

Kagome and the others settled into quarters of their own. Kagome didn't realize that all the rooms around the courtyard that they were settled in were the 'domain' of Inuyasha. They were his personal retainers now.

Miroku had a good idea what had been done and he was glad. Sango and he had reached an 'understanding' for which they were both very glad.

Shippo was just glad that he had a real home again. A bed, good food and even school. He wasn't as much a slacker as he sometime seemed and was well aware that he had to have an education if he was to make anything of himself. He was glad to be one of Inuyasha's retainers.


Inuyasha chased Shippo around the garden. Shippo was laughing happily, holding a ball above his head. Inuyasha was laughing too.

Sesshomaru was seated in the tea house with Kagome and Sango. Miroku was settled on the steps at Sango's feet.

Miroku nodded at the laughing pair. "It's nice to see them play. Inuyasha never played before. And Shippo is so happy here. Thank you, my lord."

Sesshomaru smiled. "No thanks needed. I brought Inuyasha here to save daemon kind. I wound up saving both of us instead or as well. He has become more dear to me than I could ever have thought. And he also brought me you four. This is also a good thing."

Shippo yelled, "Hey! Come back with my ball. Inuyasha!"

Inuyasha headed for the tea house Shippo's ball clutched in one hand. Shippo reached into his sleeve and Sesshomaru snapped out. "No! Shippo, you will not!"

Shippo froze, hand still in his sleeve. His tail and ears drooped. "What have I told you about using fox fire on your uncle? Come here at once."

Shippo dragged over to the tea house. "I'm sorry. I forgot."

"You will not say I forgot. You know that your fox fire is getting too powerful for play. So now you are on punishment. Sit right here. "Sesshomaru indicated a place right beside him. "Inuyasha, come here."

Inuyasha had already come to stand before his brother. "Were you playing keep away?"

"Yes, and I thought Shippo was having fun. I'm sorry if I teased you too much, Shippo. But you mustn't use fox fire outside of battle anymore. You could have really burnt me. Here." Inuyasha handed Shippo his ball. "You're too old to forget things like that now."

"That's ok. I should know better by now. And you didn't tease me too much. I like playing keep away with you. I'm sorry."

Sesshomaru nodded to Inuyasha. "Call for tea please. And a traveling desk."

Shippo groaned. He knew what that meant. Lines, lots and lots of them. Sesshomaru had discovered that while Inuyasha responded best to a talking too. Sesshomaru could reduce him to sulky silence or even tears with a short lecture. Shippo responded best to writing lines. Rin had wisely told him that lines were better than a flogging, scaring him half to death until he'd found out that Sesshomaru only commanded a flogging when everything else had failed.

So they settled to have their tea, with Shippo writing his lines while Inuyasha supervised. Sango poured and Miroku handed cups around. Kagome settled against Inuyasha's chest to listen to his heart beat.

"This is really nice. I have two wonderful families. One in the future and one here. I don't even have to choose between you."

Inuyasha sighed into her hair. "Yeah, I never thought to have it this good. Things sure turned out different than I thought they would."

Sesshomaru had to have the last word. "But I arranged everything. Why wouldn't it turn out well? Brotherly love is a wonderful thing."

He scowled as everyone burst into laughter.