Chapter 4

"Rin wished to ascertain for herself that you had all survived intact."

"How did you get here before us?" Kagome asked, as she greeted the enthusiastic child with pleasure. She could not face the Youkai Lord himself without blushing and for once acted with all the deference he felt his due. It was just as well as she would have seen disapproval in his eyes and amusement at her discomfort. Because even while he understood and was no stranger to adoration; Sesshoumaru found that he was actually angry that she had upset his little brother, let alone used him to do so.

"Lord Sesshoumaru flew and we came on Ah-Un; he is with Jaken by the river, but I wanted to wait here. Kaede also gave me something to eat and Lord Sesshoumaru has given me some money to spend on the stalls and Rin is so glad that the bad man is gone now, perhaps Lord Sesshoumaru can stop worrying about his brother so much..."

"Rin, that is quite enough." Sesshoumaru sternly rebuked the girl, but she and Kagome just shared a knowing grin before looking away from the Taiyoukai.

"May I take Rin to the carnival, I'll look after her?" Kagome asked politely and she and Rin ran off after Sesshoumaru gave his slight nod of assent. Sesshoumaru turned to Inuyasha now they were alone and asked him what he was going to do with his wish on the Shikon jewel; was he still going to turn youkai even if it would be almost certainly into someone mindless?

"Feh! I...I don't know, I wasn't goin' to, but now I'm not sure...things have changed, I got no purpose anymore. Naraku's gone and everyone else will go do their own thing now, soon there'll be no room or welcome for a dirty hanyou."

"What about the Miko, I thought you wished to mate her?" Sesshoumaru didn't like the way that Inuyasha was thinking, he sounded dejected and the self hatred did not sit well with the older sibling either anymore. The Western Lord had felt great hatred for Naraku and how he played such psychological tricks; only Sesshoumaru had the right to demean his little brother and now it seemed that the dark hanyou had tried to ruin Inuyasha's chance for love and acceptance once again. Sesshoumaru watched his brother shake his head slowly;

"No, Kagome will go home now; it's much better that way, besides it ain't me she's thinking of anymore."

"Nonsense Inuyasha, many young females including youkai ones have fascination with a mature and understanding male; it is not real to them." Sesshoumaru waited but there was no answer from his brother and the youkai decided it would be wise to keep a close eye on Inuyasha in the near future. He didn't want the boy feeling alone when everyone left to live their own lives; it would not be healthy for him and Sesshoumaru now acknowledged that he cared about his brother's welfare to himself. He always had watched from a distance, not interfering unless the boy's life was at risk and pretending to himself that he hated the pup. But that was a lie he'd carefully cultivated to cover up the disgust he felt at himself, when he had left the small pup to his fate all those years ago.

Therefore he promised in his heart to make sure that Inuyasha was never alone again. He would fulfil his father's desire for his sons and strive to make the boy genuinely welcome in the West and in his family again, as he should have done when the pup was first orphaned. Besides the boy was intelligent even if uncouth, but that could be trained out of him and he might be useful to the Western Lands. Sesshoumaru did not make the mistake in thinking that it would be an easy task as the hanyou was stubborn and proud, but the youkai was also his father's son and he would not be gainsaid by a mere pup.

Later that evening while the carnival was still in full swing, a silent figure made its way to the well and slipped inside. Then it made its way to the door of the house on the shrine grounds and slid the door open to go inside. After ascertaining that Mama was in the kitchen alone, the figure approached her and put his arms around her whining softly in his throat. Mama just reached behind her to stroke the puppy ears comfortingly and waited for her hanyou son to speak to her.

"We won Mama; Kagome's coming home to you; but for me this is goodbye, I don't know if the well will stay open or not." Inuyasha said; his voice not much above a whisper.

"You have not forgiven her yet, have you my son?"

"It's not for me to forgive, I should never have thought of her that way. I got nothing to offer and she wants...needs more than I can give."

"Don't ever think that child; you are more than worthy of mine or any body's daughter, I am proud to call you son even if you can't forgive my daughter yet."

"She is forgiven Mama, I have not stopped loving her; but..."

"Oh Inuyasha..."

"I must go...I...love you and thank you for all you've done for me; if the well closes... I...I will miss you." Inuyasha wept; his arms clutching Mama in a vice like grip while she stroked his hair and cooed at him, her own tears running down her face and then he pulled away and was gone. Mama was bereft of her most vulnerable child.

Sesshoumaru met him as he exited the well, making Inuyasha nearly jump out of his skin. The older brother had worked out where his younger brother had been and by the tear stains that were still obvious, he could guess why. In the gentlest action that Inuyasha could remember from him in a long time, Sesshoumaru used his own silken sleeve to dry the hanyou's face. The youkai even smiled at the look of surprise at his kindness; he even surprised himself sometimes.

"The Shikon will wait until the morning Inuyasha, but no longer; it is too dangerous to leave as it is."

"I know." The non confrontational reply was different to what he had been expecting. Inuyasha was really not himself and Sesshoumaru found he was concerned; he remembered what the monk had said about how Inuyasha had pictured him, as a teasing older sibling. It seemed that the younger boy still harboured fond feelings for the older one and Sesshoumaru was touched. He broached a difficult subject which was nonetheless important.

"Do you know yet what you want from the jewel? I would like you to understand that I will fight you no longer and would prefer if we could come to know each other better."

"I knew what I wanted before, but now no; I don't know nor do I care and I have never wanted to fight you." Inuyasha turned away to go and sit in Goshinboku until the dawn broke and bathed the skies with the pinks and sky blues of early morning. He came back to the hut for his breakfast and listened to the others about what should be done; he mentioned that he agreed with Sesshoumaru, the jewel had to be purified that day.

Rin ran out of the hut to greet her Lord once she'd done as he commanded and had her breakfast; followed at a discreet distance by Shippou who enjoyed having another child to play with and impress. The real Sesshoumaru it seemed, also didn't mind the fox kit and had even showed him how to control and therefore strengthen his foxfire attack. But it was Kaede who asked the question that everyone else had been avoiding.

"Have ye decided what ye shall do should the well need to close Kagome?"

"No, I feel torn; I can't use the jewel for a selfish wish and ask for the well to remain open to me. Besides, the wish is Inuyasha's not mine."

"Inuyasha, have ye decided; do thy friends need to be cautious around thee when ye make thy wish?"

"No, they don't need to fear me and I already told Kagome's mum she'd be back soon for good." There was a collective gasp at this news and predictably Sango and Kagome were furious at the high handed decision of the hanyou who ignored the outburst; but Kagome was dismayed for another reason;

"Will you come with me Inuyasha; will you stay in the future with me?" Her voice was small and quiet as she looked intently at Inuyasha who had turned his face away from her and was now looking out of the doorway at Rin and Shippou along with Sesshoumaru. His voice too was small and quiet, but firm and steady.

"I have already said goodbye to your mother Kagome; I do not belong in the future with you. What would I do alone in your world?"

"You won't be alone, you'd be with me."

"No, Kagome; I would make you angry and embarrassed because I do not understand."

"You wouldn't...I love you Inuyasha."

"Not in the way I love you though. You wish for someone else, someone I will never be." Inuyasha's voice took on a bitter note as he watched his brother guarding the children, neither of the pair were aware for the moment that they still had an audience.

"That was a mistake Inuyasha. Besides, it was something that didn't exist except in my imagination; it was not Sesshoumaru."

"But you thought it was and that kiss wasn't just infatuation; if it had been my brother you would still be with him wouldn't you?" There was no answer as Kagome didn't have one; all she did know was that if the well should close, Inuyasha would walk out of her life and she couldn't face that prospect. "I will always be your friend Kagome but I am not the one you want to be with." He couldn't take any more and walked out, hearing Kagome's cry of despair but not answering her; leaving Sango and Miroku stunned and Kaede to pick up the pieces.

Once again, Inuyasha headed for the comfort of Goshinboku to wait for the others. He had said all he needed to say and would now await the outcome from the jewel. Sesshoumaru came to join him, sitting silent and thoughtful and looking to the scar that had formed around his brother when he had been pinned to the trunk. He knew the place well as he had often come to check on Inuyasha when the whelp had been sealed. He became aware of his brother studying him and offered;

"They are all saying their farewells in case they do not see each other again. You will stay here Inuyasha; will you not miss the girl if she leaves?"

"Course I'll miss her but she don't belong here. She has her mama waiting, her school and friends, her future. I got nothing for her and I can't live there. What'd I do in the future 'cept make her regret. No for better or worse I only belong here in my forest. I lived alone before; I can do it again."

"You need not be alone anymore, I have told you this. Should Kagome not be able to return and you and she not make up your difference, you and the kit could make your home in the West."

"I accept for Shippou; I don't know about me, it's too late. You do good with brats don't you?" Inuyasha's tone was wistful,"...shame you always hated me, I could have done with some of that care 'n' stuff."

"You are still a pup Inuyasha and my offer stands. I will not retract it and if you need a home, the West is open to you."

"Feh!" Inuyasha ended the painful conversation; he could hear the others all approaching the clearing. The chatter sounded sad which was he supposed hardly a surprise, given the circumstances. Leaping down from his branch he went to meet them, his hands in his sleeves and Sesshoumaru by his side. Rin and Shippou ran to the pair of Inu with tears in their eyes.

It was Sesshoumaru who offered them strange comfort though by telling them that tears would not stop what was going to happen. But it seemed to work, Rin clung to his hakama leg and Shippou too stayed close to the Taiyoukai, who was using his youki to calm them. Inuyasha looked away as feelings akin to jealousy and inadequacy threatened to rise to the surface of his heart and choke him.

Sparing a brief glance at his brother as he felt the spike of uneasy tension in his aura, Sesshoumaru frowned but could only ponder on the cause for a short while as everyone arrived near to the well. All who had been closely involved with the jewel were there, including Kouga and Ayame; Kagome smiled at them all having taken deep calming breaths to stop her tears and so that she could deal with the jewel. It was far too dangerous to make mistakes. Soon she held it out to Inuyasha who told her he didn't want it anymore and he pretended not to hear Miroku's sigh of relief. Kagome then closed her eyes to pray over the jewel and before she finished, a cloud issued from the jewel before it turned very pink and smoky, forming into the figure of Midoriko.

"Welcome and my grateful thanks to all of you. You are all in a unique situation; each one has one thought concerning this jewel. You all have wishes for yourselves in your hearts but do not want the jewel used to accomplish these. It is remarkable, for such a large group to have all formed the same unselfish wish as individuals. All of you wish for the jewel to cease to exist; which means to free me victorious from my fight. It is done; however before I carry on my journey..."

Midoriko became more solid and took on the form of true life saying;

"...the jewel will also grant two personal wishes; one from the youkai energy and one, the Miko spirituality." Midoriko went to them in turn;"Sango and Miroku you will have your desires come true without the need of the jewel; Kouga and Ayame, you two also will find that your packs will grow most naturally. Miko Kaede, the village will prosper and those you care for will find happiness."

Midoriko went over and knelt before Shippou next and passed her hand through his ponytail gently.

"Little kitsune, you too will know family again and will train and grow strong in the West, Lord Sesshoumaru has already offered this to you through your foster father. Rin, you shall receive the gift of the youkai; you never complained when your Lord left you and always wanted everyone else to be happy. The jewel will allow you to live at your master's discretion, to mature and then to live as if youkai for as long as he who granted your new life wants you to live."

On hearing this, Inuyasha left the clearing to sit in his tree once again; he'd secretly hoped that the youkai would favour him, but once again he had been overlooked. Had it not been for the desire to see what happened to Kagome, he would have left the gathering and gone on his way to an uncertain future; but that would have to wait a while until he knew what the gift of the spiritual power would mean for the Miko of the future.

Inuyasha found that he was wishing that he'd had the jewel now; if he had wished to have never been born, so much badness could not have happened. His mother would not have suffered a shameful death and his father would have lived and not deprived Sesshoumaru of the guidance and love that the full son so obviously missed. Neither would he himself have suffered so much, true he'd been mainly happy until his mother died but since then all he'd known was a lifetime of betrayal.

Firstly it was the betrayal of his mother dying; then both species of his being turned on him, hunting and desirous of his pain and death. His brother too, turned his back on his own flesh and blood even if he was only a half breed. Now both Miko's; preferring the pure blood of humanity or youkai, had rejected him too. Inuyasha laughed bitterly to himself, what a load of self pity he'd wallowed in; that sort of mentality would soon get him killed.

It was time to grow up; he berated himself, move on alone and live the solitary life a hanyou was supposed to live; if it lived at all. But he would still wait until Kagome had gone home. Inuyasha noticed that Midoriko had moved to stand in front of his brother and he was curious as to know what she would say to him. In fact the Miko was staring into Sesshoumaru's eyes as if she could read his soul and the youkai felt as though he could not stop the intrusion.

She actually made him back away slightly which made Inuyasha snigger in his head; but he could not believe it when Sesshoumaru averted his eyes and turned his head in a subtle display of submission. Neither could the Daiyoukai, he felt like a pup when those ancient but kind eyes stared into his own; the unusual situation was very reminiscent of when his parents would do the same to make him own up to his misdemeanours. Midoriko smiled and placed her hand gently on Sesshoumaru's face, turning him to face her again. Then she spoke softly to him so that the humans could not hear her words.

"You my Lord Sesshoumaru will have the chance once again to redeem your personal honour which you consider lost since you abandoned your young brother; in so doing, your soul will achieve the greatness that has been denied you so far. You will finally become the son and brother you wish to be, making your father proud." As Midoriko spoke, Sesshoumaru felt as though an immense weight had been removed from his heart; cleansing him, and he was unable to stop a few tears falling at the sense of relief.

"Be not ashamed of this evidence of the tenderness in your heart Sesshoumaru, and do not deny what it is telling you; but please find your brother and stop him from leaving." Midoriko kissed the proud youkai's forehead gently before she left him and went over to Kagome. Sesshoumaru was stunned at the audacity of the Miko, but he could recognise her right and power; he could also recognise the truth she'd uncovered in the genuine desire he had to atone and make amends with his little brother.

The younger Miko however was apprehensive, she too wondered at the gift of spirituality and what it would mean for her; she hoped against hope that it might mean she could travel back and forth through the well and mend her relationship with Inuyasha.

"Dear child, the true wish of your soul shall be met on the other side of the well where your mother awaits your return. You are brave and true and yet still wish to be just a normal woman. You will be; you will find your true heart in your own time, one who can fully appreciate your desire for knowledge and will support you in your dreams. You will have time to grow and mature as you were always meant to do."

Midoriko understood the tears that Kagome was shedding; she knew the cause and further explained:

"The well portal must close soon, neither you nor Inuyasha are truly ready for the other and the timeline must not be compromised. There is much for you to still do before you are ready to settle down with a husband; although I believe that a rather knowledgeable new history tutor will command your attention before too long." Midoriko laughed at the disbelief that crossed Kagome's face.

"I know many things child; I see the past and future for those who come in contact with the jewel and you are future so, say your goodbyes and before the end of this day you must leave and the well will seal." She left Kagome to be comforted by Sango and Miroku and a wailing Shippou; to go to the astonished hanyou who was being gently restrained by the arm of Sesshoumaru, that was draped in a casual but strong manner around his brother's shoulders.

Inuyasha felt he should point something out; he loved Kagome still, even though he had denied her. His heart had broken when Midoriko spoke of the girl's future with a mate; sounded like some human teacher which he supposed, figured rightly. But he swallowed his pain and said gruffly;

"Lady, I think you forgot somethin' for Kagome; you forgot her spiritual gift."

"I have not forgotten the gift pup, my gift is for you." She smiled at the disbelief in the wet golden eyes.

"What? I ain't spiritual, it'd be a waste; I don't know what to do with any Miko power."

"Do not concern yourself with it yet, have you got over wishing you had never been born Inuyasha?"

"Feh!" Inuyasha said; annoyed that she had said that in front of his brother. Sesshoumaru was the last person he wanted knowing about his moment of self pitying weakness. But Midoriko understood and gazed deep into Inuyasha's eyes in the same way she had done to his brother.

"I have known your innermost secrets my young hanyou for very many years; I have seen all your bitterness and pain and it is time for it to stop. Had you not been born, your mother would not have had you to love and she never regretted that for a moment and neither did your father. But consider; neither would Sango and Miroku have met or your brother and Rin; in fact both Rin and Shippou owe their lives to your being in the world. Neither would we now be celebrating the end of Naraku and the purification of the jewel."

"Feh!" Inuyasha blushed and Midoriko smiled when she saw Sesshoumaru pull his brother closer to himself.

"Your heart and soul I know better than almost any other Inuyasha, including you and your soul's wish was never to become full mindless youkai; but only to be acceptable to the one you needed the most after your mother died. You wish you could turn back the clock so that you could receive the same chances as the other loved children. Unfortunately time cannot be turned back or it would all start to happen again, although I can change one thing with my gift. The gift is not spirituality itself but one I can bestow, and I do so now."

The pink mist surrounded the hanyou and Sesshoumaru yelped in surprise causing everyone to look toward the brothers at the uncharacteristic sound. In his arms and holding tightly to his brother's tail was a very small hanyou, his golden eyes impossibly wide and alarmed. Inuyasha was now no bigger than Shippou and about eight years old. The humans all rushed forward to see him but were alarmed at the whimper of fear from the child and the instinctive grumble of warning from the youkai who had almost hidden the pup in his arms. Midoriko explained;

"To him, Inuyasha's mother has not long died and he remembers nothing of what else has happened apart from his life to that point. He only knows that humans hurt him and he desperately hopes that his brother will rescue him and take care of him. Any memories that he has of now, will not surface until he is old enough to deal with them and they have become no more than painless dreams. It is for Sesshoumaru to give Inuyasha the childhood he deserves and wants and in so doing, he will fulfil his own soul's wish."

"Can I see him Sesshoumaru, please? I will not hurt him." Kagome was confused and upset, seeing the small tearful hanyou; but came forward at the youkai's nod.

"Inuyasha, you are safe; these humans will not hurt you and wish to befriend you." Sesshoumaru shifted his arms and tail to reveal the pup who was now curious at the group but who would not leave the safety of his big brother. Kagome was shocked at seeing the reality of how young Inuyasha was, when left to survive alone and she couldn't help whispering 'he is so small' before tears formed in her eyes. 'Indeed' was the quiet regretful reply from the elder brother; acknowledging her half spoken thought.

"Why are you crying Lady?" Inuyasha asked, snuffling his tiny nose near to Kagome's damp face; as he picked up on the salty scent.

"I have to go soon, to my home; I will miss you so much. But you are in good hands now and you will be safe and happy. I am glad." Kagome sniffed and then with joy she saw the little hanyou holding out his arms to her. She took him and held him close before kissing his cheek and forehead; all of which he suffered in good grace because his mother had liked to do that too. She took the rosary from round his neck and asked if she could keep it and the pup nodded, it didn't mean anything to him; but he suddenly felt strength come to him. Sesshoumaru explained that his youki was stronger without the necklace; then he picked up Tessaiga by the scabbard and placed it at his hip alongside Tenseiga and Bakusaiga.

"You smell nice,what's your name?" Inuyasha said; after watching his brother pick up his sword without making a fuss and before snuggling down against her neck and yawning.

"Kagome."

"'Sa, nice name." Inuyasha said and promptly forgot it, as is the way of small children; then he asked Sesshoumaru if he would tell him a story. "One about father long ago and fighting enemies and stuff." He didn't notice Kagome's sad face.

"It sounds like our young Inuyasha is very interested in history; does it not?" Midoriko commented and then smiled as Kagome understood the cryptic message and for the first time in a long while returned a genuine smile back. The girl felt her heart lighten and suddenly going home forever, didn't seem such a heartbreaking prospect. She hugged the little body who was so warm and loving, before he wanted to get down and meet and play with Shippou and Rin. They in turn introduced the hanyou to Sango and Miroku and then Kaede.

Inuyasha wanted to see what was under Kaede's eye patch but by then Sesshoumaru had reclaimed the little one, reminding him that he had asked for a story. Sesshoumaru said it was time to say goodbye first and then head on back to the West. The truth of the jewel would eventually be told to Inuyasha and he would learn about his other past, but he wouldn't feel the old pain anymore. Now all he was interested in was food and a story, and to distance himself from his mother's death by being in his older brother's care.

As the others watched the brothers walk away, Inuyasha's arms were wrapped securely round Sesshoumaru's neck as he looked back and waved at the humans over his brother's shoulder. They were preceded by Shippou and Rin who were chasing one another; Kagome's pain was not as great as it could have been. She bid farewell to her friends sadly but knew they would find happiness in each other and in the recovered brother who was waiting for his sister at the slayer's village. Kaede had been like a grandmother to the group and Kagome would never forget the kindly Miko; but now she had to leave and Midoriko was waiting by the well.

"Will he remember me Midoriko, will he be the same?"

"He will know your scent and your story and when your education is complete and you are a true adult, you can take it from there. Inuyasha will not be the same neglected, abused and suspicious waif that he was when you knew him however, even though his personality is still there; Sesshoumaru wants to undo the child's troubled past, he will succeed."

Kagome nodded and took with her through the well, the happy memory of the infant hanyou safe and secure in his brother's arms; which comforted her, as the well sealed behind her. Mama was waiting, pleased to have her daughter home safely although she grieved greatly for the boy left behind; but Kagome told her the story of Inuyasha's return to childhood and like her daughter, she was happy for him.

And in the West, a small pup went to sleep in a bedroom full of toys, having played with his new friends; well fed and comforted over the loss of his mother, curled up warm and safe in the tail and arms of his grateful brother.

THE END