Chapter 8 Stepping Stones

The social dinner that evening was an eye-opener for several of the diners; Sesshoumaru escorted Rin in to dinner followed by Inuyasha with a lovely Inu youkai female, while the girl's brother escorted Kagome. The food of course was excellent and many dishes were entirely suitable for the two human women; there was plenty of small talk and to Kagome's surprise Inuyasha was not staying silent or surly in company, he was speaking to his companion answering her questions shyly and politely.

Later after the meal, guests were encouraged to walk outside in the gardens; it being a lovely evening and plenty of lanterns lit the pathways. Kagome watched as various young females and males clustered round the reserved hanyou who was making his debut in society. Inuyasha was finding his own delight in these youths who were genuinely interested in his history without becoming snobbish when they found out his background. In fact it seemed to make him a very romantic figure and they clamoured for more of his tales.

Sesshoumaru was amused; Inuyasha was no older and in many cases he was younger than these children of his main guests, but the pup had never been sheltered and his life had been so much harder that he seemed years older. But it didn't matter; it gave Sesshoumaru the opportunity he had been waiting for, Inuyasha was becoming part of the Western Life, almost ready to take up his position as a Western Lord. Acceptance in his own time would make it far harder for Inuyasha to leave for Kagome's; something Sesshoumaru would have refused to allow, but if Inuyasha wanted to stay of his own accord, it would save any temper tantrums.

Inuyasha was amazed at the acceptance he found among these higher youkai and not just the younger ones, but their parents as well. He had thought he would be outcast still, even if he was now welcome in the West; he had assumed that he would be made to eat in his quarters at these events, so as not to compromise Sesshoumaru's position as he'd always been told he had done in the past.

Now he was beginning to understand that although many lower youkai despised hanyou, it was by no means universal; and he was more than tolerated because of his own deeds and high birth. For a while he was greatly saddened; knowing as he did now that Sesshoumaru had hated him for himself and not his filthy blood so much and he couldn't help wonder again what it would have been like to grow up under his brother's love and not his hatred.

Many times during that party season the sadness would catch him unawares and he would leave the new friends he had made, needing to seek the privacy of his own room; but Sesshoumaru could smell the tears and wouldn't let his brother brood, he would lick the boy's pack mark asthey laid to rest many old wounds and grew closer. Sesshoumaru was always nearby when this misery overtook Inuyasha; Rin reminded him that the boy needed him alone sometimes, without the rest of the family.

A couple of weeks later Inuyasha was getting more settled in his new home and lifestyle and his aura was more balanced for much longer periods. One evening when Sesshoumaru could tell that his young brother was quite happy and relaxed he came up behind him and put his hand to the delicate neck and his elongated fangs at the boy's throat. Inuyasha instinctively froze, he could scent the Dokkasso from his brother's claws and feel them pinch his neck; and he cursed himself for the scent of fear that he knew Sesshoumaru could smell.

"Inuyasha; are you ready to die?" Sesshoumaru growled menacingly; letting his hot breath scorch his brother's throat and causing his eyes to shine with a luminous ruby colour, knowing that at this moment he looked exactly the lethal predator he truly was. The involuntary fear from his brother was welcome to him even though he had to keep his youkai under firm control. But the boy was nothing if not brave and he would not go down without a fight.

"Gerroff me bastard; wadd'ya think yer doing? Inuyasha had reverted back to his less refined speech, Sesshoumaru idly noted; as he had also noticed that the pup was still fighting his fear. The older brother was not allowing Inuyasha any movement at all, the claws dangerously near his jugular made sure of that.

"You are such an ungrateful whelp. I promised that I would offer you this, after I revived you against your wishes a month ago; do you not remember?"

"Damn Sesshoumaru; I thought…"

"You thought I had been deceiving you for all of this time?"

"It…crossed my mind; I'm sorry."

"I still await your answer, Inuyasha."

"No, I don't want to die right now Sesshoumaru; thank you. You said it would be painless; there was no way you would have made all that painless."

"No; had I ripped out your throat or poisoned you slowly or even both of those things there would have been undoubted pain, but I can be painless too."

"You tricked me; you did it on purpose…to make me say no?"

"To be certain you would say no."

"I still might have said yes, what would you have done then?" Inuyasha pouted like a child in his relief and Sesshoumaru smirked in a way that made his brother uneasy.

"I would have upended you over my knee and spanked your bared backside into giving me a more congenial answer. In fact I might do so anyway for doubting the purity of my intentions and the disrespect in your speech, in any case." It was more enjoyable having a younger brother around to tease than Sesshoumaru would have ever known, if he had not made his peace with Inuyasha.

"You wouldn't dare." Inuyasha was aghast.

"I assure you that if I had been prepared to threaten your life several times, besides beating you so cruelly in the past; I am certainly capable of disciplining you should the need arise Inuyasha, so be warned pup."

"You said you wouldn't hurt me again."

"I believe I said I wouldn't harm you again whelp, but I am not averse to causing you a little pain if the occasion warranted it Inuyasha; it is in your hands." The smirk grew and Inuyasha fled, although when he reflected on the way Sesshoumaru had acted towards him, the hanyou felt safe in a strange way and pleased that his brother obviously still cared and wanted him around.

His relationship with Rin improved over time, especially with her in the future; she was very wise and loving and didn't force his friendship, but welcomed any overture he made. While he was in the future he made more things to sell and soon built an exclusive clientele interested in his expressive creations. He always gave the money to Kagome and couldn't be persuaded to keep it for himself or allow it to grow in a bank account or investments. He would rather she were able to pay her way at the shrine and have new clothes.

It was something she had to learn, Inuyasha was the provider and it made him happy to do so. Mama suggested the compromise; Kagome could use Inuyasha's money for spending and save her own and any left from his. As this was quite a large sum each month, she asked for Sesshoumaru's help in investing it; this he did, approving of her methods and understanding in a way Inuyasha did not as yet, the importance of saving. But as long as Kagome had nice things and Mama did not go without, Inuyasha didn't care what they did with the money he earned; as long as it was used.

They spent time together but never completely alone; Inuyasha was learning about the time Kagome lived in with the help of everyone else, it helping that Sesshoumaru often knew how to prevent a problem for him before it happened. And so the pair began to learn what it meant to be human and hanyou together. When he was back in the past Inuyasha never mentioned that he was living with his brother and his mate in the future; and neither did Sesshoumaru and Rin broach the subject either, although both knew they had contact, their scents lingered around Inuyasha very strongly.

Besides Inuyasha was not always consistent in how he acted with Rin, sometimes he was still shy albeit a bit brotherly and another he was almost like her son; this was quite disarming for the still young Rin, until Sesshoumaru explained to her what he thought was happening with Inuyasha. Sesshoumaru could project how he felt he would behave towards the couple in the future fairly accurately; he had no need to confirm or deny his suspicions with Inuyasha.

In fact he was certain that he was in charge in Kagome's time too; after all, the Miko's mother was human and therefore had to be very young in comparison to him and only relatively experienced in life. He also had his suspicions that the woman was probably only a slight influence on her daughter's behaviour now at least; from what Inuyasha said, she was mainly mild tempered and loved the pup as if he were her son. It seemed that the younger of her two offspring was more like her than her fiery determined daughter. All in all he was smugly confident that nothing would get by him in the future any more than it did now.

So over the next couple of years, Kagome and Inuyasha courted one another again under the eagle eyes of Sesshoumaru on both sides of the well. It was not all plain sailing however; Inuyasha had been formally introduced as the Second Lord of the West to his peers and had accepted the authority hesitantly, but gladly. That meant that he was now resident at the Western Palace by right and by need therefore Kagome had to make a long trip twice every weekend just to visit. Sometimes of course Inuyasha would spend time with her though and then he stayed at the little manor with Sesshoumaru and Rin.

And in that time Kagome and Inuyasha were subjected to tests that Sesshoumaru devised, although neither of them was aware of these. They were not hard tests as such; for Kagome it was of endurance, she was expected to understand that if she was committed to Inuyasha she would spend every weekend and holiday with him. As their relationship progressed this would be more important to Inuyasha's youkai if it started to contemplate her as a mate again. It would be a test of her growing understanding of the hanyou's nature.

In the future time Sesshoumaru was still doing the same tests; often Kagome was invited by friends and colleagues out at the weekend but she never went or was tempted. Once however there was a family outing to a high class restaurant and a box at a show; this was deliberately contrived by Sesshoumaru and sprung on them at the last minute but Kagome came through, she didn't even hint that she was sorry that she had to go to see Inuyasha instead. She realised that Inuyasha would understand if she missed a week, but he would still be disappointed and that was something she never wanted to be the cause of again.

The opportunity of fine dinners and shows could be repeated; but her time with Inuyasha could not, and she had already lost him once and didn't wish to give him reason to worry or be concerned that she no longer wanted him. He had never complained when she went out with her friends before, although it had obviously been a problem for him; Kagome was only fully realising now how much Inuyasha had always put her needs or wants above his own.

Kagome was genuinely ashamed of how little she had recognised Inuyasha's differences were, because he was different in make up to a human. It seemed so ridiculous not to have realised it, but that was the truth, too often Inuyasha was considered by herself and her friends in the past as a type of super human; not respecting the youkai in him by disregarding it, unless it caused them concern. She was determined to change that, even though she knew there were things that she couldn't change about the past.

Inuyasha's tests were different; Sesshoumaru made certain to have plenty of the younger youkai friends of his little brother around. They were welcome to visit him whenever, including when Kagome was away during the week. Inuyasha came to enjoy the times he could be a normal young hanyou with friends and even more astonishing to him was that he was considered attractive by many of the girls. As they were all youkai, in whole or in part he was able to tell that they were genuine when they wanted his company. Scent and hearing were superior in the Inu so he could tell if there was any deceit in how they responded to him.

The pup was astounded but soon understood what it meant to be popular as he was not conceited and was still engagingly shy; although he was also proving somewhat shrewd in matters pertaining to his occupation as Second Lord. This test was to see whether or not Inuyasha would show interest in any of his young friends; Sesshoumaru was concerned that because the boy had been so socially deprived, he had fallen in love with the first two people who had shown him kindness since his mother passed on.

Now he was able to freely see others in the light of a mate if he so desired; several of the girls had been blatant about their own interest in him. Sesshoumaru smiled when he thought of this; Kagome too had quickly seen the options for Inuyasha now but he had to admit, she had never tried to stop any of his friends which meant she was learning. She also no longer used her tears as blackmail; being more often in the company of the infinitely more mature in her ways Rin, was improving Kagome and helping to show her that she was no longer a girl but a full grown woman.

Inuyasha however remained unmoved by any of the girls in a sexual way, even though he had to be aware of their interest; after all Sesshoumaru had also paid attention to his brother's physical responses and noticed that he was still loyal to Kagome. His youkai and his human attributes had chosen the Miko long before and now she was proving her worth in Sesshoumaru's eyes.

He had to admit that she passed his tests and if he would rather Inuyasha found a mate from one of the youkai girls, he could only blame himself for not giving his brother all the opportunities he should have had from childhood. Had the hanyou always had a home in the West he would never have met Kikyou and been sealed, only to be freed by Kagome and fall in love with the human.

But it had not happened thus and now their paths were set and Inuyasha asked Sesshoumaru for permission to re mate Kagome three years after his life had been saved. The Lord of the West could not refuse nor did he wish to in reality; they were a good match and all he said as a rider to his affirmation was that he would be still taking a careful interest in his brother's life, wherever his brother happened to be at the time. The hanyou had a huge heart to match the Miko's huge soul and Sesshoumaru would make sure that it stayed happy and beating to the best of his ability.

THE END.