Secrets and Regrets

Sesshoumaru stood silently and watched as Inuyasha drew his children to him. Five was certainly a handful but nonetheless the hanyou managed. The elder three were girls and the two youngest were twin boys who had taken their parents by surprise, Kagome and Inuyasha had thought that they had had their allocation of pups after their third daughter; fifteen years separated her from the twins and Kagome had been in her forties. Only the fact that she was mainly a woman who had come from the future had made it a healthy possibility.

The pups were true hanyous as their father was very strong and their mother's miko powers had augmented his strength in the makeup of their offspring. All five looked just like their father at first glance, their immediate colouring and puppy ears proclaimed his paternity of them but they mainly had their mother's shaped face and expressive eyes. At the moment however it was impossible to tell which pup was which as Sesshoumaru couldn't see their faces and they were all at ages that made them very similar in height.

Sesshoumaru also noted that Shippou had also come and was standing with the kitsunes that had adopted him. This had happened not very long after Kagome and Inuyasha had become mates, the kitsunes had been ousted from their ancestral den by Naraku and had gone into hiding for a while until it was safe to return. Two of the cubs had met Shippou when he was in training for the kitsune youjutsu exams and they had got on so well that the small kitsune was invited to join the group.

However the decision had been left to Shippou and he had agreed so long as he could visit the hanyou family frequently. He looked very little changed in the time that Sesshoumaru had known him, but this was no surprise considering how long it took for youkai to age and mature. In fact the thing that was surprising to him was how much had changed in the scant seventy or so years since Naraku's demise.

For Sesshoumaru and all higher youkai, life was nearly immortal and time moved unnoticed in the main; change in them was even less noticeable. Therefore he and Inuyasha looked no different now than they did when the evil was destroyed, but so much had happened since; seemingly in a blink of an eye.

Inuyasha had made his home in and around the village where the rest of his small pack had still lived and he had waited fairly patiently in and around the well for the return of Kagome. His faith had paid off even after every one else had given up and the girl from the future had come back to him and soon they'd become mates. Kagome had left everything from her time to be with the man she loved and the couple had settled in their own home in the village where Kagome took over being the Miko on the passing of Kaede.

The little house had grown with each pup until it was alive with the bustle of their noisy childhoods along with their friends and companions. Sesshoumaru had always been around at different times; he and Inuyasha had come to some form of terms which improved greatly as time progressed and the Daiyoukai had matured. Leaving Rin in the care of his brother's village had gone a long way to restoring their relationship too; Inuyasha appreciated even if he didn't say so, the trust that his brother put in his protective abilities.

Time had been both kind and cruel to the hanyou family; Kagome had given birth healthily to their five beautiful offspring and they were all very happy, far happier than Inuyasha could have believed possible even in his most secret dreams. They were all well loved in the village and surrounding areas; the fame of the Naraku defeaters was widespread and the fact that Sesshoumaru Lord of the West patronised them was not lost on any who might be tempted to spread dissension.

But no amount of devotion or love could prolong the human life beyond its allotted time of three score years and ten by much and Inuyasha and the pups had to watch Kagome and their human friends age, whilst they barely changed at all. Kagome would never see her children grow beyond their childhood and this was something she had always known; Sesshoumaru had felt it his duty as the eldest Inu youkai to warn her before she mated his brother. The only difference it had made was for the couple to postpone their family for a few years while they had time together.

Now her time had passed and the whole village had turned out for the Miko's funeral with dignitaries and other representatives sent from far and wide. Kagome was the last of Inuyasha's human pack to die, Miroku and Sango having passed on close together five years earlier. Now Sesshoumaru watched as Inuyasha attempted to comfort his pups, the eldest being only just over fifty five.

Kagome had reached eighty one years which was elderly for the days she lived in and that had been including the fifteen years of borrowed time courtesy of Tenseiga. Inuyasha hadn't even needed to ask his brother to use the sword when Kagome succumbed to cancer just after her sixty sixth birthday; Sesshoumaru had just appeared, waved the sword and then entertained his nieces and nephews while the couple privately celebrated her return to life.

But this time there was nothing that could be done for the Miko who had just drifted away as her body gave out. She slipped away peacefully after having seen the children and grandchildren of her old friends and her children including Shippou. Kouga and Ayame had even been allowed in to say their farewells. Only Inuyasha was with her though when she took her final breath, but her pups could all tell when her life force left and set up a great wail that was taken up and echoed afar.

The village had already made the funeral preparations as Kagome had been fading fast for a couple of weeks and her friends had been gathering for the last few days. She had remained sweet and coherent until the end when Sesshoumaru had had to make a near youkai Inuyasha release her body to the new Miko and her attendants.

Now though the hanyou was in full control, he had provided several large deer and wild pigs for roasting as the number of mourners was substantial and many had made journeys of more than a day, they would need sustenance before travelling back to their homes. He received the condolences of many genuine people and watched over his pups carefully. They had all howled out their grief together in the Inu way the moment Kagome died and before Inuyasha had let her go, so they were mainly spent when they watched the funeral pyre, although they all had tears running down their faces.

Inuyasha however looked very similar to Sesshoumaru, his face impassive although nobody was fooled that he didn't care; but he had to remain strong for his pups who would be frightened if he was lacking in control. They needed his strength to rely on, they'd had one of their parents die, and they would not be able to cope if the other fell to pieces. So no matter how dreadful the breaking of the mating bond was for him, Inuyasha would continue to live and work for his pups.

The next day was cold and wet; perfectly suited for everyone's mood and they all stood round sombrely as Kagome's ashes were interred beneath one of her favourite trees. Inuyasha had carved the marker himself with just her name; other words were superfluous and could never convey all that she had meant to him and his pups. The hanyou didn't realise that in a further half millennium a young mother- to- be would come across the stone in the family graveyard and find the name pretty enough to call her daughter by it in honour of the unknown girl.

Inuyasha crept out of his house later that night, leaving the pups in the care of Shippou and the kitsunes. He could not stay in the empty bed alone and sleep eluded him in any case. A pair of concerned sapphire eyes was alert and watching as Inuyasha made his way to the forest but before Kouga could follow, he was aware of the silver ghostly figure of Sesshoumaru already doing just that. The chill eyes of the Lord looked at Kouga and barely nodded but it was enough, Kouga knew that Sesshoumaru would watch out for Inuyasha that night.

The Western Lord followed Inuyasha to Goshinboku and sat down next to him waiting to be acknowledged; that came when Inuyasha held out his hand silently asking Sesshoumaru to take it. Without hesitation the youkai closed his fingers round Inuyasha's and the firm reassurance that he was not alone was welcoming to the grieving hanyou; his brother was family and not dependent on Inuyasha to be strong.

They had come a long way in the relatively few years since Naraku's death; they were now able to speak civilly to one another, Sesshoumaru often familiarly called Inuyasha Pup and they were concerned about each other in general terms. They also no longer rebelled at the idea of the physical touch in small gestures that still meant a great deal to Inuyasha who had always craved his brother's acceptance. In fact it had been Inuyasha that had initiated this when he went to console Sesshoumaru upon the death of Rin.

Rin and Kagome had become great friends and between the influence of the girls and the young pups, the brothers had become closer. Sesshoumaru rather liked the idea of being the charismatic and rather elusive uncle, as the children adored him and flocked around as soon as he was seen. It seemed strange to everyone else, the way that children seemed to be drawn to him; he did not gush over them, nor could they see any discernable warmth in his demeanour. So it was just put down to one of those inexplicable things that had no answer.

However five years ago Rin had become very ill and frail and no amount of careful nursing by Kagome who had used the remainder of her precious store of drugs from the future, could stop the inevitable and she too died peacefully with her Lord by her side; she was sixty nine. Like Kagome would be, she was greatly mourned by the village who knew her for a kind and considerate lady who always had time and a bonny smile for anybody.

Rin had never mated, preferring to stay beside Sesshoumaru for the rest of her life; she couldn't imagine being anywhere else and the pair spent many hours as they always had, in a flower field talking or companionably silent and usually with his nieces and nephews playing close by. In fact they looked the epitome of a strong happy family with the pups as well; a fact not lost on Sesshoumaru although he never commented on it.

After her funeral, where Sesshoumaru had stood like a marble pillar until all the smoke from the funeral pyre had died down, the youkai had calmly strode off into the forest followed discreetly by Inuyasha who was worried about his stoic brother. When he found him, Sesshoumaru was just standing by a moonlit pool staring at its surface; but Inuyasha could smell the tears that escaped him.

"You do not come to mock me do you Pup?" A calm voice that belied his emotion said. Instead of getting angry or aggressive, Inuyasha was understanding of the youkai's sorrow and felt compelled to be gentle. For the first time he came up to Sesshoumaru and slowly took the hand of his brother although alert to any warning from him against the familiarity; there was none, in fact the hand gripped his tightly as if to a lifeline.

"You are not alone Sesshoumaru, I and mine are your family and we care deeply for you." Inuyasha was not sure what prompted that little speech, but he had no regrets in knowing that the words were true. Sesshoumaru nodded and tightened his grip, but did not turn his head;

"There is such emptiness… he could say no more but Inuyasha felt a great sadness of his own.

"Rin was your mate in all but deed brother; of course you feel her loss, she was completely loyal to you, the very least you owe her is a few tears to regret her passing." Inuyasha choked on the words himself, but not from the same sorrow and Sesshoumaru took no offence at the intensity of his words. Inuyasha stayed all night with his sombre brother; they spoke very little and Sesshoumaru wept no more, but he gained comfort from his brother and in the morning went back with him to breakfast and an understanding but silent Kagome.

The exuberant little family in time filled the hollow void left by Rin in the Dai youkai's heart although he would never forget his human companion who he could admit in the secret places of that heart, he had loved dearly. But as he'd once informed Inuyasha, he would not mate her and become a hypocrite and when Inuyasha pushed him on the subject Sesshoumaru had growled and said there was more to it than Inuyasha knew.

Now however it was Inuyasha who needed him to be there, making sure that the bereft youkai had the lifeline to hold onto.

"You shed no tears for your mate Inuyasha? There is no shame if you wish to weep."

"I have done my fair share of that in the past Sessh, Kagome and I knew that this was coming. Now I just feel numb and cold." He sighed with a shudder and Sesshoumaru wisely said no more; but he would keep an eye on the pup for a while, knowing that Inuyasha was really in shock no matter what he said. His human half would cause him to react differently to a full blooded youkai but Sesshoumaru remembered how badly affected he had been when his father passed away and that was obviously different to a bonded mate.

They returned before dawn so that Inuyasha's pups would not have missed him as they were all early risers and in any case, they might have need of their papa. One of Sango's daughters who was herself a widow offered to stay with the family for a while and housekeep for the now motherless children and her offer was gratefully accepted by Inuyasha who still needed to provide for their everyday needs.

He did find however that the village was generous in it's support of the family and many meals and treats found their way to the front door of the small home. But Inuyasha knew it wouldn't be long before this stopped and anyway he wouldn't accept charity; he had never failed to provide and support his family in whatever they required and he wasn't about to stop now. Besides he had a lot to think about, Sesshoumaru had made him a very good offer.

"Inuyasha when you are ready, I would prefer it if you came back to live permanently at the Palace with your children."

"Why would you want that? I know we get on better but if it didn't work out…I won't put my pups at risk…they love you, let's leave it at that."

"Inuyasha, I give you my word that the pups will come to no harm from me; I am greatly fond of your offspring. I have provided for each of the boys with land of their own and the girls a substantial dowry; I wish you to see for yourself and hope you approve."

"Why Sesshoumaru, why would you do this?"

"I wish to make amends in some way for how I treated you and they are entitled to all I can offer from the Western Lands as their rightful inheritance. I am not trying to take your pups away from you, if that is your worry."

"I didn't think that, but I will need time to consider it; after all the village is their home, their friends are here."

"Pup, their friends are getting older while they stay young, do you want them to live in a place and see more of the humans die around them. Bring them to the West where at least they can have Kouga's cubs closer and befriend more youkai. Let them visit here by all means, but spare them living amongst it. I suspect that this was more Kagome's home than yours anyway; come, you already own the forest and well area, you can always patrol here."

It was all true, Inuyasha had bartered and paid for the area and he had noticed that his pups were noticing the ageing differences of the humans. Their parents hadn't hidden from them the differences between the species of youkai, human and hanyou and they had friends from all groups. But it had started to upset them when friends they knew from childhood became too old or preoccupied to play.

Life for the village gradually returned to normal, the new Miko was an efficient girl, well versed by her training from Kagome in the healing arts and she was wise for all her young years. Inuyasha saw that Sesshoumaru was correct however, he and his little family did seem to start to be on the outside more and more as time went on and he decided they should move to the West at least for a long visit and see how things went from there.

TBC