The youkai who sat hidden in the tree was no careless observer, nor casual voyeur; in fact he had carefully made sure that the ignorant puppy to whom he was related and even felt some latent responsibility for had been informed of his duties to his lord and alpha brother. It had not been hard to suggest that the whelp had no knowledge of the correct protocol when it came to taking a mate and thereby shaming the House of the West, for Jaken to immediately take it upon himself to march straight off to Inuyasha to inform him of the salient points now that Kagome had returned.

Then a well timed stone to the head of his imp had stopped the expected volatile reaction to the news from the hanyou as he was distracted by the arrival of his brother. Sesshoumaru smirked; it was so easy to re-direct his younger brother's attention and by doing so defusing the angry words and coarse language which only went to prove the boy's neglect, something that the older brother had recently started to feel a strange guilt about.

Forestalling Inuyasha's arguments, Sesshoumaru had approached Kagome directly and stared down with his disconcertingly cool amber eyes into her own steady grey. In this close proximity nothing was hidden from him and her reactions were appropriate; cautious but unafraid, and by looking to Inuyasha briefly for reassurance, she showed proper respect for her mate to be. It was all subconscious of course but that did not matter, so he could afford to allow his eyes to warm slightly towards her and relieve her tension.

Kagome then saw the merest hint of amusement in her future brother-in-law's face and she smiled warmly in response, oblivious to Inuyasha's fussing which his brother could tell came from insecurity still. Idiotic, as the girl had obviously sacrificed one life to offer him another; but Inuyasha had never been an eloquent soul, had he even told her yet how immensely happy he was that she had returned? Probably, but not in words; but the youkai knew that Inuyasha's eyes were highly expressive, easily telling anyone of the depth of his feelings.

But a little nudge in the right direction wouldn't harm either.

"It is good that you have returned Miko; although This Sesshoumaru is amazed that you did not drown on your way back."

"Shut up Sesshoumaru." Hissed Inuyasha but he was uncharacteristically silenced by the stern look from his brother. Kagome was puzzled by the pair;

"The well has always been dry Sesshoumaru."

"Not for the last three years Miko; perhaps with your return we can hope for the scent of Inuyasha's misery to dissipate from the area as well." Kagome soon understood what Sesshoumaru was saying and became angry at him as she saw her hanyou had turned away in embarrassment. But the youkai lord was unabashed at her glare, merely glancing at her from the corner of his eye.

"Inuyasha is not good with words; I thought to inform you that you were greatly missed as he is unlikely to be able to do so." Good, he thought, the girl comprehended his method and had gone to stand next to Inuyasha again, offering her gentle support. It was time to leave before Inuyasha regained his bearings .

"Inuyasha, she will be good for you; you will both make a good match, you have my blessing." With that Sesshoumaru left in search of Rin and some sensible conversation without waiting for any thanks or acknowledgement.

Nearly three weeks had passed since then and to Sesshoumaru's growing annoyance the pair were still not mated. How was he to teach Rin that loyalty and stability were important in respectable family life if Inuyasha kept dallying around the issue? He wanted them to set the example in case it ever became necessary for the young girl to live with them; the Daiyoukai would not trust her with the over amorous monk even if he were now a respectable family man.

Besides which, the older brother was thoroughly bored with his little brother's misery; which although well hidden from his friends was obvious to any youkai who might still wish to take advantage of him. However Inuyasha's life belonged to Sesshoumaru and no one else was entitled to harm him let alone kill him; he was his brother's prey and only he would decide when.

Truly the pup was still young and shy, even still slightly insecure; but couldn't he see that the girl was waiting on him? But Sesshoumaru supposed that there had been a lot to do since Kagome had returned; many wanted to see her again and she had been busy reacquainting herself with her friends and their children, besides catching up with Kaede and making firm friends with the rapidly growing Rin.

The answer of course was obvious when Inuyasha came to him one afternoon, and he was astonished to think that he hadn't considered it before. The whelp had been apprehensive as he approached his brother and that was a dangerous state for Inuyasha causing him to feel defensive and ready to fight. But the boy had buried his pride somewhat for his Kagome and came to ask his arrogant but knowledgeable brother for advice.

"You have procrastinated for far too long little Brother; why is the Miko not yet your mate? Even you cannot possibly doubt the affection Kagome has for you." Sesshoumaru was intrigued and Inuyasha's blush amused him, the hanyou was crimson in the face.

"There is no privacy in the village and no safety away from it…and I'm…I'm not sure… whatIhavetodotobecomemates, Damnit." Inuyasha's self conscious frustration was clearly evident in his garbled sentence but Sesshoumaru was still perturbed at his brother's assertion.

"You think to inquire on how to mate a human from This Sesshoumaru?" The imperious lord asked with incredulity; "Surely your friend the monk is not a novice and could tell you what you need to know."

"Feh! I can't ask him; what mates do is private, I do know that much."

"I seem to recall that he was not always so chaste; on your travels, you did not share confidences in the manner of friends?"

"Miroku was a lot of talk and what Kagome calls 'wishful thinking'. Course he was not innocent, but he weren't that experienced neither. Any how none of that sort of talk was suitable for the kit's ears anyway; Kagome protected Shippou from such unsuitable images as much as she could, like a good mother."

"So you have no idea about mating; well I assume that as your parents were compatible, humans and higher youkai mate similarly and the mechanics are the same…I can tell you..."

"Not that; I know all about that and what goes where."

"You have just told me you know nothing about mating; what exactly do you mean and how do you know if no one has told you?"

"I ain't blind Sesshoumaru and nobody cared what sights a hanyou child was exposed to;" Inuyasha shuddered at some of his memories. "I had no Mama to protect me and say I was too young…but anyway, that's not mates either." Indeed it was not and Sesshoumaru felt his ire rise at this hitherto unknown aspect of his brother's life and made his mind up to keep a closer eye on the pup from now on, even as his youkai rebuked him for being rather late.

Nonsense he could not be too late, the boy was still an ignorant whelp and there was plenty of time for Sesshoumaru to oversee him still. His mind was made up and he would offer his protection to his brother allowing the young one to take the Miko as his mate and thereby tying up loose ends and bringing some sense of order to their lives. But Inuyasha was starting to speak again;

"Whatever, it's not that but…what about the nice things that girls want…all the …before stuff? How do I know when it's the right time; I know there's more to it than just grabbing her and…?" His energy fizzled out and his face reddened again as he remembered to whom he spoke, and then he sighed berating himself for speaking so freely but not really hoping for any help from his 'Oh so superior' brother.

But Sesshoumaru surprised him not just with his words but also his demeanour, which for once was not condescending when he answered. In fact the Daiyoukai almost sounded as if he cared in a brotherly sort of way.

"You are no longer hard pressed Inuyasha; Kagome has returned to be with you and she loves you. You have only to go at your own pace between you and listen to your mate. I will see to it that if you wish to court her alone, that you will be undisturbed." His voice was undoubtedly sincere and Inuyasha was speechless for a while although he eventually thanked his brother while accepting his offer.

Sesshoumaru however could see that Inuyasha was still holding something back; the boy still felt nervous and unsure about something; it was disturbing his aura. How could he still doubt that the girl wanted him? The answer once again came to the lord's mind; Inuyasha didn't doubt the Miko but was unsure of how she would be received as his mate and remembering all the anguish the pup's mother had been through, Sesshoumaru could understand the hanyou's reluctance.

There was only one person who could calm all of the pup's fears and that was his brother; perhaps it was time to try and put the past behind them. The Daiyoukai suddenly gripped Inuyasha's chin firmly but gently, turning the pup to face him; the whelp's apprehension at the gesture was obvious but gave the older brother no real satisfaction any more.

"Inuyasha, you have proven yourself courageous and loyal; it is easily recognised that our father's blood runs true in your veins. Any female who is worthy of you would look past your mixed heritage to the person you are. Your annoying Miko has done this and has also shown bravery surpassing many of her kind besides giving up her family and everything she has known before to come back to you.

"You are a good match and This Sesshoumaru offers you both his protection as members of his pack. You need never fear for your Miko's safety or that of any pups from anyone… My Brother." Gallantly Sesshoumaru refrained from commenting on the tears that glistened in Inuyasha's eyes as he was acknowledged properly as family for the first time; although he wiped them away when they spilled. "Go and court your Miko Inuyasha, she is waiting for you."

That had been a month or so ago and true to his promise, Sesshoumaru had made sure that the young couple had some time away from their good natured but sometimes oppressive, although well meaning friends who only wanted the pair to be as happy as they were. Inuyasha had already built a large village house in the clearing near Goshinboku and the well, where Kagome felt the nearest she could to her Mama and family.

But as of yet, Kagome lived with Kaede and Rin and the little hut sang with mirth for most of the day; the Miko was friendly and so was Rin, who was pleased to have found a like minded sister in her. Kaede watched the growing relationship between Kagome and Rin with pleased interest, but kept her own counsel on that between his lordship and his ward.

The young girl was growing up very nicely, she was more demure than Kagome but she was still lively; the lessening of friction between the brothers was a great blessing and Sesshoumaru found he was drawn more frequently to the developing village where even he was not immune to the effects of warmth and love. There would be interesting years ahead for the little extended family and Kaede felt that the father of the present Inu no Taisho would be very happy if he could see his sons now.

Inuyasha would arrive every day to bring small gifts for them all; things he had found that would interest, or food cleaned and dressed for cooking with the fur or skin offered for clothing or trade. He was proving a good provider, not that any would have doubted it and Kagome would have accepted him straight away; but she could recognise the importance to her hanyou of him being acceptable to all as a suitable mate for her.

He wished to be seen as an equal to any other she might choose and had eventually asked Kaede what was to be expected of a suitor. Kaede had seen the sincerity of the boy's wish and had stood in the place of Kagome's family for him while guiding him along the way. It had become natural for them to hold hands now as a matter of course when they went out for walks without Inuyasha pulling away if they were observed.

Today though something was different about Inuyasha and was the cause of the Daiyoukai being hidden in the tree; hidden even to his brother's keen senses. The hanyou's heart rate had risen greatly and his temperature was also high as a consequence, he was extremely nervous with his breathing rate much faster than normal; and Sesshoumaru concluded that he was about to ask Kagome to be his mate at last.

Eventually the young couple approached as he knew that they would; Inuyasha was obviously nervous and Kagome was blushing already as if she knew what he wanted to say before he did. Sesshoumaru thought she probably did, which was just as well because the boy was now just staring at her as if she was a stranger; his body had gone quite rigid except for his tell tale ears which were flat on his head.

Kagome eventually put her head down to hide her amused smile from her seemingly statue like suitor, who was feeling completely frustrated and tongue-tied. Inuyasha had planned what he wanted to say but it suddenly didn't sound right in his head and he just knew that he would muck it up and ruin his chance with the girl he so desperately loved.

He wanted to reassure her that he could provide for her, look after her and protect her; he wanted to say so much that he didn't know where to start and he still couldn't look her in the eye. As he stood there getting more worried and ready to bolt by the second, he heard a soft voice carried on the wind in tones too low for human ears. It spoke in Inu; a language he had barely had a chance to learn, but told him all he needed to know.

"Use your senses; your eyes and look at her, see how she responds to your presence." Inuyasha did so; he looked at Kagome and saw her flushed cheeks, her sparkling eyes full of love for him and her smiling mouth. He moved closer and whispered to her; it was not the fine speech he had prepared from Kaede's scroll, but the words were the only ones that mattered to Kagome.

"Kagome, mate me please; I love you." Simple but direct and all he could say at the time, rushed out in a whispered breath and she could hear he was still uncertain of her answer. Shaking her head ruefully at his self doubt that reared its ugly head at the most inopportune times, Kagome closed the gap between them and put her arms round him smiling.

"Of course My Love, oh yes Inuyasha; of course." He was still fairly rigid although he managed to put his arms round her and hug her to him in relief and gratitude. Kagome waited, hoping for a kiss but so far he was content with holding her and resting his head on hers so she took the initiative and kissed his neck which startled him.

"Do I get a kiss Inuyasha?" She asked coyly and he obliged by pressing his lips to hers and holding it for a few seconds. Kagome realised with a semi pleased shock that he knew no more than that but she was now unsure of what to do, she didn't want to make him feel that she had more experience than she did, which would have the effect for certain of making him insecure.

However, Inuyasha's secret advisor was on hand;

"Your senses pup; what does your nose tell you, use your instincts." Heeding the voice Inuyasha put his nose close to Kagome's neck and scented her blood through her pulse points; it was very inviting, he could scent her desire and was not put off by the shy giggles coming from the girl as his snuffling nose tickled her. At last he started to relax and let his instincts take over and he brought his face close to hers again in time to hear the voice whisper; "taste her."

Inuyasha snuffled around her face gently and then gave her a tiny lick on her cheek; she giggled again but her gentle humour was not off putting, rather the opposite as he recognised it was him who was making her happy. He licked her again and this time she moved her face slightly and he caught her lips in another pressing together pout of a kiss.

"Taste her." He heard again and obediently licked her lips. This time he heard Kagome's sharp intake of breath and as her lips parted slightly, he licked again and suddenly his instincts went wild as Kagome responded in kind. Soon they were learning together and were lost to anything else as they held one another closely sinking to the ground in a jumbled, but tight embrace.

For Inuyasha this was something new and completely unexpected, was this what kissing really was? No wonder the poets devoted so much verse to the action; Inuyasha had never understood what was so mind blowing about the type of kisses that he had known before. But this… this trust, this intimacy, was almost overwhelming and as he held Kagome even closer, he vowed that no one else would come to know her in this way; she was his and her mind blowing kisses were only for him. He need not have worried, Kagome was thinking exactly the same thing; Inuyasha was hers alone.

Before instincts could carry them both away too far however, the silver youkai who had made sure that everything had gone correctly turned up to escort them back to the village. He ignored the growls of both his brother and the Miko, who were both red faced from being 'caught' by his smirking Lordship who now had a present for them.

"When you join together as mates, equal in love for each other, your auras will blend; the closer you become, the more deeply you will find yourselves becoming as one and your lives will harmonise in length of days. If this is how you grow then Kagome should be able to see her family again."

This was wonderful news and they thanked Sesshoumaru for the gift of the knowledge, it would be a long time for her but the wait would be worth it; Inuyasha had started to understand that being mates would be pleasurable and not the travesty he had witnessed often in his childhood and Kagome knew for certain that she would be the boy's first, as he would be hers. They would learn the rest together.