Later

It had been just over ten years since the defeat of Naraku and the proud father sat on a hill overlooking the mainly human village; his small year old son happily propped in his lap as the golden eyes of both watched over the bustle. That ten years had seen many changes, not the least in his eyes and he often came to the hill just to think and reflect on all that had happened.

He felt his brother's aura long before the pup caught his scent and being alerted to the silent approach, he made himself safe from the eager but dangerous little feet of his offspring; knowing that the pup would jump up in his father's lap to greet his beloved uncle, and not realising of course the pain his actions could cause his Papa.

True to expectations, the pup leapt up with both feet and his arms held out to his uncle who raised a wry but sympathetic eyebrow at his brother before he joined him in sitting down and taking the pup. The child was in his element now as both brothers stroked his head and scratched his puppy ears in a lazy and wonderful petting that soon had him dozing and eventually curled up asleep across his father and uncle's laps.

Soon the soft sibilance of the pup's snuffles and snores interspersed with tiny contented growls was the only sound to be heard amongst the ubiquitous lazy drone of the summer insects. Until the grunt of his father made the uncle chortle as the pup kicked out and caught him as he turned onto his back using his feet as leverage.

As the baby settled down again, completely carefree and boneless, his thumb went straight to his mouth; and he dropped off again, deeper into sleep. His tiny claws were still small and soft and the pup would naturally stop sucking the digit once it got too sharp and hard to be comfortable. There was a slight chuckle from Sesshoumaru at the sight, causing his brother to look at him;

"How like you he is Inuyasha; in look and habit, I remember seeing you just so." His friendly comment had an unexpected result as Inuyasha suddenly hid behind his hair and the faint scent of salt drifted through the air. The Daiyoukai observed his brother with concern as the boy carried on petting the smaller hanyou's ears in a way that he knew was soothing.

Sesshoumaru took a calculated risk in moving Inuyasha's hair away from his face and invading his personal space, he ran his finger tip across the dampened lashes. Inuyasha didn't move or pull away but neither did he answer his brother's unspoken question. Once again the youkai considered, this time his words; he was a consummate diplomat and yet until fairly recently he had never bothered about Inuyasha's feelings unless it was finding the best way to humiliate him, times had changed however.

"Inuyasha, you have become…distressed; are you well?" Sesshoumaru knew that he had said and done nothing obvious to make Inuyasha shed tears, however few there had been; so he needed to get the hanyou to speak. After giving a loud sniff, Inuyasha seemed composed and just glanced at his brother from the corner of his eye;

"Feh! It ain't nothing; just my stupid time tonight." Inuyasha pulled his sleeve across his eyes, embarrassed that Sesshoumaru had witnessed his weakness. His brother was not fooled for one instant.

"Little Brother, I realise that it can still be difficult for you to confide in This Sesshoumaru and believe that I am sincere… but we have turned many corners in our relationship, some sharp and painful but nonetheless they have been traversed; I thought we had reached an understanding and that you can now trust me if something I do concerns you. It no longer gratifies me to cause you tears of pain."

It took Inuyasha a few seconds to decipher his brother's convoluted meaning from his little speech but it was typical of Sesshoumaru to hide his own feelings that way. The Daiyoukai was pained that Inuyasha did not trust him and it brought out all his pomp. Inuyasha knew that he should reassure his brother that he had not deliberately upset him.

"It was not you Sesshoumaru…at least not on purpose. I hate becoming human, you'd think by now I'd be used to it, but I'm not…I still get more emotional than a woman when I transform; my youkai is waning and…just don't worry Sesshoumaru…here, I'll take the pup to his mother to be fed, he is waking up." Inuyasha stood after getting a nod from his brother and took the small one down the hill to the village and handed him to his mother.

That left Sesshoumaru on the hillside thinking and reminiscing about the time since they had fought together to rid their world of Naraku and the sacred jewel.

There was an unnatural peace when they finally defeated the vile hanyou and Inuyasha jumped into his Meidou in search of Kagome and the Shikon jewel. None of those left behind had been sure what to expect, but the eerie silence after the storm of Naraku was disconcerting for them monk's hand was cleared of the Kazaana and there had been no casualties amongst the allies as far as they knew; Inuyasha and Kagome were somewhere as yet to be determined.

Sesshoumaru liked calm and peace by nature and although he felt some understanding of the wailing kitsune, realising the cub was frightened for his missing adoptive family members; he had to leave the clearing. The slayer and even the monk also were both getting too emotional from the relief at the end of a bad era, but also the worry for Inuyasha and Kagome.

Kohaku followed him with his little pack, it was not the time for his reunion in peace with Sango yet; Miroku needed her at the moment, overwhelmed as he was at the loss of his curse. Sesshoumaru went to sit apart from the group around the small fire that Jaken had started; he needed to think and even the soft chatter of Rin and Kohaku as they cooked their rabbit was too loud.

Sometime later, Sango and Miroku were standing nervously on the outskirts of the camp waiting for an invite to draw closer or to ask Kohaku to visit with them. The Daiyoukai gave them a gracious nod and turned away offering a modicum amount of privacy for the slayer to greet her brother. Once again he barely understood the need of the humans to reassure each other of their well being and especially for the siblings to weep over each other.

But it was an undoubted need, one he could indulge for now and he heard the younger beg forgiveness and the unconditional loving response from the elder with satisfaction; Naraku had failed yet again in breaking the family. Soon though enough was enough;

"Kohaku, desist. Your sister is intelligent and knows that it was not you, but Naraku who killed your father and friends. It is time you too accepted that you had no control over the circumstances and for you both to leave it to the past."

"But…"

"No, Kohaku; Lord Sesshoumaru is right, there is nothing to forgive." Sango once again embraced her brother and left with Miroku, leaving Kohaku in Sesshoumaru's care until the boy wanted to return to her of his own accord. The young slayer returned thoughtfully to the fire and Rin sat by him whispering gentle words to further comfort the healing heart of the previously guilt ridden boy.

Sesshoumaru once again distanced himself from the group feeling superior to the ludicrous beliefs sometimes held by humans. He had seen first hand the blank and controlled expression of the child; Kohaku could not at first have fought Naraku's commands, so to blame him for them would have been ridiculous. It would have been like holding Rin culpable for the deaths of her family when they hid her from the bandits who took their lives and certainly no one of intelligence would suggest such a thing.

As he finished that thought in his head, Sesshoumaru was struck with an epiphany that had the effect of obliterating into dust his own long held opinion. It was as if a window had shone its light into his brain and illuminated his own erroneous thoughts and actions. Sesshoumaru knew he was highly intelligent and yet he had blamed an innocent and completely blameless newborn for his father's death. Where now was his superiority?

This required much thought and he got up and left the camp silently to make his way to the clearing where the well had disappeared. Sesshoumaru stopped by Goshinboku and felt the peace that the tree exuded and he looked up at the scar where his brother had rested, visualising the boy held there as he had often seen him during his imprisonment. Memories of times past flooded the Daiyoukai's mind as he thought of his frequent and harsh dealings with his younger brother, all prompted by the youkai's blaming Inuyasha for the death of their father.

Suddenly there was a sense of shame and regret which both surprised and dismayed him, but Sesshoumaru was nothing if not brave and quite able to examine his feelings for his brother objectively. Take away the hatred for his father's death and the equally spurious argument over the boy's mixed blood as obviously he could not help that either and Sesshoumaru was left with no reason for his disdain.

In fact the opposite was true, Inuyasha had always proved a worthy son of his father and in the early days of his life, (Sesshoumaru had to grudgingly admit), the pup had had the manners of a Prince as his mother had instilled him with proper etiquette. If Sesshoumaru had done as his father would have wished and protected Inuyasha instead of leaving him to fend mainly for himself, the boy would have been a worthy ally and true brother now instead of a shy and reluctant friend.

It was too late for those thoughts however, besides they were unproductive; as he had said to Kohaku some things should be left to the past. His eyes caught sight of the scar on the trunk of the old tree again and he sighed, they could only go forward if Inuyasha was in agreement, it was for him to decide. The bare trunk reminded the youkai of the circumstances that caused Inuyasha to be sealed in the first place.

The pup had been far too young in reality to take a mate in the youkai tradition although he did love the Miko Kikyou. But it had been more the love of a young boy with the crush of infatuation, much as some humans and even youkai had with an older mentor. She had been kind to the pup when he was starved of any other affection, or even contact with any other and she too had been lonely, it was have no surprise that their human hearts had drawn them together.

Seshoumaru had seen them both from a distance but had not been able to prevent the disaster from befalling them, all he could do was go and visit his sealed brother and condemn him further for his weakness. Then after the unsealing and when he had found out that Inuyasha had planned to become human for Kikyou, Sesshoumaru had been incensed, pulling the boy far away from his companions and subjecting him to a severe beating and tongue lashing.

The youkai lord had not spared his brother as he castigated him for ever having wanted to be rid of his youki and had called him all the derogatory names he could think of at the time. Inuyasha wept bitterly but had been very confused, not understanding why Sesshoumaru cared, seeing that he would have been dead in very few years had he become human back then. Wasn't that what the Western Lord had always wanted?

Sesshoumaru remembered watching Inuyasha secretly as he waited for the strange little pack to find the boy afterwards. Inuyasha had stiffly got up and walked to the nearby hot spring to soothe his aching body and wash all traces of his distress from his face. Then he'd skilfully thrown up a smokescreen of bad temper when his friends fussed over him, refusing to tell them what Sesshoumaru had wanted. It had worked and fooled them all but Sesshoumaru, who knew with satisfaction that Inuyasha would be bruised in body and soul for a long time yet.

It amazed and annoyed the youkai lord at the time that Inuyasha was the only one able to make him lose his composure or cause his mask of indifference to slip, but he never wondered what the reason was for it. But now as he pressed his hand to the scar and pictured the young hanyou asleep, it left Sesshoumaru with a bitter taste in his mouth when he fully realised just how much of a cruel bully he had always been to Inuyasha.

More especially as he also knew that despite their fights, the hanyou yearned for his love and acceptance. Sesshoumaru had never acted towards his brother with the Lordly Grace his father displayed around beings of all heritages and had expected of his elder son. In fact the previous Inu no Taisho would have been most disappointed in the heir to his kingdom if he knew of all of Sesshoumaru's neglect of Inuyasha.

It grew dark as the lord was thinking, not that that inconvenienced him at all, but there was an ominous shadow trying to grow in his mind. And no matter that his senses told him that there was no danger around, the oppressive feeling wouldn't go away. There was stillness and depth of silence surrounding him that he had never felt before and for a being that usually welcomed peace and solitude at times, the sensation was strangely unnerving.

Sesshoumaru realised that he was not alone in the area and he went to join the monk who had remained in the glade alone. He had sent Sango and Shippou to Kaede while he kept watch over the clearing. Miroku was not afraid of the dangerous youkai attacking him anymore but he was warily cautious, and politely greeted the Western Lord who inclined his head in turn at the monk.

"What do your spiritual senses tell you Monk? Where are the jewel and the Miko?"

"I don't know My Lord; I came back here to try to make sense of what I feel. But I feel nothing at all, no residue even, of the jewel or either of my companions. I can only hope that somehow both Inuyasha and Kagome have made it safely to her home in the future."

"You hope, but you do not believe that to be the case Monk."

"In the lack of any proof to the contrary, it is what I shall say to Sango and Shippou. Can you tell me otherwise My Lord?"

"I cannot. But what do you think may have happened? Is the jewel now destroyed?"

"I don't think so; surely the amount of energy released from such a powerful gem would leave evidence we could read."

"Unless it was returned to the future along with the Miko."

"I hope it wasn't…at least…"

"Explain."

"If that had happened and Kagome returned to her time and then the well disappeared…where is Inuyasha? He entered the Meidou to look for her after the time portal vanished; if she is not there he could be lost and alone searching forever, with no way back."

"No Monk, he would not; if he does not find the girl and the jewel he will fade to nothing in the Meidou."

"That is not something I can say to those who still wait with hope Lord Sesshoumaru; nor am I yet prepared to mourn the loss of two of the dearest friends I have ever had."

"Go back to the village Monk; I shall keep watch tonight."

"Thank you, please excuse me."Miroku saw Sesshoumaru nod slightly and left; but the Daiyoukai had already scented the monk's tears, brought to the surface by the thought that both Kagome and Inuyasha could be permanently lost to their friends. When he had fully gone Sesshoumaru became aware of the silence again as he pondered on Miroku's reasoning.

The hairs on the back of the youkai's neck stood up as the feeling of oppression came upon him again and his senses swept out all around to isolate where it was coming from. It was unfamiliar and therefore he was very alert for signs of danger. But it was strange, nature was not concerned; unlike when danger stalked and even the insects were stilled, Sesshoumaru could still hear the normal sounds from the animals in the forest. This indicated something different; perhaps it was something to do with the disappeared Shikon and the well.

After going back to check on his charges in his little camp and finding them all asleep and comfortable, Sesshoumaru returned to the clearing to await anything that happened. Yet nothing did and he passed a quiet but thought disturbed night.

TBC