Inuyasha tried hard to fight the growing fatigue that threatened to consume him daily; using the rest of his strength to put on a good face to everyone. It was a source of personal pride that years and years of neglect and self reliance from a small pup onwards, was as training for this; the end of that life. His self discipline kept him going until he was able to retire at a reasonable time each night, and no one was that interested in him, only noticing him if he was absent; as Takahiro was now sleeping in the same rooms as his real siblings.
It was as the sixth month was nearing the darkest night, that Inuyasha felt the change; felt his energy drain to its lowest ebb and he knew that this was the night he wouldn't recover. He was calm however, a sense almost of relief soothing his mind as he sat down to write his final notes, one to his brother and one to Takahiro. These he left on his desk with his box from Totousai and Tessaiga, before he curled on his futon and wrapped himself in Kagome's kimono; clutching to his breast his most precious treasures.
They consisted of the little red ball from his mother and one of her hair combs, a ribbon of Kikyou's, a couple of photos of the shard hunting group with Kaede, and the heart shaped locket Kagome gave him. Then there was the bond of adoption letter, sealed in the blood of the brothers and also a drab leather lace that Sesshoumaru would recognise; it was the Daiyoukai's for when he tied his hair to bathe and he had given it to the tiny Inuyasha to look after one day. The pup had claimed to have lost it, earning a hard swatting for doing so. Now Sesshoumaru would find out that the lace had not been lost at all, but squirreled away amongst his little brother's treasures.
Inuyasha was comfortable and contented, surrounded by his memories; he was unafraid for the first time ever of his human night and relaxed completely. His sleep was restful although not refreshing, as his human blood warred inside him; but there was no pain and Inuyasha was only dimly aware that he had survived the night as his youki returned. Sadly though, the transformation took the end of his strength and he breathed his last; peacefully and easily, leaving on a sigh.
Inuyasha never knew that his brother burst in, seconds too late to say goodbye, and breaking down the doors, as he felt the youki dissipate. He never knew that Tenseiga was swung several times uselessly across his body; not able to bring back the life that didn't want another chance at a loveless existence. He didn't hear the howl for the Dowager mother from the son, as he held his brother's limp body in his arms; or her sad denial that the Meidouseki she wore, would work on someone that Tenseiga could not revive a first time.
He never knew that his few tender words of love for his son and his bequest that all he owned with the exception of Tessaiga, was to go to the pup; filled the child with such remorse, that he was never again harsh with someone's feelings, or biased against what they were. Nor did he know that the boy had to be dragged gently from his body, and that he wept inconsolably for days after. In fact exactly as his true father had done for Inu no Taishou; Takahiro cried in the arms of his grandmother who had held her own son in exactly the same way years before.
No one knew what happened when Sesshoumaru sent everyone away and spoke to his brother's spirit; or when he read the letter that asked Sesshoumaru to give his love to any who cared. No one knew how Sesshoumaru felt when he read that Inuyasha had always loved his brother, even though he knew it was unreciprocated and unwelcome. No one was there when Sesshoumaru gently stroked the fluffy puppy ears that no longer twitched or gave away their owner's thoughts and emotions, and didn't flatten against his head when the youkai hissed angrily, that he had not given permission for Inuyasha to leave him.
The healer was summoned and bore with the Daiyoukai's fierce anger that he had not been told of the seriousness of his brother's illness with stoic calm;
"Lord Inuyasha did not wish for any to know that the illness could be terminal."
"Why was this; why would he have kept This Sesshoumaru from understanding?"
"Lord Inuyasha didn't inform me of his reasons; all I know is that something in his human blood was killing him."
"How would he get such a disease in the blood?"
"I do not understand the details, but he told me that Lady Kagome warned him that some diseases from where she lived could be dangerous to him. I understand that, whereas her native people could be immune, travellers would have no such protection in some instances; it was one of the reasons she did not like him to stay for long. Lord Inuyasha told me all of this, when I asked him to let you know so that he could be cured."
"There was a cure? Inform me of what could have been done."
"There was a cure, one with risk certainly, but one I felt would have been justified. He would have needed to release his youkai for measured amounts of time to counter the progression of the human blood on his mortal night; I had hopes that it could even eradicate the sickness. For this he would have required you to help him control his youkai."
"Inuyasha surely did not doubt that I would do this?"
"No, My Lord; he knew you would be willing. As I have said, I do not know the full reasons the boy had for refusing, he would not tell me; but he had seemed willing to try when I first diagnosed him, when he was just pale and sometime fatigued."
"You may not know, but you can make an educated guess."
"Very well, on my observations and things the boy didn't realise he had let slip; he was afraid to let his youkai out, but he was still considering it at one point, even though he felt it would have meant your scorn and mockery for his humanity. Something though changed his mind, and he decided to let nature take its course." The healer could guess what that was too, but chose to let the Daiyoukai work it out for himself.
Sesshoumaru went to re-read his brother's letter and found a most distraught Myouga calling Inuyasha to awaken. The Daiyoukai ignored the flea and read the letter again; he read of his brother's love for him and the family and the commission Inuyasha had left, for him to tell his friends that Inuyasha had died happy. He then read the bequests; he had left Tessaiga to Sesshoumaru, the little bracelets still in the box were for any further pups his brother sired, and last but most certainly not least, his request that Sesshoumaru and Yukaiko adopt his son Takahiro as one of their children."
And that was the reason Sesshoumaru knew without a doubt, why Inuyasha had refused to fight for his life. He had not been afraid for himself, or afraid of his youkai or his family's ridicule; Inuyasha was never afraid, except on his human night and even that he had faced alone and dying. No, it was the only way that Takahiro would get what he truly wanted; a place back in his original family. Inuyasha had made the ultimate sacrifice that a parent could do for their child; he had died so that his son could live the life he should never have lost.
Sesshoumaru replaced the letter and turned his attention to the small flea who was muttering about how he failed his late, great master, his hanyou son was dead. Surely the old faithful servant could have prevented this tragedy in some way; what use was he now, just an old flea? Something in the tiny old man's voice rang warning bells in the Daiyoukai's mind; he turned to Myouga and told him that his servitude had not ended with Inuyasha's death, as he had been bequeathed to Takahiro.
It was an act of kindness that Sesshoumaru had not expected to do and just happened, but he didn't regret his decision. By now he could hear general sounds of disbelief and mourning from his pups and also members of his household; Inuyasha would have been most surprised that even many of the youkai servants had grown to admire him and were greatly saddened that he had died. Sesshoumaru looked once more on the unnaturally still form of his baby brother.
Now the boy's face was in repose, he couldn't help but see how young the hanyou had been and notice the quiet that was so wrong on Inuyasha; he should be vibrant and noisy, full of life, not cooling and dead. Those stupid ears should be moving; twitching, catching every sound, alert even in the boy's sleep, not still, never still. Sesshoumaru ran his finger over the tips again but there was nothing, no flick of annoyance or gentle incline of the head to invite more petting; Sesshoumaru's anger surged again.
"You stupid pup; you are so disobedient, who is there now that This Sesshoumaru can trust as implicitly as he does you? How dare you leave your son to grieve; you are always doing stupid things without consulting your elders? You must come back; you can't stay away, I order you...please." With that Sesshoumaru swiped Tenseiga over Inuyasha's body again and held his breath until he realised that Inuyasha hadn't heard him.
Sesshoumaru barely noticed when his mother entered the room; she went over to the body of the hanyou and stroked his hair.
"So this is what your brother would look like if it had been you who had killed him Sesshoumaru?"
"Those days were past mother, as you well know."
"Yet he has refused Tenseiga; perhaps we convinced him too well that he was beneath everyone and was not really wanted."
"Your meaning Mother?"
"It is clear Sesshoumaru; no one cared enough about him, we all used him and he didn't want to stay. It is plainly obvious. I take it he has given Takahiro back to you?" She left her son once more to his thoughts. Was it true that he hadn't cared about Inuyasha? He did not know the answer to that; at least not one he would admit. All that was certain was there would be no more perky puppy ears, no more vibrant and expressive golden eyes; no more Inuyasha, who could look at him as an equal without backing down.
No more silly whelp trying to please him or looking to him for acceptance, in the way that his own younger pups looked to the older ones; the boy had given up completely. No more rash and irrepressible actions that marked Inuyasha out as different to any youkai, who usually acted more deliberately; in short, no more little brother. Sesshoumaru for once was at a loss as he realised, he couldn't yet accept the inevitable evidence before his own eyes. But during the day nothing changed concerning Inuyasha and there were now pressing matters to attend to.
Sesshoumaru took the news himself to the village and remained stoically unmoved, as disbelief gave way to certainty and then bereavement, as the relevant parts of the letter was read. He waited for calm before inviting them to attend the funeral, and any who wished to come would be made welcome. Then he left for the bleak lands to make a personal visit to Totousai. The youkai smith already knew of Inuyasha's passing and for once was completely lucid when spoken too; he didn't think the Daiyoukai had a long fuse at the moment.
"I know the pup has passed on Lord Sesshoumaru; Tessaiga mourns his passing, as it did with Tenseiga when your father died. I have no doubt that the boy passed it on to you and by doing so, Tessaiga allows you to handle it."
"This Sesshoumaru has not yet picked it up. I come to ask you for a commission, will you think on my request?"
"I will; I have something that may interest you here already, care to look?"
"Very well." Sesshoumaru followed the smith into his forge and was offered a box; exquisite in design and although made of metal and stone it was not overly heavy. Gold filigree in intricate patterns overlaid precious onyx, jade and opal that created iridescent swirls under the overlay and in the light. Sesshoumaru was astounded and it showed on his face for an instant.
"How would you know that this is exactly what This Sesshoumaru would have had you make?"
"I did not at first and I didn't make it for you. I made it for the other pup so that his sentimental treasures could have a place worthy of them. Load of rubbish that he carried everywhere, but they were important to him."
"You know about his treasures?"
"I saw them several times; he showed them to me when he was a small whelp, said he wished he had somewhere nice to put them. I made him the box, but then he was sealed to Goshinboku and I never did get to give it to him. Still, that is what you are here for isn't it; you are going to put his things in the box? It was the swords that told me, both of them knew you had preserved his things and that you wanted somewhere to put them."
Sesshoumaru took the box and pondered on the uncanny relationship the smith had with the swords he made; and knowing there were many things he had still to understand about the aged smith who was far deeper than he seemed. He next had to visit Bokusenou who he found had also heard the news, via the plants and trees all the way from the Palace, and he too had a gift for Sesshoumaru.
His gift was a beautifully turned urn, made from the wood of his branches and this too had been made in advance in case Inuyasha had died earlier. The wood's barrier guaranteed that no one could disturb the ashes of the one encased within and would keep its looks if it were to be displayed. Bokusenou was unsurprised at Tenseiga's failure; he'd known Inuyasha all of his life and knew the boy's heart more than anyone.
"I heard him many times Lord Sesshoumaru, he would talk at night or anytime he was alone. The trees and plants even the grass, brings me their news. Your brother was a simple soul; he never wanted power or possessions, all he ever desired was love and acceptance and to not be alone, a need common to all, even high Daiyoukai."
"My brother was hanyou; it was not his lot in life to be accepted by any."
"That would not stop the desire or need however, and besides the pup found a home with his mate but when she died, it never happened again."
"He had a home Bokusenou." Sesshoumaru was annoyed when he received no reply and spoke again. "This Sesshoumaru provided a home."
"Certainly you provided shelter, but Inuyasha always felt he was an obligation and inadequate. He thought he was considered a disappointment and he certainly never felt at home in his father's house. Inuyasha actually asked very little from his only family, but he never got it, did he; at least, not enough to wish to stay, or come back to you? I fear Lord Sesshoumaru, you will miss that little hanyou in many ways; now that he is no more and it is too late for you to change his perspective on his life." The old Magnolia tree then dismissed Sesshoumaru by withdrawing his face and the Daiyoukai was left to dwell on his words for many years to come.
When it came time for the pup's funeral too, Inuyasha would have been astonished at the number of beings who were genuinely grieved that he had died. All the humans from the village had turned up; walking in solemn procession along with Shippou, Kouga and his friends were also in evidence along with the entire household of the Western Palace. Myouga and Totousai were together and the very trees whispered to Bokusenou sombrely, murmuring miserably in memory of the forest child who would no longer make his home and playground high in their canopy.
Eventually everyone left for the hospitality of the Western Palace, everyone except Sesshoumaru who stood silent and aloof; his face like stone. It was all so final; his baby brother was truly gone now and to his surprise, Sesshoumaru felt despondent. The hanyou had been so much a part of his life that it was hard to imagine he would no longer see or speak with the boy, let alone spar or argue. No more would his brother's childish actions and personality light up the Palace and bring a breath of fresh air to the sometimes staid halls.
Strangely Sesshoumaru felt an aching loneliness, the unpleasant feeling made worse when he considered that Inuyasha had often felt this way, and indeed had been alone on the night he died. But thankfully for the Daiyoukai's state of mind, the boy had not smelt of fear, although he had obviously known that he was dying; but he had thought that nobody would have stayed with him and again Sesshoumaru felt a blaze of rage born of sorrow. He hated this feeling of gloom and uncertainty that had descended over everyone and once again berated Inuyasha in his mind for causing the misery he saw all around.
How dare the pup leave them all, how dare he go when he could have stayed; how selfish could one person be? The anger of grief left finally and the feeling of emptiness increased, as darkness crept over the land; leaving the glow of the byre shining as a beacon of Inuyasha's lost hope. Sesshoumaru wondered how was it possible that he felt so bereft, when he had a mate and pups waiting for his return. How was it that part of his soul felt that it had died along with his brother?
Inuyasha also would never have believed in the lone tear that spilled down the porcelain cheek of his brother from the wells in his eyes. 'You damned little fool Inuyasha, how could you not know how I really felt about you.' Then he had to answer for himself, causing another jolt, as no familiar acerbic rejoinder was forthcoming, nor would do again; 'How would you have known, because I never told you or let you know in any way; did I even know myself until now? But I did love you Inuyasha, you were my brother. This Sesshoumaru regrets it is too late to tell you.'
Finally he too left the site of his brother's funeral; the ashes would be gathered and interred in the urn in the morning and guards took up positions around the bier as Sesshoumaru left. He was met by Takahiro who looked a mess and together the two who had caused the most pain to Inuyasha and yet was loved the most by the hanyou, went inside, united in grief that was mainly unspoken, but that both understood.
They had both lost the same someone who was irreplaceable to them; life would never be the same, and the emptiness could never be completely filled by anyone else. Inuyasha had carved out his own niche in their hearts; it was such a shame that he had never been aware, had he believed that it would matter to anyone, he might have asked for his brother's help and still been alive. But he had lived with derision all of his life and finally believed it himself; and now he was free.
Life carried on and many years passed, the West prospered under Sesshoumaru's rule even when the youkai adopted disguises so that they could blend in with the more numerous human inhabitants around the world. Sesshoumaru often secretly kept watch at the shrine during the short time that Inuyasha and Kagome were on their journey, and he marvelled at them as they jumped in and out of the well, arguing or laughing; they were only children and he had been so cruel.
One day however there was a private ceremony, attended by the family of the Western Lands, the alpha wolves of the Northern Territories and a kitsune with emerald eyes. The kitsune had been charged from early on to keep an eye on Kagome's grave through the years, and was instructed by Sesshoumaru to buy up the land when it came up for sale on his behalf. No one was sure of what Midoriko had meant all that time ago, but the land of the slayer's old village was always in possession of the West.
Then suddenly the grave had appeared in the same place, but with a more modern marker stone and this was taken as the signal that Kagome had fully been returned to her natural time. Hence the ceremony; a new stone had been ordered and two more small caskets were added to the Miko's grave. One contained the ashes of Inuyasha and the other his mother; her little stone marker had crumbled into unrecognisable dust and so she had been reverently removed, until such time as she and her son could be re-united.
The marker now read;
Here lie three,
beloved of each other,
greatly missed by family and friends.
To the memory of
Kagome and Inuyasha