Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha series or any of the characters.
Summary: Young Inuyasha should probably know better, but he'd do anything for the chance to be accepted by his big brother.
A/N: Warning to Sesshoumaru-fans. I normally think very highly of Sesshoumaru, but this story does not portray him in a good light.
Inuyasha is meant to be roughly the equivalent of eight or nine in this story, based on my own guess of him being orphaned around six or seven.
Important: An inugami is a sort of powerful servant spirit (similar to the two shikigami children Kikyou uses) that is said to be created by killing a dog in a rather cruel and unusual way. The dog is buried in the ground with only its head showing and surrounded by food and water placed out of reach. After it starves to death, the food serves as an offering to placate its spirit. The spirit then serves the person who left the offerings (and who killed it). Inugami are capable of independent action, and can turn against their masters or possess people.
Much thanks to my beta, Ranuel!
Translations and further A/N are at the bottom.
Inuyasha was crouching in the dark among the cattle owned by some local human lord, when all at once he felt that something was very wrong. He froze in the process of stealing milk directly from the source, and strained his ears and nose for any sound or scent. He was getting better every day at interpreting subtle signs of danger, but he couldn't seem to detect anything out of the ordinary.
Inuyasha stood up, wiping his mouth on his sleeve as he tried to figure out what was wrong. He hadn't been discovered, or the beating would have already begun. The castle and village were quiet and dark, and the cows were calm and mostly sleeping. The guards patrolling the castle had not raised any alarm. All the normal night noises were still present, and he could hear none of the noises that he had come to fear. Nothing seemed out of place except for this strange feeling inside him.
Inuyasha walked around the dozing cows to the fence and peered through it towards the forest, wondering if something was out there that he should know about. The sensation felt wrong, but it didn't feel dangerous to him.
Feeling drawn towards the trees, Inuyasha slipped through the fence and headed for the edge of the woods, moving fast and keeping low so that the guards wouldn't spot him. Once inside the cover of the trees, he slowed his pace and straightened up, keeping all his senses alert.
He hadn't walked very far, following the pull of the strange feeling, when he began to hear and smell something new. From up ahead, there came the scent of dog — a very dirty dog, from the smell of it — and the sound of whimpering.
When he found the source of the smell and noise, he stopped in confusion. It was such a strange and unexpected sight that it took him a minute to figure out what he was seeing. A dog was there, alright, but all he could see of it was its head. Someone had dug a hole and buried the dog up to its neck in the dirt.
While Inuyasha was busy trying to figure out why someone would do such a thing (and how they had gotten the dog to stay still long enough to bury it), the dog spotted him and started to really make a racket. It seemed excited and desperate. Then Inuyasha noticed the two bowls lying on the ground near the dog, and realized why the dog was so happy to see him. Someone had left food and water just outside the dog's reach, and it was starving.
Suddenly angry at this cruelty, Inuyasha forgot his questions of why, and moved forward to help the poor dog. The first thing he did was push the water bowl closer so that the dog could reach it. Then he rolled up his sleeves and started digging.
It didn't take long for the dog to finish drinking the water, and it started licking Inuyasha's face eagerly as he dug. Perhaps because of this distraction, Inuyasha failed to realize that he was no longer alone.
"Well, well. The puppy's quite the digger, isn't he?"
Inuyasha snapped his head up and froze at the sound of the amused drawl. This was worse than humans. In front of him stood an inuyoukai, leaning against a tree with an entertained look on his face that instantly raised Inuyasha's hackles. As if this wasn't bad enough, another inuyoukai melted out of the forest off to Inuyasha's left, leaving no doubt in Inuyasha's mind that he had little chance of escaping.
Numb with dread, Inuyasha turned and did the only thing he could think of. He kept digging. The second youkai laughed slightly, and the first one started teasing Inuyasha, but neither of them harmed him. Yet.
"Keep going, puppy! Almost there!"
Inuyasha thought hard as he dug. The two youkai were well-dressed, and they smelled of his brother's clan. Courtiers, most likely — young ones, and probably not as high in rank as they liked to appear. Inuyasha might not have spent any time in an inuyoukai pack, but he could guess this much based on his experience observing the human nobles he'd lived among when Haha-ue was alive. People with true power just had something about them that couldn't be faked.
A third inuyoukai had arrived now, this one barely old enough to be considered an adult. His clothes were even more flashy than what the first two wore, and they couldn't conceal his gangly frame and shorter stature. The way this one carried himself was meant to make him look bigger than he really was, but just ended up making him look awkward. Inuyasha was instantly wary. He'd met young human courtiers of the same sort. They tended to be casually cruel in hopes of getting recognition and approval from those higher up. Inuyasha had learned to avoid those with something to prove.
Trying his best to ignore the teasing and the staring, Inuyasha continued digging and finally succeeded in freeing the dog. Weakened and wobbly, it licked his face again, wagging its tail as hard as it could. Inuyasha pushed it away in the direction of the bowl of food, and it started inhaling the contents. It smelled quite bad. It had obviously been trapped for days, and no creature can go that long without peeing. Inuyasha was looking forward to washing his hands.
"What a good puppy!" cooed the first inuyoukai, as the second applauded with a smirk.
The third inuyoukai had gotten close, and reached out in mock affection to pat Inuyasha's head. Inuyasha bared his teeth warningly and flattened his ears away from the clawed hand as it descended. The moment it was within range, he snarled and sank his teeth in as hard as he could.
The youkai yelped. The other two laughed. Banking on the element of surprise, Inuyasha released the hand and made a dash for the bushes. Before he'd run more than three steps, he was seized by the back of his collar and lifted off his feet. Twisting in the hold, he started clawing every inch of the youkai that he could reach, which was mostly his wrist and forearm. The youkai was giving him a rather ugly look, but didn't let him go.
"Feisty, isn't he?" commented the first inuyoukai, moving closer with a look of amusement. "I daresay he might give Eiichi-kun a run for his money in a fair fight."
Inuyasha took a swipe at him, too, but his arms were not long enough to reach. He renewed his attempts to break free, to no avail. His claws could pierce the tough skin of the inuyoukai, but they were too small to do enough damage, especially from such an awkward angle. He was starting to feel panic at the expression on the youngest youkai's face. Apparently Eiichi did not take kindly to being made to look like a fool, and the teasing from the older youkai was not helping matters. Eiichi clearly intended to make Inuyasha pay for the humiliation.
Inuyasha's saving grace was potentially worse than anything Eiichi could think of to do to him.
"Release the whelp."
Inuyasha froze, and then snapped his head around to stare at the newcomer, dimly aware of Eiichi doing the same. There stood Inuyasha's rescuer in all his glory — hero, tormentor, lord, enemy, god, alpha, brother. After a moment's surprise, Eiichi opened his hand. Inuyasha dropped to the ground, landing in a crouch at the feet of his older half-brother, Sesshoumaru. He stayed still, pinned in place by that gold gaze as the other inuyoukai bowed deeply to their lord.
"Aniki?" Inuyasha chanced hesitantly.
Sesshoumaru shot him a quelling look, and then turned to survey the scene before him. Inuyasha stayed silent and looked around as well, noting that Sesshoumaru had arrived in the company of a female guard captain. She looked older and much tougher than the young nobles, but didn't seem interested in doing Inuyasha any harm. He dropped his eyes hastily when she caught him looking at her. Just because she didn't seem to intend to hurt him didn't mean she couldn't change her mind.
Sesshoumaru assessed the situation in silence, taking note of the filthy dog, the empty bowls, and the hole in the dirt. He turned his gaze towards the nearby village, although they were too far into the forest to see it.
Sesshoumaru turned his gaze back to the dog. Showing every sign of submission, it crept forward to sniff him. Sesshoumaru paid it little mind, but then as Inuyasha watched, Sesshoumaru touched its head and ears briefly — without affection, but not roughly. Jealousy threatened to overcome Inuyasha, who had never been touched even half so gently by his brother, but he pushed the feeling away.
"Take this creature to the fortress," Sesshoumaru ordered to no one in particular. "We have business here tonight."
There was a brief bout of teeth-baring and growling as the other three male youkai decided without words which of them was to perform this duty. After a moment, Eiichi backed down from the other two. He looked for a moment as though he might try to challenge the female, but she sent him on his way with a growl. Cowed, the young noble approached the dog and picked it up, looking disgruntled to put his fine clothing in contact with such a smelly thing. A moment later he was gone in a streak of light that soon vanished through the trees, heading westwards.
Inuyasha felt relieved to see Eiichi go. He had a feeling that tonight was going to be difficult enough without keeping that particular danger around.
"Sesshoumaru-sama," began the quieter of the remaining male youkai. "On our arrival, we traced the scent to its origins in the village."
"Maybe you should have set the animal loose before worrying about that," the female remarked. Her voice was deeper than was typical of most women, and its tone was laced with disdain. "He was half dead. And did it really take both Keizo-san and yourself to trace a scent to a spot only a quarter-ri distant, Masashi-san? Even this hanyou pup could do that."
It was on the tip of Inuyasha's tongue to tell her to leave him out of it, but he wisely kept silent. He really didn't want to draw attention to himself. With any luck, whatever "business" his brother had here would be enough of a distraction that they'd let him slip off to hide somewhere until they were gone. If he was really lucky, he might be able to steal some more milk before dawn. He was still hungry, and the cows hadn't even tried to kick him yet. What more could he ask for?
"Well, we didn't want it to wander off," the more talkative youkai, Keizo, answered the female. "We only got close enough to it to catch a whiff and follow the scent, and then we came straight back here."
"Did you at least give it water, or did you leave that for the whelp to do as well?" the female scoffed knowingly.
Inuyasha stopped focusing on this byplay as he realized suddenly that Sesshoumaru was watching him from the corner of a half-lidded eye. Why was he paying any attention to him? What did he want?
"Inuyasha," Sesshoumaru suddenly spoke, causing the other youkai to fall silent. "How was it that you came to be here?"
Feeling nervous with all eyes turned to him, Inuyasha struggled to find the right words.
"It felt wrong," was what he decided on. "So I came here and gave the dog water and let it go."
None of them spoke for a minute. He struggled not to fidget under their gazes.
"I didn't know hanyou could sense such things," commented Keizo. "He doesn't smell much more powerful than a human."
"Not that one can smell much under that reek," Masashi put in quietly.
Inuyasha bristled, feeling his temper rise rapidly. Then he did something that was probably foolish.
"Keh! You ain't too bright! 'Course I stink! There's dog piss all over my hands!"
He felt stupid almost immediately after his defiant words, but refused to let it show. If there was one thing that would doom him tonight, it was showing any sign of weakness. He clenched his fists and bit his tongue.
Masashi looked taken aback, but Keizo started laughing.
"Better be glad the pup was willing to do the digging, Masashi-san!" Keizo exclaimed. "Unless you wanted the privilege for yourself?"
Masashi responded with a glare and a long, low growl. "Perhaps Keizo-san should cease his noise and put his tongue to better use bathing the pup," he retaliated.
Keizo pulled a face. "I'll let Shika-san do that," he replied. "She already thinks the pup is so much cleverer than us. Perhaps she wants to adopt him."
Inuyasha couldn't help but sneak a glance at the female youkai, who was looking at him with a slightly startled expression on her otherwise stern face. The moment they looked at each other, they both immediately looked away. When Inuyasha was sure that she wasn't looking at him anymore, he chanced another glance from beneath his bangs.
It wasn't that he actually wanted her to take him in or anything. He could look after himself, and who knew how she might treat him? But just for a moment, he let his imagination pause on the notion before he shrugged it off. The idea of it had caught him off guard. That was all.
"Enough," Sesshoumaru spoke before anyone else could say more. "This Sesshoumaru grows tired of such pointless talk. There are more important matters at hand."
Inuyasha saw Keizo and Masashi exchange glances. The mood had shifted, and there was an air of excitement and anticipation in their expressions now.
"Is it time to start, my Lord?" Masashi asked, a dark, eager tone colouring his voice.
A very canine grin revealed Keizo's teeth, and there was a hungry look in his eyes.
Inuyasha didn't like the feelings he was getting now. His instincts were screaming at him to get out of there, and though he hadn't consciously tried to move, he found that his feet were trying to sidle towards the bushes seemingly on their own.
"Will it be the usual, Sesshoumaru-sama?" Keizo asked.
Inuyasha froze when Sesshoumaru's gaze suddenly landed on him again.
"No," Sesshoumaru said quietly, after a moment. "This Sesshoumaru has a better idea." He started to smile, and Inuyasha felt dread fill him at the sight. A smiling Sesshoumaru was never a good sign.
"Inuyasha is going to help us."
The words sent a shiver down Inuyasha's spine.
Everyone was looking at him now, as though assessing the possibilities. And worse, they seemed to like whatever possibilities these were, if the intrigued glances they exchanged were anything to judge by. Inuyasha searched Sesshoumaru's wickedly smiling face for some hint as to whether he should start running.
"I… Aniki… I don't think…" Inuyasha stammered. His feet were trying to edge towards the bushes again.
"You want to help, don't you?" asked Masashi.
"Don't you want to be one of us?" Keizo cajoled.
One of them…
Inuyasha looked at them all, seeing the tall, elegant figures that seemed to shine in the darkness. They seemed so beautiful, so perfect, so powerful. No one would ever dare to chase them away or ridicule them or beat them. They were so great and strong — Aniki most of all! And in that moment, Inuyasha wanted more than anything to be one of them.
But it couldn't be true. Nothing good could come of this. Inuyasha prepared to make a run for it, hopeless though it might be to try.
But before he could move, Sesshoumaru blurred out of view, and then Inuyasha stiffened as he was caught from behind.
"You don't want to disappoint your aniki, do you, Inuyasha?" Sesshoumaru's voice said softly in his ear, sweet like poisoned honey. The elegant, clawed hands that had seized Inuyasha's shoulders grew gentle, one moving to pull him backwards into a half-embrace, while the other ventured up to pet his hair. "You want to be one of us, yes? You want to help?"
The terrible want was drowning out the part of him that felt like a rabbit caught in the claws of a predator. One of them! The idea was everything he'd ever wanted! And Sesshoumaru had never acted like this before, had never touched him with kindness or spoken to him so gently. And although he had a suspicion that he ought to know better, he wanted so badly to believe that it could all be real. He had to hope, because the alternative was too cruel.
"Come now, otouto-chan," breathed Sesshoumaru. "Don't you want to make me proud?"
Something in him broke.
"Okay," he answered. "I'll make you proud, Aniki."
He squeezed his eyes closed, cringing, as soon as the words left his lips. Sesshoumaru's fingers stroked Inuyasha's ears as he whispered again.
Inugami – dog spirit servant (see more in my notes at the top)
Inuyoukai – dog demon
Youkai – demon, spirit
Haha-ue – archaic word for mother
Aniki – big brother
Ri – measurement of distance equal to roughly 4 kilometres (2.5 miles)
Hanyou – half demon
Otouto – little brother
A/N: Think Sesshoumaru is OOC? Just wait. I think you'll change your mind when all is said and done.