Inuyasha is the property of Rumiko Takahashi.

Kaede looked around; the glitter of lights and multitude of cars letting her know that at least the master of the house would be home. The party taking place inside might even be the little one's salvation, as any youkai with a decent nose would be able to tell her parentage. She shifted the toddler further up onto her shoulder and huffed as she followed the long driveway to the front door. This would be the only chance she'd give the male. After all, she didn't have the time or energy left to argue with a rock-hearted youkai. He'd had years of freedom from his actions and it was time for him to grow up and face the consequences.

She didn't bother with the doorbell. Little niceties like that were getting easier and easier to ignore as time marched on. Instead she simply opened the door and let herself in, following his signature youki through the house until she arrived in a large room dominated by a grand piano where her erstwhile prey stood behind a beautiful vixen playing Chopin. The glittering throng were all throwing curious glances at the elderly human who had walked into an elite youkai gathering. The gossipmongers whetted their tongues, anxious to get the newest scoop on their illustrious host. After all, the silver hair on the child the old woman carried was fairly distinctive.

Adjusting her burden once more, Kaede walked up and stared into the eyes of the male she had been reminded of daily for the past two years. Clearly enunciated, her challenge rang out, "Sesshoumaru-san, you can invite me to your study and we'll speak privately, or we can cover everything right here. You and the child are the only ones who stand to lose anything within the next hour."

Sesshoumaru stood frozen for a moment as he took in the scent of the girl in the old miko's arms. It couldn't be. I didn't… But he knew Kaede quite well and a liar she wasn't. His throat tightened as he thought of the last time he had seen her granddaughter. Nodding sharply, he gestured to the left indicating the doorway that would take them to his office. He gave a quick glance to his personal assistant before leaving behind her. Jaken nodded; the party would be dispersed, damage control started, and eavesdroppers apprehended.

Inside the office, Kaede laid her sweet-cheeked burden on the leather couch and faced the author of many of her sorrows. Gone was the melancholy lad she had known for more than forty years. In his stead stood a steely-eyed cynic that she'd love to slap until he came to his senses. But that would probably take more time and energy than she had, so she'd settle for the cold hard facts she was about to spring on him.

"You will have to forgive the intrusion on your party. It took a great deal of time and effort to find out when you would come back to Japan and where you would be. I couldn't take the chance that you would leave unexpectedly in the early morning again." To her satisfaction, the tick under his eye let her know the barb hit home. "And to answer the question before it even comes up, Aitouko is yours and Kagome's."

"Aitouko?" Sesshoumaru questioned. Kaede grunted and made herself comfortable in one of the overstuffed chairs catty-corner to the couch her great-grandchild slept on.

"Yes, my child of lament. Her mother's only bit of joy and the last of my line." The open shock in his widened eyes showed that he got the implications. "I am here for only one reason. I am dying, and as much as you don't deserve her, you are her father and are preferable to an orphanage. You must decide tonight if you want to acknowledge the fact that you abandoned a woman who lived only for your love as well as the child in her belly, and if you want to claim the girl as your own."

His jaw firmed and he bit out, "What lies have you been fed? I would never have…"

Kaede narrowed her eyes and cut him off. "You deny it? That almost three years ago you took my granddaughter, who had adored you since she was a child, to your bed in a fit of grief over your father's actions in spite of her humanity? That not only did you take her innocence, you bit her, impregnated her, and left the next morning blaming her for your weakness? You can honestly tell me that you didn't allow yourself to revert that night to your more primal state? Because I know a little more about inuyoukai reproductive processes than to buy that."

Sesshoumaru sat heavily on the floor, a slight stinging erupting from the graceless action. He allowed his mask to drop and looked at the woman who had so often offered him excellent advice before he had let the bitterness of life twist him. "I bit her? She… Changed? But, if she Changed, what happened? Why do you say Aitouko is the last of your line? As a youkai, Kagome should have been strong enough to survive the birth."

Kaede sighed as she shook her head. "Sesshoumaru. What can't you understand? Kagome loved you with everything she had. The stress of being abandoned on top of the Change unbalanced her. The primal side came out with ease since she had no one to train and support her. In her grief she would wander, looking for you. About a month before she was due something happened and she transformed in a public area. The SDF took her down. The next day an officer came to the shrine and handed Aitouko to me."

"The SDF? Then she could be alive…"

"It's been two years. If she is, there's no telling what they've done with her. You know the military's stand. A daiyoukai bite is regarded on the same level as a lycanthrope bite. She was an unstable Changeling without guidance. Since there was no husband or clan to claim her, they considered her either a mistake or purposefully abandoned to cause havoc. As far as they're concerned, she was fodder. At this late point, should you come forward asking for her, you will be sanctioned yourself and they will make sure Aitouko is lost in the system."

His guts twisted as he realized everything she said was true. Still, no clan claimed her? "My father…"

"Turned his back on her, quite literally. Inuyasha did the same, although I wouldn't doubt it was the Inu no Taisho that enforced it."

"And any clan that might have had sympathy for her couldn't or wouldn't go against him." Damn that rigid self-righteous bastard and my misogynistic self. Sesshoumaru took a deep breath and made the decision of his life. He rearranged himself till he was sitting on his knees, arranged his fingers into a triangle and bowed so deeply his head was against the floor. "Miko Kaede Higurashi, I have dishonoured your house and shamed my name. I abandoned the woman who was my devoted friend for many years after using her shamefully and left my child in her womb unknowingly. Please allow me to make some slight recompense. I will ensure your ease during your final days as far as possible. I will pay any and all debts and expenses of the Higurashi shrine for the rest of my life. Beyond that, with your blessing I will step up as my daughter's father and raise her as Kagome would have wished, with the precepts taught by the shrine of her ancestors."

Kaede snorted. Young fool. "Get off your knees. What you'll do to redeem yourself is to shape up and be a better father than what you had. What does an inuyoukai need of that pretentious bunch you had here earlier? Basics, Sesshoumaru. An inuyoukai is at their best with their clan. Loyal, trustworthy, honorable, honest family and friends are what you need. You've got the start to a good clan sleeping on that couch as long as you don't ruin her. Look for those qualities in others and gather them to you." Her face lengthened and the faintest bit of sadness tinged the air. "Lone dogs die alone, young one. It's not something I recommend."

Resolution reforming the lines in her face, she stood. "I parked the car outside your estate. If you'll send someone with me, Aitouko's suitcase is there. I've got all her papers so you can start work on claiming her as well as a copy of my will. Of course she gets everything." Kaede paused in her way out the door. "She's an affectionate little girl, just like her mother was."

"I will make sure that doesn't change," he stated, golden eyes serious and once again as melancholy as they were in Kaede's youth. She gave a quick nod of her head and left down the hallway as Sesshoumaru arranged for her to be taken to her car on the house intercom. He walked over and crouched down by the couch, looking over this new addition to his life and ingraining her scent in his memory.

"I swear little one, I'll do better…"

Dark lashes fluttered and crystal blue eyes looked into gold.