DANDELION    by roku kyu

Disclaimer 1: Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru are the creations and property of Rumiko Takahashi and other related enterprises. I do not make any profit from this fanfiction.

Disclaimer 2: The world of the Western dog clans with its politics and social hierarchies centered in the High Stone is the creation of the wonderfully complex imagination of Becky Tailweaver, as laid out in her epic fanfiction novel, The White Dog. Also belonging to Becky are the names and characters of Lord Seibunishi Seppakuinu, Lady Ayako, Lady Yukishima, and Shirokiba. The setting of this story in the High Stone and the original characters of Lord Seibunishi Seppakuinu, Lady Ayako, Lady Yukishima, and Shirokiba are used here with the express permission of Becky Tailweaver, and may not be used elsewhere without her permission.

This story takes place in the time period between the TWD side stories "Birth of a Son" and "Fall of a Prince."

So what did I do? Just borrowed everyone else's genius for a peek into the hearts of those living in the High Stone. Enjoy!


Lord Sesshoumaru Seppakuinu, prince of the dog demon clans, was being hunted. His acute senses informed him of that fact moments ago, and now his sense of smell, extraordinary even by his people's standards, identified his pursuer. He waited, secure in the warrens of his home, the High Stone, listening for the sound of the hunter being intercepted by one of the many guards who frequented the halls of the palace of the dog demons. No such luck. The hunter appeared to have some skills in stealth. Sesshoumaru sighed. It was obvious that he was going to have to deal with the intruder himself, either by direct confrontation or by placing the miscreant in the path of capture. His eyes narrowed briefly. Although it would be quicker if he apprehended his pursuer himself, it might be more amusing to lead the hunter on a merry chase through the halls of the High Stone, ending with an ignominious public capture. It would at least alleviate some of his endless boredom and provide a brief respite from his incessant brooding about his newly reduced status in the dog demon hierarchy. His normally impassive features darkened as his thoughts returned yet again to his public humiliation at the hands of his father.

Sesshoumaru swept out of his quarters, attempting to leave his thoughts behind, but they pursued him as doggedly as his stalker. Did his father even realize that he had humiliated his eldest son with his proud declaration naming his second son as his designated heir? It was true that Lord Seibunishi, although acknowledging Sesshoumaru as his son, had never designated him as his heir. But as the centuries passed, and Seibunishi remained without a mate or any other offspring, the clans regarded Sesshoumaru as the unofficial heir. They blamed the cold and contentious relationship between Seibunishi and Lady Yukishima, Sesshoumaru's ambitious mother, for Seibunishi's failure to make a formal statement in favor of his son. Sesshoumaru, despite his relative youth, had been treated with a degree of respect due to the future daimyo of the dog demon clans.

He increased his pace through the twisting, vaulted halls as the painful memories flooded into his mind yet again. Subconsciously, he noted that his pursuer, although losing ground, had not yet given up the chase.

Who would ever have thought that Seibunishi, Daimyo of the Western clans and a true taiyoukai, would fall in love with a human? Worse yet, declare her as his official bondmate and bring her to the High Stone to live with the dog demons. True, Lady Ayako was an unusual human - she was spirited and intelligent as well as beautiful, and her aura burned with a strange fire. However, even the most speculative of the gossips among the dog demons never expected the shocking news that Lady Ayako was to bear a child, and that this half-demon, half-human child would become the official heir of Lord Seibunishi. A hanyou, a human child, to become Daimyo over all of the Western dog demons?

Sesshoumaru strode into the Great Hall, his icy, perfect features concealing his furious thoughts. The servants, guards, and lower-ranking demons, however, recognized the black mood of the former heir through past painful experience and so merely bowed and moved quickly out of his way. He detected whispers from one side of the hall and turned his golden gaze onto a group of Silver Dogs gathered there. They acknowledged him with bows, but he noted that the bows were slightly shallower than those accorded to his status, shaded just short of open insolence. He had his father to thank for that, too. He noted that his pursuer had not followed him here - a pity, since this was the place he had chosen for the capture of the hunter. Perhaps he had gotten lost in the twisting tunnels… Sesshoumaru did not really care anymore. The darkness of his thoughts robbed the game of what little pleasure it might have afforded him. He left the Hall and the court gossips behind him and decided to return to the privacy of his own quarters.

"What scandal, what disgrace to bring to the White Clan!" Lady Yukishima had hissed when she heard the news of Seibunishi's heir. "To taint the blood of Yuki-Inu with human filth!" Sesshoumaru smiled derisively. He knew that the issue of racial purity was just a convenient platform from which his mother could voice her objections to Seibunishi's new heir. In truth, any heir other than her son, no matter how pure their dog demon heritage, would be unpalatable to her. The new heir meant the destruction of her centuries of careful plotting, all designed to give her power over the Western lands. Even the conception of Sesshoumaru was yet another stratagem in her quest for power - if she could not influence Seibunishi nor secure him as a bondmate, she believed that she could at least control the next Daimyo of the Western lands. Unfortunately for her schemes, Seibunishi thwarted her ambitions by naming his second child, not his firstborn, as his heir. Sesshoumaru felt bitter laughter welling up like bile in his throat - in his mother's eyes, the only purpose to his very existence had just been nullified. This thought did not cause him the pain it would have two centuries ago; he had long since learned that to his mother, he was just a means to an end. His father, however…Why did he yearn so much for his father's love and approval? What drew him to Seibunishi? True, his father had shown him brief moments of warmth, only to have those moments invariably ruined by Yukishima, who seemed to have a eighth sense about these things. Intellectually, he understood that his father's reluctance to name him as heir stemmed from Seibunishi's fear of Yukishima's possible power over his eldest son. But didn't Seibunishi see that Sesshoumaru was more than just his mother's instrument? Sesshoumaru often defied Lady Yukishima and refused to be her pawn.

No, Seibunishi didn't see it; in fact, he didn't seem to see Sesshoumaru at all. At the door to his quarters, in the privacy of his personal area, Sesshoumaru grimaced in frustration. He didn't even cross his father's mind once on the night of his second son's birth! As Seibunishi proudly displayed the newborn infant and declared him as heir, didn't he see the message he gave to all of the rest of the dog demons?! That anyone would be a better daimyo than Sesshoumaru; that a tiny, wet, unproven infant would be preferable to his firstborn?! Couldn't Seibunishi have waited a few decades, at least until the child was of age, to spare his eldest son the humiliation of being ousted by an infant?

Sesshoumaru knew that Seibunishi did not deliberately set out to humiliate him - and that was the bitterest pill of all. Seibunishi did not consider him a possible enemy…no, he did not consider Sesshoumaru to be worth any thought at all.

Lost in his thoughts, Sesshoumaru had forgotten about his pursuer…but his pursuer had not forgotten about him. Patiently, tenaciously, he had tracked Sesshoumaru, skirting public areas where he would be noticed and apprehended, losing ground at times but never losing hope. Finally his quarry was alone, in his sight and in his range…and he could not restrain a cry of triumph:



Startled by the sudden loud cry, Sesshoumaru whirled to face his pursuer. "Not again," he sighed. This was the third time in two weeks. He eyed his formidable opponent. Just over two feet tall, displaying a wide, goofy grin that exposed two tiny fangs, huge shining golden eyes, topped by a fluffy crown of silver-white hair with two slightly rounded puppy ears peeking through - this was the usurper of Sesshoumaru's rank and status.

"Inuyasha…" he began, but Inuyasha interrupted with an ear-piercing squeal of delight and began pattering quickly toward his elder brother. Still somewhat unsteady on two legs, he overbalanced, falling forward onto all fours, his momentum carrying him head over heels into two consecutive somersaults ending at Sesshoumaru's feet. He grinned in triumph at his success in reaching his brother.

Sesshoumaru looked down at the small fugitive. "You should learn to move in a manner befitting the future daimyo of the Western lands," he admonished and received another blinding smile in return. Inuyasha seemed to delight in any words that Sesshoumaru deigned to bestow upon him.

"Why are you so happy? Look at yourself." Inuyasha was dressed in a finely made silk kimono and hakama, but his chubby feet were bare. "Lost your shoes again, haven't you?" Sesshoumaru observed.

Inuyasha looked down, then lifted one foot to his face to examine it carefully. He looked up at Sesshoumaru with an expression of innocent surprise so comical that Sesshoumaru nearly smiled. "You needn't try to deceive me. I know perfectly well that you deliberately throw them away, without regard to the efforts of servants who comb the corridors every day in search of tiny shoes."

Inuyasha pushed forward onto his hands and feet, bottom in the air, then pushed up off his hands to stand upright.

"Quite graceful!" mocked his elder brother, and Inuyasha grinned again.

Lifting his hands toward Sesshoumaru, Inuyasha demanded "Up!" bouncing on his little feet. "Up, up, UP!", punctuating each demand with another bounce.

Sesshoumaru stared at him for a moment, then, looking around carefully to make sure they were alone, he bent and scooped up the child. Inuyasha reached for his brother's fluffy tail that rested on his right shoulder. Knowing Inuyasha's propensity to chew on any available object, Sesshoumaru flicked it off his shoulder to keep it away from the child's questing hands.

Sesshoumaru puzzled over his feelings. Moments ago, he had thought about his loss of status with rage and pain and yet now held the responsible party gently against his breast. He did not understand why he could not bring himself to hate Inuyasha. At first, he regarded the infant with resentment and contempt, but as Inuyasha grew, Sesshoumaru reluctantly found himself warming to the child. It probably had to do with the way that Inuyasha regarded him. From the moment that he began to notice beings outside of himself, Inuyasha had apparently decided that Sesshoumaru was the most desirable person to spend time with, second only to his parents. Sesshoumaru never understood why - unlike the ladies of the court, he never coddled or cooed to Inuyasha, addressing him briefly and disdainfully if at all. Perhaps Inuyasha recognized some sibling bond that was not apparent to his elder brother, even with his superior senses. At any rate, he formed an attachment so strong that one of the first few words he uttered was "Nii-san."

Inuyasha looked up into Sesshoumaru's face, golden eyes shining with love and admiration. Sesshoumaru stared back, realizing that this was the only person in his life who had ever looked at him in this way. Certainly, some young female dog demons had looked at him with appreciation and desire, but they always had an ulterior motive, some ultimate goal for which he was only the means. Inuyasha, however, expected nothing in return, and perhaps that was why he felt this way about the child, this feeling that was…not hate.

Inuyasha yawned pinkly, then leaned his head against his brother's chest. Sesshoumaru remembered the long and tiring chase that he had led and looked at the child with a touch of admiration. To have kept up with his elder brother through the twisting corridors, to have cleverly avoided being drawn into the open in the Great Hall which would have led to his inevitable capture, then to have retraced his steps to Sesshoumaru's quarters - Inuyasha must be developing a keen sense of smell and a good grasp of strategy. Nevertheless, he was still fairly tiny for that level of exertion; no wonder he was tired.

Sesshoumaru breathed in his brother's scent. Inuyasha must have escaped shortly after his bath, for he smelled fresh and clean. He smelled of the forest; of fragrant, spicy woods and green, growing things. That was his father's scent; Sesshoumaru smelled of it, too. But Inuyasha's scent was also interlaced with something fresh and slightly flowery from his mother's side, like a spring breeze blowing through sakura blossoms. Although most dog demons complained of the scent of humans, Sesshoumaru had always, reluctantly, found Lady Ayako's scent to be pleasant. Underneath those inherited scents was a third note, Inuyasha's own: a warm, clean-furry puppy scent. As Sesshoumaru inhaled again, his nose was tickled by the light fluff of his brother's hair. He had never felt hair so soft - finer than the finest silk, too soft to be called hair, it was like the soft silvery fluff of a dandelion gone to seed.

"Little dandelion…" he whispered to the dozing child, using an endearment for the first time in his life. Sesshoumaru closed his own eyes, basking in the peace of the moment, wishing that he could always be this content.

Perhaps… perhaps this child, instead of being his nemesis, could be the answer to his loneliness. Sesshoumaru allowed himself to dream, a rare indulgence for him. He pictured Inuyasha as a young man...his features already showed promise of the handsome demon youth he would become; slightly odd-looking, of course, because of his half-transformed look with the dog ears but still showing a strong resemblance to their father. Inuyasha would be the future daimyo, and Sesshoumaru would be at his side, wielding Tetsusaiga, the Fang, his father's demon blade that could slay one hundred demons with a single blow. Sesshoumaru had overheard his father speaking with Toutousai, the demon swordsmith, about the blade forged for his elder son. Sometimes, when he was particularly depressed, the thought that Seibunishi meant to leave Tetsusaiga to him would comfort him for all the past slights he had received at his father's hands.

Sesshoumaru imagined himself and Inuyasha dressed in the finest silk kimonos, discussing government policies and court gossip, laughing with young females at the Full Moon Gathering, running in a hunt, wrestling in a mock battle… He had once, for amusement and to test his skills, tracked another demon from court, the wolf-dog halfbreed Shirokiba, to his brother's lair. There, hidden, he had watched Shirokiba play the big brother to his young sibling; wrestling, teaching, teasing the small wolf demon. Sesshoumaru had always sneered at the halfbreed in the past but was taken by surprise by his sudden envy of the lower-ranking demon: envy at his apparent happiness in his brother's company, and envy of the worshipful looks bestowed upon him by the young wolf.

That thought brought to mind the way the child in his arms had looked at him. Here, then, was his chance to have that same sort of happiness. He shifted the sleeping child, snuggling him closer. "Little dandelion," he murmured once again, and allowed himself a brief, brilliant smile.

Too late, he noted the presence of another demon, the only demon who had the ability to catch him unawares. He should have known, he thought bitterly. Did he ever have a moment of contentment that she didn't destroy?

"Sesshoumaru…" his mother sighed.


Sesshoumaru tensed. There was no way for him to conceal his tenderness towards his younger brother, short of flinging the sleeping child to the ground, and even that would not fool his mother's perspicacious eye. So he turned and faced Lady Yukishima, lifting his chin in defiance. "Mother," he replied respectfully but coldly, unable to bow because of his small burden. He noted her great beauty, still striking despite her obvious advanced age, contrasting sharply with the cold demonic glitter in her pale yellow eyes.

"Such manners, Sesshoumaru," his mother chided softly. "Did you not know that the heir has been missing from his quarters for more than an hour, and that the halls are filled with panicking, weeping servants, searching every corner of the High Stone? If you could not spare a thought for your father's distress, you might at least have considered me. The noise is...wearisome."

Knowing that any denial of responsibility on his part would only lead to more sarcastic remarks from his mother, and anxious to leave her presence, Sesshoumaru replied smoothly, "Then it would be best if I returned Inuyasha to his quarters straightaway." He turned to leave.

"Wait!" Lady Yukishima commanded, her tone cool and modulated but showing some of the steel underneath.

Sesshoumaru froze in his tracks, the tension in his body transmitting itself to the child in his arms, waking him. Inuyasha yawned and opened sleepy golden eyes. Upon seeing the unfamiliar lady demon, he snapped to alertness, showing neither fear nor friendliness, just wariness of the stranger. The strong resemblance between this woman and his beloved "Nii-san" did not lull Inuyasha into a false sense of security in her chilly presence.

"So this is Seibunishi's heir," purred Yukishima, drawing close to the child in her son's arms. "Difficult to believe that something so small could be the source of so much upheaval." Although she appeared to be referring to the current panicked search going on in the upper halls, Sesshoumaru knew that she was actually speaking of the political unrest brewing among the dog clans.

Yukishima reached a taloned hand toward Inuyasha's ears. "A strange-looking child..." Inuyasha twitched his ears away from her hand. "But such a pretty face..." she cooed, placing a finger on the child's rounded cheek. "Didn't your father ever warn you against wandering so far from your den? So many dangers in these remote corridors. A little thing like you...could get hurt!" she hissed, suddenly vindictive, turning her claw to cut the child's face.

Sesshoumaru flinched in shock, seeing beads of blood appearing on Inuyasha's cheek, and waited for the onset of tearful wails.

They never came. Instead, he was surprised to hear a snarl issuing from his brother's throat - high-pitched, infantile, but a snarl nonetheless. "Ba-baa!" spat Inuyasha and swiped at Yukishima with his tiny claws, catching her hand as she drew back.

She stared in surprise at the four scratches on her hand, then narrowed her eyes in rage at the still snarling infant, the first dog demon to strike at her in centuries. Unconsciously, Sesshoumaru pulled Inuyasha closer to his chest, circling his arm around the child to protect him against his mother's certain retaliation.

Yukishima seemed to recall herself at this action and settled her features into their normal disdainful mask. "Seibunishi's son, indeed," she remarked coldly. "He shows more spirit than you have in two centuries, my dearest boy - too bad that it's not enough to save him." She leaned closer to Sesshoumaru but stayed out of reach of Inuyasha's claws, Sesshoumaru noted in amusement. Her voice was low and vicious. "Listen to me, my foolish, worthless son. Should I ever again come upon the repugnant sight of you embracing that hanyou brat, I shall shred him into a thousand pieces which I will then scatter throughout your quarters, and leave you to explain to your father what happened to his precious heir!"

Sesshoumaru stiffened. He knew that his mother did not make idle threats, and that Inuyasha was in serious danger. Her last remark mocked him with her confidence in his inability to inform against her - a loyalty that he himself could not understand, considering how much he hated her. Sickened by his inability to defend himself or to effectively strike back at her, Sesshoumaru whirled and began striding away.

"Oh, and Sesshoumaru..." his mother called to him icily. He stopped but did not turn around. "After you return that brat to his keepers, make sure that you bathe and change your kimono. You reek of hanyou."


"That bitch!" Sesshoumaru fumed, striding toward his half-brother's quarters.

"Bitch!" agreed Inuyasha, riding comfortably in his brother's arms. "Bitch, bitch, bitch!" he repeated, rolling the word around in his mouth experimentally.

Sesshoumaru gave him a startled glance, unsure if Inuyasha truly understood the meaning of the word or was just parroting him as small children do. In any case, Lady Ayako would not be pleased with the newest addition to her son's vocabulary. Sesshoumaru only hoped that Inuyasha would not use the word until he had a chance to excuse himself from their presence. However, what was it that Inuyasha had called Yukishima just before he clawed her...? Old hag...? Sesshoumaru smirked. Perhaps he wasn't the only bad influence on his brother's language.

As he walked through the corridors approaching the upper chambers, he began to encounter the panicked servants Yukishima had spoken of. "Lord Sesshoumaru! Lord Inuyasha!" they cried out in relief, bowing low, then following behind the brothers. By the time Sesshoumaru reached Inuyasha's quarters, they had acquired a sizable entourage. Sesshoumaru could hear his father's roar long before he reached the door and stepped inside to see Seibunishi pacing up and down as he vented his worry upon the remaining servants.

"Just explain to me how in the SEVEN HELLS an entire household of servants can't keep track of ONE small child!!"

In contrast to Seibunishi's raging concern, Lady Ayako sat calmly at a small table, writing in her journal. "Probably because the said small child is so much like his father," she teased, smiling.

Seibunishi glared at his beloved wife. "That may be, but…! Listen, did you check with Lord Sesshoumaru?" he demanded of his servants. "Lately, Inuyasha has been seeking him out…"

"Yes, my lord, but my lord Sesshoumaru was not in his quarters when we looked there earlier."

"Well, check again!" roared Seibunishi. He suddenly caught sight of the people crowding into his wife's quarters, with Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha at the center of the group.

"Inuyasha! Gods be thanked!" He snatched Inuyasha out of Sesshoumaru's arms. Inuyasha crowed delightedly into his father's face, then pushed backwards to dangle upside down by his feet in one of their favorite games. Sesshoumaru let his arms fall to his side, a look of loss briefly crossing his features before he assumed his usual impassive expression.

Lady Ayako, however, did not miss that look. "Lord Sesshoumaru," she said softly, as she bowed respectfully before him. "Domo arigatou gozaimashita. You are very kind to look after Inuyasha and return him safely to us yet again." Sesshoumaru gave her a brief nod in acknowledgement, trying not to notice how her warm courtesy was a sharp contrast to Seibunishi's disregard of his elder son's presence.

"And where have you been adventuring today, you impossible pup?" Seibunishi addressed Inuyasha affectionately.

"Nii-san!" exclaimed Inuyasha proudly, still upside down, waving a hand toward Sesshoumaru as if he had magically conjured up his elder brother out of thin air.

Just then, Seibunishi caught the sight and scent of blood on Inuyasha's face. He pulled his younger son upright, examining the cut with a gentle sniff. His face darkened. "Leave us," he commanded the still hovering servants. They withdrew quietly to their usual duties.

Seibunishi handed Inuyasha to Lady Ayako, then turned to face his elder son. "Sesshoumaru..." Seibunishi rumbled gently. Sesshoumaru's hackles went up at the danger in that quiet tone. He much preferred his father's shouts to this controlled menace in the soft words. "Tell me how this happened."

"It happened in the halls outside my quarters," he replied truthfully, though vaguely.

"And who did this to him?"

"I cannot say." Sesshoumaru's phrasing made it unclear whether he was saying that he did not know, or that he would not tell.

Seibunishi, however, had no doubt as to which Sesshoumaru meant. A faint scent clinging to Inuyasha's cheek, undetectable to anyone else, gave him all the information he needed as to who was responsible. Angry golden eyes glared into impenetrable golden eyes, tensions rising between the two as one demanded information, and the other refused to yield.

At this point, Lady Ayako intervened. "Lord Sesshoumaru, please have some refreshment while I take Inuyasha to the bath. I would appreciate it very much if you would wait here so that he can tell you goodnight. He does love..." She caught herself, not wanting to upset Sesshoumaru further, "...spending time with you," she finished. Looking toward her husband, she inclined her head toward the bath chamber, indicating her wish to speak with him alone.

"Wait here. I would also speak with you further," commanded Seibunishi.

Sesshoumaru resignedly seated himself in the main reception chamber, letting out a breath that he had not realized he was holding. As servants rushed forward to serve him, he reflected on the events that led him to this confrontation. Sesshoumaru shook his head imperceptibly. "Heaven and hell..." he murmured to himself.


Lady Ayako placed Inuyasha in the bath that had been prepared for him and dismissed the bath chamber attendants. She carefully bathed the already healing cut on Inuyasha's face. Her husband leaned against the wall, his pleasure in the little family scene easing some of the tension from his brow. He watched as she washed their son's hair and body, then left him to play in the water under their careful gaze. Certain that they finally had privacy, Ayako spoke softly. "My lord..."

"Yes?" he replied gently.

"You are wrong to treat him that way! It's about time that you realized that you have two sons, not one, and that the elder deserves some of your consideration as well!"

Seibunishi flinched, taken by surprise, as always, by her sudden flashes of temper. Defensively, he growled back, his temper rising to meet hers. "I would treat him more like my son if he would ever act like my son. Closed, emotionless, never showing what he's thinking...he's been that way since he was a pup! There have been times when I think I've gotten through to him, but then he closes up again. I can't see any of myself in him, only Yukishima! And why does he constantly cover for her evil deeds? If he would just admit that it was she who did this to Inuyasha, I could have her exiled from the High Stone once and for all! But no, he has to be Mother's boy..."

"That's utterly unfair! Would you respect him more if he informed on his mother?!"

"Yes, if it meant that Inuyasha would be safe from her!"

"And would you then expect Sesshoumaru to respect himself?! Or do you even care?!"

"Now who's being unfair?!"

They broke off, glaring at each other. Seibunishi glanced warily at his young son. Inuyasha hummed to himself in the bath, playing with his toes. He was accustomed to sudden arguments springing up between his parents like summer cloudbursts, so he hardly paid them any mind anymore. Only if Seibunishi made Ayako weep did Inuyasha get involved - and then Seibunishi could expect a spitting, snarling ball of fluff attacking his ankles.

"Listen, Ayako, it's stupid for us to be arguing about Sesshoumaru; he's a grown demon, he can take care of himself..."

"No, it's not stupid! He has a heart! I can see it in the way he cares for Inuyasha and in the way he looks at you! He longs for your attention and your trust and your love...but you can't see it, you only see the mask of indifference he wears. And who taught him to wear that mask? His bitch of a mother, that's who! She uses him and manipulates him and breaks his heart over and over again...and you're no better, because you allow her to do it! It's not right - no child should grow up without the love of at least one parent..." Ayako broke off on a sob.

Stung at first by her criticism, all the more so since it was deserved, Seibunishi softened at her tears. "Please...stop crying, my love...I'll try..."

Seibunishi suddenly heard a high-pitched snarl and remembered his younger son too late. "No - Inuyasha - it wasn't me - I didn't... ITAIIIII!!!" he shouted, as ten needle-like claws sank into his ankles. He tried to detach the snarling, soaking, naked child from his legs but couldn't get a firm grip on Inuyasha's slippery body. Turning in a circle to try to loosen his son's grip, Seibunishi slipped in one of the puddles formed by Inuyasha's leap out of the bath and crashed down on his tail. He howled in pain, as Inuyasha took advantage of his father's prone position to fasten his fangs onto Seibunishi's ear.

Seibunishi heard the musical sound of laughter and turned to see Ayako with both hands covering her mouth. "Dammit, don't just stand there - get him off me!!"

Ayako moved forward, still giggling. "Stop it, Inuyasha, come here, Inu-chan... See, Ofukuro's laughing now..."

Inuyasha pricked up his flattened ears at his mother's voice and detached himself from his father. Stepping towards his mother, he suddenly noticed that he was soaking wet. He dropped to all fours and shook himself vigorously, finishing off whatever dry areas had been left on Seibunishi's kimono. He then grinned at his laughing mother as his father grumbled curses under his breath.

"Hell-born brat! ...must be the human side..." Seibunishi looked at his smiling wife and son. Inuyasha beamed happily at his father, all paternal transgressions forgiven now that his mother was smiling again.

"Why does he never take my side in an argument?" Seibunishi demanded querulously.

Ayako raised her delicate brows. "He will...if you're ever in the right, that is."

Seibunishi growled, then realized that Ayako was teasing him again. It reminded him of the years of their courtship, and he smiled in spite of himself. He got to his feet, straightening out the painful kink in his tail. "Remind me never to have a serious discussion with you when he's in the bath."

Reminded of their problem, still sitting out in the reception room, Ayako frowned. "Seibunishi, we need to finish this..."

"No!" he barked. "Not until you get your demon protector dry and dressed and send him out to torment his older brother. I'm not going through this again!"

Ayako laughed but complied with his wishes, toweling off Inuyasha's hair and body and dressing him in a simple white sleep kimono. Once they saw Inuyasha toddling toward the reception room and heard his battle cry of "Niiiiiiii-saaaaan," they returned to the serious matter at hand.

"Alright, my love, what is it that you suggest I do about Sesshoumaru? You clearly have a plan in mind."

"Not exactly a plan...I just want you to try to treat him a little more like you treat Inuyasha."

"Hmmmmmmm, sounds difficult. I can't exactly picture myself bouncing Sesshoumaru on my knee or hanging him upside down by his feet - he'd probably resent it more than enjoy it..."

"Be serious, Seibunishi! I meant that you should show your love for him as openly as you do for Inuyasha. It's true that since he's a full-grown demon lord, he won't want physical demonstrations of your affection...but he wants your trust. To show your trust, you need to publicly demonstrate your confidence in him, like giving him some responsibilities in governing the dog clans and asking for his input."

"But how do I know that I can trust him? We've been like strangers for so many decades now."

Ayako sighed. "That's the difficult thing about trust, Seibunishi. Like love, it can't really be earned - it can only be given freely from the heart. And only then can the recipient prove himself worthy of it."

Seibunishi stared at her. "How can one so young and beautiful be so wise? You never fail to surprise me, my lovely little wife." He drew her close and purred into her ear. "Do you suppose that one of my public demonstrations of trust in Sesshoumaru might involve giving Inuyasha to him from time to time to babysit overnight? Nowadays, I always feel that I have to sneak into your chamber like a thief in order to avoid detection by your jealous protector. Imagine what it would be like to have a few uninterrupted nights, like we used to have during our courtship."

To his surprise, she growled sensuously into his ear. "Let's not imagine it...let's find out!" Giving in to the desire that suddenly swept through him, Seibunishi crushed Ayako to his chest, kissing her fiercely and feeling her respond in turn. She matched him passion for passion, letting the flames devour her. They finally paused for breath and became aware of their surroundings.

"We have to stop now," he groaned against her lips.

"You first," she breathed.

"No, I can't - you have to."

"I can't, either."

"Let's both do it at the same time - on the count of three. Ichi, ni, san... You didn't do it!" he accused, their lips still touching.

"Neither did you!"

They both started laughing, which finally enabled them to release each other.

"Look at me!" cried Ayako. "I'm all wet!"

Seibunishi raised his eyebrows.

"Hentai!" she cried, smacking his arm. "I meant that your kimono made mine all wet, too!"

"Well, you can thank your son for my waterlogged condition. Let's go rescue Sesshoumaru from your demonic offspring and shock him with our bedraggled appearances."


As they approached the reception room, they were surprised by the silence within the chamber. They looked into the room - and stopped short at the sight that met their eyes.

Sesshoumaru sat where they had left him, but he was not alone. Inuyasha had climbed into his lap and snuggled against his chest, where he now slept as he had earlier in the day, one hand gripping his brother's kimono. Exhausted by the emotions of the day, Sesshoumaru also slept, his cheek resting against Inuyasha's hair and his arms and tail wrapped protectively around his little brother. "Little dandelion..." they heard him sigh in his sleep.

Seibunishi stared at the unfamiliar sight of his elder son with his mask set aside for once, looking young and vulnerable and beautiful as he curled around his little brother. The demon lord felt all the love he had harbored for his firstborn over the years rush through him like floodwaters breaking through a dam, and his eyes filled with tears. All the wasted time, all the misunderstandings between two wounded hearts... perhaps, at last, they could be a real family.

He felt a hand slip into his and looked down into the tear-filled gaze of his bondmate. "Let's let them sleep a while longer," she murmured softly.

Lord Seibunishi Seppakuinu nodded and stepped back out of the room, glancing one more time at his two sons, imprinting the scene on his heart forever. "I think we're going to be all right. All of us," he whispered, then quietly shut the door.



Glossary of Japanese Terms:

1. Taiyoukai : Great Demon, more powerful than the average demon. (Inuyasha's ambition in the anime is not just to be a full demon, but a taiyoukai like his father - from time to time, when arguing with Kagome, he refers to himself as a future taiyoukai.)

2. Nii-san : Elder brother (form of address, more familiar, less formal than Onii-san.)

3. Ba-baa : Old hag, old woman (rude, insulting; Inuyasha uses this term in the anime, first to insult the centipede woman, then, unfortunately, as a regular term of address for Lady Kaede - e.g. Kaede-babaa.)

4. Domo arigatou gozaimashita : Thank you very much. (Very polite form)

5. Itai! : Ouch! or It hurts!

6. Ofukuro : Inuyasha's term for 'Mother' (form of address, familiar, means something like Little Mother - correct me if I'm wrong)

7. Ichi, ni, san... : One, two, three...

8. Hentai : Pervert (Sango's favorite term for Miroku)