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Flesh of his Flesh

Chapter Text

A howl split the night and echoed through the surrounding area. On the forest floor, Inuyasha writhed with pain. He clutched his round swollen stomach tightly and moaned.

Miroku pressed a wet cloth to his friend's face. "Just breathe. We will help you through this."
Inuyasha whimpered in response, his fists tightening as his eyes screwed shut and he cried out again. His body shuddered in pain. "Out." He panted. "Out now."

"Yes.” He turned to the girl standing beside him. “Sango, please hold him still.”

She nodded silently and sat down behind Inuyasha, pulling his head into her lap and holding his shoulders. Once Miroku was sure that his friend was secure, he drew out a blade. Spreading a numbing salve over the half-demon's stomach he then began to cut through his skin. Inuyasha bit his lip and Sango moved the wet cloth over his face. She was watching in strange fascination as Miroku cut their friend open. He went slowly, cutting through layers of soft tissue and then stopped. Blood soaked the leaf-littered ground as the monk reached his hand into Inuyasha's stomach, shifting organs and causing Inuyasha to moan in pain.

“Almost there,” Miroku said as he slowly drew out a small pink bundle.

Inuyasha's eyes snapped open as he felt the child that had been growing within him removed. His gaze was trained on Miroku as the monk reverently cradled the tiny child and severed the final cord that connected it to Inuyasha. Miroku used the end of his robe to wipe away some of the blood that covered the small child. The baby's parentage was obvious by the tiny white dog-ears peeping from a thatch of pink tinted hair and small wet tail.

Miroku looked up at Inuyasha and smiled softly. "It is a boy."

Inuyasha held out his arms and Miroku handed him the tiny child. Inuyasha cradled his new infant, staring in complete awe at the small life in his hands. He was hardly aware of Miroku's delivery of the afterbirth or being sewed together with herb soaked thread. His attention was fixed fully on his child that squirmed and mewed in his arms.

"He is very beautiful," Sango whispered as she reached out to touch a small waving foot.

"I know."

"You should rest Inuyasha, we will fetch some water to bathe him," Miroku said putting his hand on Inuyasha's shoulder.

"I am resting," the dog demon replied as his eyes drooped in exhaustion.

"Would you like us to send Kagome over to wait with you?" Sango asked. Kagome and Shippo had not wanted to be present when Inuyasha was cut open and were sitting together by the river.

He gave a weak nod. "Yeah. Want her to see him."

Miroku nodded and took a jug as he walked into the trees. Soon, Kagome and Shippo emerged looking at Inuyasha in amazement. They approached quietly and knelt down beside him.

"How do you feel?" Kagome asked.

"Awful."

"Ah! Of course, silly question! Are you ok now? I was worried about you." Kagome seemed to be taking stock of his health. It was only a few days ago that he had seemed to fall ill. None of them knew at the time that he was in the last stages of pregnancy. Up to that point, there had been almost no indications other than some occasional mild nausea. His stomach hadn't begun to swell until three days prior. The baby within him had grown considerably due to its demon heritage. Even Inuyasha had been unaware of the life that he had been carrying with him until the signs became too obvious to ignore. By that time they had been too far from any towns that could help them and so Inuyasha had given birth in the middle of the forest.

"I am ok, the baby is fine."

"Have you thought of a name?" Shippo piped as he watched the baby, enchanted.

"No time. Can't think." He yawned.

Sango brushed his hair back. "There is no rush. You can think when you are not so tired. For now, let us take care of you Inuyasha." The demon hunter soothed her friend.

"Tired."

"Sleep, we will not let anything happen to you or your child."

"Take him?" Inuyasha offered the baby to Kagome, who carefully cradled him in her arms.

Miroku returned with the water and washed the blood from Inuyasha as Kagome and Sango cleaned the baby. Miroku picked up the half-demon and moved from the bed of leaves that he had given birth in, to a sleeping bag that had been rolled out. Inuyasha watched Kagome rock his baby as he fell asleep, exhausted from the energy it took him to give birth.
Later, he awoke to the sound of tiny cries. He sat up immediately looking around for his baby. Sango was holding him and singing softly as she rocked him, but the baby did not want to quiet. She looked up as she felt Inuyasha's eyes upon her.

"You're awake. He's hungry." She brought the baby over and handed him to Inuyasha, who cradled his son close to his chest.

"How...how do I feed him?" He looked down at his son, now cleaned and wrapped in a white blanket. His head was crowned with a light dusting of snowy hair and two tiny floppy ears. He had quieted when Inuyasha took him, but he had still seen the flash of small fangs. His eyes were squinted unhappily, but their golden color was obvious.

"We are assuming that since you were able to give birth, you can also produce the milk needed to nourish the child," Miroku said as he sat on the other side of Inuyasha setting down some food and a cup of water.

"I have to...?" He looked up alarmed.

"He's a baby, he can't eat food. He needs his mother's milk." Sango said.

"Mother?!" The half-demon's head whipped towards her.

"Yes, Inuyasha. You are the baby's mother. And as such, you must feed him."

"But I!"

"Just open your shirt Inuyasha. If it does not work, we will come up with alternate means of providing food for the baby," Miroku coaxed.

The baby whimpered and Inuyasha's resistance seemed to melt away. "All right." He opened his shirt and held the baby to his chest where his nipples had swollen considerably. As if sensing food, the baby latched on fiercely and began to suckle. A strange look crossed Inuyasha's face as he looked down at the small white head attached to his chest.

"Well, it seems that I was right." Miroku grinned as he sat back and sipped some tea. "So Inuyasha, have you decided on a name?"

Inuyasha nodded. "I'm going to name him Kuniku."

Sango smiled.

Inuyasha looked around. "Where are Kagome and Shippo?"

"They went off into the woods. They're up to something."

"Ow!" Inuyasha jumped. He stared down at his chest.

Sango leaned forward worriedly. "What's wrong?"

"Kuniku bit me." He winced.

Miroku grinned. "Perhaps you should, ah, switch breasts."

Inuyasha grumbled at the reference but did so, carefully. Again, Kuniku latched on and began to drink his fill. Soon, his sucking slowed until he finally let go and yawned. Inuyasha watched as he fell asleep and smiled tenderly.

"Inuyasha."

Kagome and Shippo walked back into the clearing smiling.

"What have you been doing?" Miroku asked the pair.

"We made a gift for the baby." Kagome sat down near her friends.

"Look!" Shippo held up a small outfit. "We even left a hole for his tail!" He turned it around to show the small hole.

"Thank you," Inuyasha said, taking the tiny outfit with one hand. "It's...just what we need."

"You're welcome," Kagome smiled happily. "Did you name him yet?"

"Yes, his name is Kuniku."

"Kuniku...it fits." She looked at the baby and couldn't help but smile more. He was so small and precious. It was amazing. Men weren't supposed to have babies. At least, they didn't where she was from. But then again, there weren't demons running rampant in her time either. She had only been mildly surprised when it happened, having become used to strange things happening. To tell the truth, what amazed her the most was how right it seemed.

Watching Inuyasha cradle his small son just gave her a warm feeling. The feelings that had once left her so confused had settled when she had finally realized that she could not have Inuyasha. It wasn't such a great loss, because she still had his friendship and his trust. If she were to be truthful, she would have to admit how much their relationship had always been like that of siblings, with frequent squabbles that covered up the overall love they held for each other.

Her only main concern was Kuniku's father. Who was he? Inuyasha had never said. She knew that it wasn't Miroku; he would have claimed the child. Besides, the monk was truly infatuated with Sango and perhaps he even loved her. The father couldn't be Kouga. Kuniku had dog demon features like Inuyasha and it seemed that Kouga preferred women or her at least. She prayed very hard that it wasn't Naraku, that he hadn't somehow hurt her friend and forced the burden upon him. Not that Kuniku was a burden, but to bear the child of such an evil demon was surely a great weight.

She was unaware of Inuyasha carrying on a relationship with anyone. He never gave any hint that he had a lover somewhere. He went off to sit in trees by himself, but was generally easy to find, so it wasn't as if he was running off on illicit trysts. So who was the father of Kuniku? He had his father's looks. White hair and dog-ears. He even had a small fluffy tail and slanted golden eyes that were unusually aware of their surroundings. Was she perhaps overlooking something important? She shied away. Surely, it wasn't. Could it be that Kuniku's father was...Sesshomaru?

Chapter Text

"Master! Master!" Jaken came running into the castle gardens where Sesshomaru sat.

"What is it Jaken?" He asked the shriveled demon calmly.

"That evil human child has stolen my staff again Master!" Jaken whined.

"That is not my problem, you shall simply have to find it yourself."

"But Master!"

"Do not whine Jaken. Send Rin to me. I think that we shall take a walk."

Jaken frowned. "Yes, Master."

He sulked as he walked back into the house and soon Rin flew out and grabbed onto Sesshomaru's robes. He gave her a half smile and they walked silently out of the castle gates. He watched as she ran up ahead giggling. After a while, they stopped beside a stream where Sesshomaru settled beneath a large tree. Rin ran through the field chasing a butterfly and collecting small flowers in the lazy afternoon sunshine.

After some time, she ran back to him with an armful of flowers and sat by his side carefully twisting the stems together. She handed one garland to him and placed another around her neck before lying down quietly. He put his hand out and gently pet her hair, watching as her eyes slowly closed. He was staring off at the horizon when a noise caught his attention.

"No way in hell. We're not going that way!"

He instantly recognized his half-brother's voice.

"But Inuyasha, there is a castle in this direction. Surely we can get help there." The monk was speaking.

"Inuyasha. Kuniku needs a safe place to stay. We should see if the castle would take us in." The girl, Kagome spoke.

"Not there! Anywhere but there," Inuyasha growled back.

"Inuyasha..."

"No!"

Sesshomaru blinked as he heard a baby cry.

"Look, you've woken up Kuniku!"

Who was Kuniku? Where did they find a baby? He was intrigued. He picked up Rin and slowly began to walk in their direction. What trouble had his brother gotten himself into this time?

Rin woke up at the slow sway of his walking. She clambered up onto his shoulders and sat as he walked in the direction of the voices. Soon, he could smell them. The same group with a new addition, some strangely familiar but new smell. He could still hear them arguing, softer now that the baby had been quieted, but just as heated.

"I will not go there. I am leaving," Inuyasha hissed.

"You can't go by yourself!"

"Watch me."

"Inuyasha."

Sesshomaru walked around the bend in view of them just in time to see Inuyasha turn to walk off. His brother froze immediately as he sensed his presence. Miroku and Sango turned on him instantly hands on their weapons.

"What do you want here?" Miroku asked warily. Sesshomaru might not be out for Inuyasha's sword, but that certainly didn't make him friendly.

"I was curious. I heard something strange. I came to investigate." Sesshomaru shrugged, receiving a giggle from Rin as she was jostled. He held up an arm to make sure she didn’t fall off. Rin gripped his hand happily.

"There is nothing to see here," Inuyasha growled without turning.

"On the contrary. I can smell it. What are you hiding?"

"None of your damn business. I'm outta here!" He began to stalk off again.

"Inuyasha." Kagome lunged after him. "Please don't go."

Inuyasha tensed as she grabbed onto his shoulder. He jerked away from her. "I’m going. I ain’t staying in his castle," he snapped, his voice full of disdain. He started walking again.

Miroku looked at Sesshomaru. "The castle nearby is yours?"

Sesshomaru inclined his head. “These are my lands. The castle is my home."

"Then perhaps we could ask for a few days' lodging. We would not dare to impose if it were not so important." The monk bowed.

"What is so important that you would beg me to keep you?"

"It's Inuyasha's-" Kagome began, only to be cut off by Inuyasha’s furious snarl.

"Don't tell him!" Inuyasha whirled around, arms wrapped around himself protectively.

His friends blinked. "Why not?"

"I don't want him to know. I don't want to stay with him. I just want to leave here. Are you guys coming with me or not?"

"What is this big secret that you're hiding?" Sesshomaru asked as he fixed his eyes on Inuyasha.

"That's none of your damn business." Inuyasha started to turn away again.

"I just made it my business, dear brother." Sesshomaru advanced.

"Stop!" Inuyasha's eyes grew wild. "Don't come near me!" He wrapped his arms around the sling he wore and for the first time, Sesshomaru was able to get a glance at the mysterious infant. He stopped. White hair. White hair and tiny dog-ears. White hair, tiny dog-ears, and slanted golden eyes.

"Inuyasha?" His voice was hushed and full of questions. Inuyasha turned away and stayed silent. "Inuyasha, tell me, where did the baby come from." His voice was more commanding as he drew closer.

"He's mine."

"Your friends were not with child. Where did he come from?"

"He's mine! Kuniku is my son."

"You said that already." Sesshomaru ground out, losing his patience.

"Sesshomaru." The demon turned, Kagome stood forward and glared at him. "He said that baby was his, and he is. Kuniku is Inuyasha's son. He had him a week ago."

"What do you mean had him?" Sesshomaru's stomach felt strange like there were rocks sitting in the bottom of it.

The girl sighed. "Why are you being so dense? Inuyasha was pregnant. He is the mother of Kuniku."

"The mother?"

"The mother."

"Inuyasha is male."

"He's also half demon. We believe that it is his unique heritage that has allowed him to bear a child. Some male demons have been known to bear children, though I have never heard of another half-demon doing so. We are still unsure of the father and the part that he would have played," Miroku explained.

"Baby." Rin squirmed on Sesshomaru's shoulders and he knelt to let her slide off. Once on the ground, she trotted up to Inuyasha smiling. "Baby." She hopped up and down trying to get a good look at the baby resting in the makeshift sling made of Inuyasha's bright red fire rat coat.

Inuyasha watched her, then slowly knelt down and let the girl approach. She tiptoed up, watching the little face in awe. "His name is Kuniku." Inuyasha was talking to Rin, but his eyes were locked on Sesshomaru.

"Kuniku," Rin cooed as she reached out to touch the fuzzy white head.

Inuyasha looked back down at her. "Gentle," he said as he took her hand and ran it softly over Kuniku's head.

"Gentle." Rin echoed as she stroked Kuniku.

Sesshomaru watched silently. The picture of Rin with Inuyasha and child made him feel strangely warm. Rin laughed and ran back to him. Taking his hand she drew him towards Inuyasha. The baby's small golden eyes were wide and aware and he was surprised as they tracked his progress forward.

"Kuniku. Gentle." Rin murmured as she took Sesshomaru's hand and ran it gently over Kuniku's head. He marveled at the soft velvet feeling of the tiny ears. He raised his eyes to Inuyasha, but his brother's eyes were fixed on his son's face, his mouth set in a tight line.

"Inuyasha," Sesshomaru said softly. The half-demon's ears twitched, but he didn't look up. "Inuyasha, look at me." Sesshomaru used his free hand to lift his brother's chin. "Come to my castle."

Inuyasha jerked his face from Sesshomaru’s grip. “No.”

Sesshomaru frowned. He cupped Inuyasha’s face in his hand, coaxing him to look at him once more. "Come to my castle...please. We should talk."

Inuyasha blinked at the word "please." That word was not in Sesshomaru's usual vocabulary. Would he really be safe in his brother's castle? Maybe he wasn't trying to kill him anymore, but did that really make him trustworthy? After all, Sesshomaru had had his chance. Look where it got Inuyasha trusting him before.

"Please Inuyasha? It would make us all feel better if you were safe in Sesshomaru's castle," Kagome said.

Inuyasha sighed. His friends were worried and truthfully, so was he. His son needed a safe place. They’d been lucky they hadn’t run into trouble the last few days. That luck would not last forever. There weren't many other places as secure as a powerful demon's castle. But was it safe with Sesshomaru? He looked at Rin, who seemed so happy. Sesshomaru had to have softened a little to be keeping a human child. He had to swallow back the bitter taste of jealousy. Why change for her, but not for him? But it wasn’t himself that he was thinking of now, it was his son. Kuniku needed to be safe. He sighed, it appeared that for the safety of his son, the best thing to do was go with Sesshomaru. He pulled his chin from Sesshomaru's grasp, letting his gaze drop to his son. "Fine. I’ll go with you. For now."

Rin, who had been watching their interaction closely, cheered. "Yay! Stay!"

Sesshomaru patted her head. "Yes Rin, we will have guests." He stood and took her small hand in his. "Shall we go?" He looked back at Inuyasha.

The half-demon nodded reluctantly and began to follow as Sesshomaru walked back to the castle. The walk to the castle was uneventful, but their arrival caused quite a stir. Jaken's nasal voice greeted them with a cry of "Welcome home Master," directly followed by, "What are they doing here?!"

"Jaken, we are going to have guests. Get chambers prepared." Sesshomaru instructed.

"But Master!"

"Do not question me! Just do as I say."

Jaken sighed. "Yes, Master." The little demon muttered quietly to himself as he walked off to do Sesshomaru's bidding.

"Hungry!" Rin announced.

"Then we shall see about food little one." Sesshomaru turned and motioned for his guests to follow. The party was silent as they moved through the large halls. They were surprised by the interior. The outside seemed dark and forbidding. The inside was actually very tastefully decorated and well lit. Childish scribbles on the walls courtesy of Rin mixed in among expensive art pieces, giving it a more homey feel.

"Looks like you have good decorating tastes," Kagome finally piped up as the passed into a dining hall. A low set table was laid out with a large selection of food.

"Thank you." Sesshomaru nodded as he led Rin to the table and sat her down. Taking a seat at the head of the table, he indicated for the others to do the same. The meal was mostly quiet. Shippo talked to Rin who occasionally spoke back, but everyone else settled for passing weighty glances around the table. Sesshomaru watched Inuyasha closely as he ate small bites of food. Mostly, the half-demon rocked his son and kept his head down. Afterward, Jaken appeared in the doorway, peering in at the silent diners.

"Master. The rooms have been prepared," Jaken announced.

Sesshomaru nodded. "If you would bring them to their rooms, that will be all Jaken."

"Yes, Master." The little toad-like demon motioned for the group to follow him. They got up and left the room with Rin trailing behind them.

As Inuyasha shifted to stand, Sesshomaru put a hand on his leg. "Not you. I want you to stay close to me."

Inuyasha frowned.”Why?”

"Do not protest Inuyasha. We need to talk."

"What if I don't want to talk with you?"

"It is not an option. We will talk." Sesshomaru stared at him.

Inuyasha glared back. The staring contest would have continued if it weren't for a small cry as Kuniku announced that he was awake. Sesshomaru looked down at the baby as Inuyasha cooed softly and raised him up.

"What's wrong Kuniku?" Inuyasha felt his diaper. "Not that, you must be hungry. Don't worry. I'll feed you." With a soft rustle of cloth, Inuyasha had opened his shirt. Sesshomaru stared at his brother's swollen chest. The soft pale mounds drew his eyebrows up. Normally flat features were visibly rounder and fuller than a typical masculine chest. Inuyasha's nipples looked ripe as they waited at attention. He shifted and Kuniku's little mouth instantly latched onto one of his enlarged nipples. Soft suckling sounds issued from the baby and a smile crossed Inuyasha's face as he caressed his son's silky ears.

Sesshomaru was surprised that Inuyasha had so casually opened his shirt to feed the baby. But he was a male; he did not have the body shyness that females carried about baring their breasts. It was strangely erotic to have those soft swells shown in such a casual manner and the look that crossed Inuyasha's face was not one that he'd seen before. It suited him, that soft tender look. Sesshomaru's fingers itched. Slowly, he reached out and brushed his hand across Inuyasha's cheek. Inuyasha looked up as Sesshomaru tucked some of the soft white hair over his shoulder.

He began pushing the white shirt down the shoulder, letting it slide down his arm. "What are you doing?" Inuyasha looked at him, not angry, but wary.

Sesshomaru's hand slid back up Inuyasha's arm and rubbed at a small round indent on his shoulder. "I am touching my mate." Sesshomaru replied smoothly, eyes lifting from the mark to meet Inuyasha's.

Inuyasha pulled his shoulder back. "What are you talking about? I'm not your mate!" He snapped.

"But you are, that mark says so. The mark from that night." Sesshomaru stared his half-brother down.

Inuyasha shook his head. "T-that was a mistake. It means nothing."

"Kuniku means nothing?"

"No! That's not what I mean and you know it! What...what you did to me... It was the moon. That doesn't make us mates. You are my brother and you don't even like me. You didn’t even stay.” Inuyasha’s voice broke. He scowled. “What happened between us was a mistake. But Kuniku is not. He is my son and I will love him like my mother loved me. I'll always be there for him. He'll never have to...he'll never go through what I did." Inuyasha's voice was firm and fierce as he cradled Kuniku protectively and glared at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru had no reply. Inuyasha was right. Their joining had not been one that he’d chosen, it had been influenced by the moon. And while he had claimed Inuyasha, he had left him there once he’d come to his senses. He had no good excuse for that. He had been as confused and conflicted as Inuyasha was, but Inuyasha would not want to hear that.

He just watched as Inuyasha calmed himself by switching Kuniku to his other nipple, leaving the first shining and wet. If it weren't for the baby, he might have pushed Inuyasha to the ground and taken that nipple back into his mouth. Perhaps his moon addled brain hadn’t been so far off the mark after all. Just the slightest look at Inuyasha’s skin made him want to taste it all over again. However, it was obvious that Inuyasha would not welcome any advances he made. So they sat in silence, Sesshomaru watching Inuyasha as the half-demon avoided his gaze, with little Kuniku oblivious to everything but his meal. As the baby drifted off to sleep, Inuyasha began to hum softly.

"I want you to stay in the room next to mine," Sesshomaru said quietly.

"Why? Why should I do what you want?"

“You are a guest in my house. I want you near me." Sesshomaru stood up.

Inuyasha frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Take it how you will." Sesshomaru shrugged. "Come with me."

Inuyasha slowly rose, adjusting his shirt and settling Kuniku into his sling again. With one arm wrapped around his son, he walked up behind Sesshomaru and followed him out of the room. They moved down a narrow hallway lined with silk paintings and emerged in a larger and brighter hallway.

"These are my living quarters." He slid a door open and walked inside.

Inuyasha followed. The door slid shut behind him, causing him to tense.

Sesshomaru continued walking through a richly decorated sitting room. "These quarters are separate from the rest of the castle. Only Rin and myself stay here."

He slid open another door panel and led Inuyasha into a large bedroom. A wide bed, draped in deep crimson velvet, was the centerpiece of the room. A matching trunk sat at the end of the bed, a carved and cushioned chair was placed beside the bed and there was a towering wardrobe in one corner. A painted screen stood beside the wardrobe with a finely painted depiction of a story that his mother had once told him, some mushy love thing, but it reminded him of her.

"This is the guest room. My room is through that door and the bath is through the other. There are also hot springs you might take advantage of. But right now you look tired. Perhaps you should lay down." Sesshomaru gestured towards the bed.

"I'm not tired." Inuyasha protested.

"Perhaps not, but maybe Kuniku would like to lay down for a while."

Inuyasha just glowered as he approached the bed, touching the soft coverlet and pressing on the mattress. Slowly, he sat down. "Not bad. I guess being a big bad demon has its perks."

"That it does." Sesshomaru acknowledged, much to Inuyasha's annoyance.

Inuyasha huffed and carefully moved up the bed. He removed Kuniku from the sling and laid him gently on the mattress. He dragged down a feather pillow and placed it beside him and laid down on the other side of the baby with his back towards Sesshomaru. He petted the soft white hair of his son and sighed. Inuyasha yawned, tired despite his earlier protests. For the first time in a week, he felt safe enough to relax. As much as he didn’t want to trust Sesshomaru, it was all too easy to drop off to sleep in his presence.

Sesshomaru watched as Inuyasha’s body slowly relaxed. He carefully sat down on the edge of the bed. When Inuyasha didn't stir, he moved closer, putting his hand in Inuyasha's hair. He stroked the fine white strands much as Inuyasha had been petting Kuniku and watched the two sleep.

"Do not worry Inuyasha. Our son will not face the same challenges you did. And you won't have to ever again." He spooned behind him, one arm possessively wrapped around him. He had walked away from Inuyasha once, he would not be so foolish as to let Inuyasha slip from his grasp a second time.

Chapter Text

A high-pitched giggle woke Inuyasha. He yawned and stretched, reluctantly opening his eyes.

"Morning!" Rin crowed, staring down at him.

Inuyasha sat up, careful not to knock his head against hers, and looked around. His eyes stopped at the end of the bed. Sesshomaru was standing at the foot of the bed changing Kuniku's diaper. Inuyasha blinked at him. "Am I dreaming?"

Sesshomaru didn't look up as he worked. He lightly dusted some powder over Kuniku's bottom and gave the fluffy tail a tickle. He wrapped the infant in a new diaper, positioning his tail in a little hole in the cloth. He pinned it securely and picked up the baby. "Rin did greet you. One would assume that you did, in fact, wake."

Inuyasha stared at Sesshomaru as though he had suddenly sprouted wings.

Sesshomaru looked back impassively. "Is there a problem?"

"I can't believe you just changed a diaper," Inuyasha said.

"Diaper!" Rin sang, jumping on the bed.

"Somebody needed to with you dead to the world. Rin managed to put one of her famous knots in your hair and you didn't even notice."

"Famous knots?" Inuyasha blinked.

"Knot!" Rin announced as she picked up some of the hair on his shoulder. It was indeed a large knot that somewhat resembled a braid infused with wilted flower stems and tangled silk ribbons.

"What the hell?" He tried to untangle it and winced.

"She likes long hair. She just isn't good at playing with it yet. That's a fair attempt, it should only take about an hour to fix."

"An hour?!"

"It is a knot Inuyasha." Sesshomaru sat down on the bed. He put Kuniku between two pillows. Rin sat down next to the baby and cooed. She put her fingers out and watched his little hands wave at them. Sesshomaru offered the children a rare smile and then turned to Inuyasha. "If you come over here, I can get it out for you."

"I can do it," Inuyasha insisted as he continued to pull at the lump of hair. If anything, it only grew bigger with his attempts at freeing it. He growled and threw his hands up. "This is impossible!"

"Not impossible, it just takes patience Inuyasha. Come here and I'll get it out before you make it a two hour affair."

Inuyasha grumbled as he crawled forward and sat in front of Sesshomaru.

A smirk tinted Sesshomaru's lips, but he didn't comment. He moved forward and took the large knot into his hands and slowly began picking it apart. Inuyasha watched Sesshomaru's nimble fingers, as the knot was untangled seemingly strand by strand. Mangled flower petals and stems were put in a small pile on the bed covers with little bits of ribbons that were removed from the hair. Inuyasha looked at Sesshomaru's face. His expression was one of concentration as he focused on the knot.

Inuyasha took the time to study his brother's features. They were more delicate than his, even somewhat effeminate, but it was a deceptive frailty that his features held. The markings on his face seemed to give some clue of the dangerous person that he was. Just like snakes with bright markings that indicated their toxicity, Sesshomaru sported bright warning signals, for he was indeed poisonous when provoked. The hair was the same as his, a long silky mass the color of clouds on a spring day, white with highlights of blue. Sesshomaru's ears were different though. They looked somewhat human but were sharply pointed at the end in the way that many demons’ ears were. Inuyasha wondered why he, the half-demon, had dog ears while Sesshomaru had almost human ears. How much easier would his life have been if his ears had only been more human? He sighed.

"What are you thinking Inuyasha?" Sesshomaru asked, golden eyes flickering up to his brother's face.

"Why couldn't my ears have been more human, like yours?" Inuyasha's own ears drooped at his thoughts.

"We both have father's ears. Yours simply display your origins in a stronger manner. You should not be ashamed of your heritage." Sesshomaru stroked the sensitive white ears, sending a shiver down Inuyasha's spine. "Without them, you would not be who you are right now. Without that heritage, you would not have Kuniku."

Inuyasha looked back at his son, who was clutching Rin's finger tightly. "He is precious to me. I wouldn't have it any other way. But I can't help thinking about if it were different." Inuyasha shrugged.

Sesshomaru smoothed out Inuyasha's hair. He combed his fingers through the silky strands. "It does not do to live in the past when the future is spread out before you."

Inuyasha turned back to look at Sesshomaru, thinking he was behaving oddly. His heart sped up as he watched Sesshomaru slowly leaning in. Gold eyes widened as soft lips pressed against his. Sesshomaru's hand wove into his hair, cupping his head as he kissed him firmly. Slowly, he moved back and looked down into Inuyasha's eyes. The half-demon licked his lips shakily and stared back. The staring contest might have gone on indefinitely with Inuyasha feeling as though he was drowning in honey if Rin hadn't leaped between the pair.

"Bell! Food!" She said as she latched onto Sesshomaru’s arm.

He looked down at her and nodded. "Yes, the dinner bell. It is time to eat." He picked her up and got up from the bed. "Will you join us?" He offered his hand to Inuyasha. Inuyasha watched the hand as if it might bite him, but slowly took it. Sesshomaru handed Inuyasha his sling and Inuyasha picked up Kuniku and secured him before they left the room together. Inuyasha felt his cheeks heat as Sesshomaru captured his hand again and led him to the dining room.

Inuyasha's friends were already seated at the table as they entered. The whispered conversation trailed off and he could see them trying to look innocent and failing miserably. Inuyasha looked at them suspiciously. "What are you up to?"

"Nothing," they chimed in near perfect unison. It only made him more suspicious.

Inuyasha sat down at the table as Sesshomaru released his hand to let Rin slide down onto her seat. He looked at his friends and sighed, they were definitely up to something.

"Inuyasha. Sango is going to take me home tomorrow. We'll be away for a day or so, but I'll come back as soon as I can," Kagome spoke up.

"I thought you said you were free for a while."

"Well, ah, I just remembered, there is this big exam that I forgot all about. Things were so hectic it just skipped my mind!" the girl waved her arms around frantically, nearly smacking Miroku in the face as she did so.

Inuyasha shrugged. "If you have to...it doesn't seem like I'll be going anywhere." He glanced at his brother, who shook his head slightly, indicating that there was no way that he was going to let Inuyasha slip out of the house.

"Don't worry, we won't be abandoning you. We will be leaving Miroku and Shippo," Sango added.

"Oh boy. I can hardly wait." Inuyasha rolled his eyes at the contented look on the monk's face. He was such a moocher; of course, he'd stay. Shippo was annoying too, as children usually were, but Inuyasha wondered if he couldn't provide some good company for Rin. He was positive the girl didn't get much interaction within the castle walls.

"Hardly wait." Rin giggled as she grabbed a pork bun on the table.

"Indeed, I am eager to try out these hot springs Rin has spoken of," Miroku spoke up.

"She spoke of?" Sesshomaru looked up.

"Yes, perhaps not in the most prolific terms, but she said there was hot water. With bubbles."

Sesshomaru nodded. "Yes, she is quite fond of the bubbles. She refuses to take a bath without them."

"Bubble bath! Fun." Rin smiled as she munched on her pork bun.

"I suppose that I shall show them to you once the girls are seen off." Sesshomaru shrugged. He knew that if he didn't the mischievous monk would probably go searching for them himself and only end up in more trouble.

Inuyasha sat quietly eating and wondering if this was really his brother or some impostor. He had more or less just offered to show Miroku around his home. Inuyasha was getting to the point that he wanted to start poking Sesshomaru just to check that he wasn't dreaming. If it was a dream, it was surely one of the strangest ones he'd ever had. Sesshomaru changing a diaper? Then grooming him and kissing him! It was like some strange alternate dimension, not that he was complaining. He had a good roof over his head, good food to eat and help changing Kuniku's diapers. It was the most security he'd had in a very long time. Even his adventuring with his friends hadn't provided him with the peace of mind that he currently found in Sesshomaru's castle.

After the meal, they watched the girls leave on Kilala's back. Once they were a small fiery dot on the dark horizon, Sesshomaru led his guests back into the house. He pointed out a few rooms of interest as they moved through the hallways. Rin ran up ahead and called for them to hurry.

"She's very enthusiastic about baths," Miroku commented.

"She likes the bubbles," Sesshomaru replied.

They walked out of the house and into a large garden. Sesshomaru led them down the path and they could see steam rising up ahead. Rin was sitting beside a small fountain and sticking her hands in, getting her sleeves wet.

Inuyasha looked at the large spring and whistled. "Man, that's a huge spring."

"If you're going to do something, do it all the way." Sesshomaru smirked.

There was a small hut next to the spring that Sesshomaru entered. He emerged with a jar and an armful of towels. Rin cheered and ran up to him. He smiled and handed her the jar. She took it and skipped back to the fountain.

"Here are towels and a robe monk. I can see that you are dying to test the waters." Sesshomaru handed the stack of towels to Miroku.

Miroku bowed as he took the towels. "You are a most gracious host."

"Flattery will get you nothing here. I merely have taken you in because of Inuyasha."

Miroku nodded. "All the same, we appreciate it. Come on Shippo, let's give this water a try."

Shippo whined. "But I usually bathe with Kagome."

"Kagome is not here, you'll just have to come in with me."

Shippo grumbled. "All right, but you better not look you pervert."

"Shippo! You're a boy and a child too boot." Miroku protested.

Shippo shrugged. "So? It takes all kinds."

"Honestly, you've been hanging around with Kagome too much." Miroku snorted as he set the towels down.

Shippo scrambled off his shoulder and shrugged. "I like Kagome. She's nice to me."

"I'm nice to you too."

"Exactly. There's gotta be a reason for that." Shippo insisted, his tail poofing out.

"What about my honor code?" Miroku began stripping out of his clothes.

"Honor code? You mean the one that makes you grope every pretty girl that you see?"

"I can't help it if I appreciate the form of the female body. You'll learn when you're older." Miroku said as he slipped into the water. "Ah, that feels good."

"You act like I'm a little kid!" Shippo yelled. "I'm not you know, I'm way older than you! Hey! Wait for me. I can't swim that far." Shippo leaped into the water and did a little fox paddle with his half soaked tail bobbing behind him.

"Are they always like that?" Sesshomaru asked Inuyasha.

Inuyasha nodded. "Miroku's right. The runt has been hanging out with Kagome too much."

Rin interrupted by tugging on Sesshomaru's robes. "Bubble bath. Clean time."

Sesshomaru nodded. "Yes, it is time to get clean."

"Bubble seeds?" She held up the jar.

"Yes, you can plant the seeds." He nodded again.

"Bubble seeds? What the heck is that?" Inuyasha asked, watching his brother.

"Watch and see Inuyasha."

Rin put the jar on the ledge of the shallow fountain. She carefully removed the lid and reached her hand inside. She pulled out a sandy substance and threw it into the fountain. A few moments later the fountain began to froth over.

"Oh. I get it. It's some kind of soap powder. She thinks they're seeds."

"Yes. She didn't really like bathing until I introduced her to the bubbles. Now, I have a hard time getting her out."

Rin ran into the little hut and emerged toting a small basket. She set it beside the fountain and began pulling things out and lining them up along the edge. Soon she had a whole fleet of carved wooden boats sitting on the edge. Then she quickly shimmied out of her clothes and jumped into the fountain. Inuyasha stepped back as water splashed towards him. Rin pulled in the boats and soon seemed to have a full-scale sea battle waging in the fountain. He smiled as she played and soon he settled down beside the fountain to watch her.

"Does Kuniku need a bath? These waters are not as hot as the rest of the spring. It would be a perfect opportunity to bath him."

Inuyasha looked up. "I guess so. I haven't bathed him yet. The girls did that when he was born." He sniffed his son. "I guess he is getting a little ripe. Aren't you Kuniku? All that hard baby business, eating, sleeping and dirtying your diaper."

"You can't let him in alone though. You'll have to go with him."

Inuyasha bristled. "I know. I'm not stupid. I'll just take a bath with him."

"In your clothes?" Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow.

"No, not in my clothes. I'll take them off if you can hold Kuniku. You think you can manage that?" Inuyasha demanded, offering his son to his brother.

"I think that I can manage," Sesshomaru drawled as he took the infant.

Inuyasha turned away and shed his clothes. Sporting only his fundoshi, he turned back to find that Sesshomaru had removed Kuniku's outfit as well. He handed the squiggling baby to Inuyasha. Inuyasha held him gently as he put his foot in the fountain to test the water. Satisfied with the temperature, he slowly sat down in the water and secured Kuniku in his lap. Rin pushed a boat over and plopped down beside Inuyasha as he scooped a few handfuls of water over Kuniku.

"Kuniku clean, Kuniku clean." She sang as she cupped some water and dropped it on Kuniku's foot.

"Rin, come here, we'll clean your hair," Sesshomaru called, distracting the girl. She moved over to him as he pulled out a jar of liquid soap and began to help her with her hair. All the while, he watched Inuyasha and Kuniku as the half-demon gently cleaned his child. He noticed the faint scar across his stomach and inquired about it. "Inuyasha, what is that scar?"

"That's where Kuniku came out of. Miroku sewed it up. It’s healing, but the scar is fading slowly." Inuyasha shrugged as he ran a finger over the scar.

"I'm sure that we have something to fade the scar."

"I dunno if it's supposed to fade. I mean, this is where Kuniku came out, that's something...special. Maybe it's supposed to stay." Inuyasha shrugged.

"Perhaps. Rin, time to rinse."

Rin nodded and moved under the spray of the fountain rubbing her hair and keeping her eyes clenched shut. She rubbed until the last of the bubbles washed off then hopped out of the spray. Sesshomaru took her hand and pulled her forward where he used a towel to wipe her face. Her eyes popped open and she grinned.

"Rin clean now."

"Yes, you're clean."

"Yasha clean next." She pointed to Inuyasha, who blinked.

"Hey! Are you saying I smell?" Inuyasha stared at her.

"Yasha stinky!" Rin laughed as she held her nose.

"Why you little!" Inuyasha moved to get up, but Sesshomaru put an arm on his shoulder.

"Now, Inuyasha. Surely, it can't hurt you to clean off."

Inuyasha sat back down and grumbled. He turned his attention to Kuniku who decided that he wanted to feed and was suckling happily on Inuyasha's breast and making a dark bruise. "Wrong spot little fellow." Inuyasha adjusted his son. He blinked as water ran down his back. "What the?"

"Lean back Inuyasha. We're washing your hair."

"Washing hair," Rin chimed.

Inuyasha tilted his hair back and felt Sesshomaru's strong hands move through it, tipping a bowl of water into the mass of white hair. Soon after, two sets of hands, one large, one small, began to massage soap into his hair. He closed his eyes and just enjoyed the rare attention without protest. When fingers began to massage his ears, he had to bite back a groan. It felt so good. The last person who'd really touched him like this had been his mother. Neither Kikyo nor Kagome had ever given him the same attention. People didn’t touch him unless they were trying to hurt him.

"Keep your head back. We're going to rinse now." Inuyasha nodded and tilted his head back. He closed his eyes and tried not to think of how vulnerable he was, naked with his neck exposed and eyes closed. He felt the water rinsing out his hair, and the hands running through it as they got the soap out. He sighed softly. "There. We're done." Sesshomaru said, giving his hair one last run through.

"We done. No more stinky." Rin said as she walked around and patted Inuyasha's arm.

"Thanks." He muttered, slightly embarrassed that the small girl told him he smelled.

"You're still a bit dirty. I will hold Kuniku while you finish up," Sesshomaru offered.

"Um...Thanks." Inuyasha looked down at the drowsing infant. He slowly detached him from his chest, getting a small whine as Kuniku scrunched his tiny face in annoyance. He quieted as he was handed over to Sesshomaru who wrapped him in a clean towel and cradled him carefully. Once Inuyasha was certain that Kuniku was okay, he began to scrub himself. Rin offered a small lump of soap that might have once been shaped like a flower of some sort. He thanked her and continued his bath, quickly as he was now highly aware of Sesshomaru's eyes on him.

Sesshomaru watched Inuyasha bathe, taking in the pale color of his skin lit in the light of the garden lanterns that held back the gloom of dusk. He was well muscled but looked a little underfed. His chest, completely unveiled, was fascinating to look at without the obstruction of clothing or babies. As soon as Inuyasha felt the eyes staring at him, he turned, unknowingly providing Sesshomaru with an equally fascinating view. His muscled back led to narrow hips that then flared out for his perfectly pale round cheeks that were barely obscured by his fundoshi. They brought back heated memories of the night of the full moon, but they were hazy at best thanks to conditions of their encounter.

Inuyasha stood up. "I'm done." He announced, not turning around as he wrung the water from his hair.

"There are robes in the hut. Could you bring Rin's when you come out?"

"Yeah. Sure." Inuyasha stepped out of the fountain and moved toward the hut. He walked out wrapped in a white robe and carrying a smaller one in his hand.

"Time to get out Rin," Sesshomaru told the small girl.

"Awww." She frowned.

"Come. It's getting dark. Time for bed."

She pouted even more, but Sesshomaru seemed immune to her sad brown eyes and childish pout. Inuyasha wondered how his brother stood up against it and if Kuniku would do the same thing when he got older. A splash distracted him, drawing his attention back to the main spring. Miroku was emerging from the water with a sleeping Shippo in his arms. He picked up a robe from the pile of linens next to the pool and managed to pull it on without putting Shippo down. He let it swing open as he wrapped the sleeping fox spirit in a towel. He looked up and smiled as he saw Inuyasha watching him.

"Shippo got sleepy in the warm water. We're going to head back now." He walked forward.

"See," Sesshomaru said to Rin. "Shippo and Kuniku are both sleeping, it's time for you to sleep as well."

"Not sleepy!" Rin protested even as she yawned.

Inuyasha smiled. "Sure you're not short stuff. How 'bout we just go inside and find something fun to do?" Inuyasha held out the robe. Rin's eyes lit up at the mention of fun and she was easily coaxed into the robe. Inuyasha scooped the girl up and they all headed back to the house.

Chapter Text

Sesshomaru sat on the chair beside Inuyasha’s bed and watched his small family sleep. It was a strange thought. It had been a long time since he’d considered himself part of a family. He was kin to his father, but he was always working so hard to surpass him that he couldn’t remember the last time they’d done something as simple as share a meal together. They did that when he was small. He remembered eagerly waiting for his father to come home from a battle to share a meal and tell him all about his prowess on the battlefield. Sesshomaru had hung on his words, awed and determined to become great like his father. But at some point, he’d grown cold to his father’s words. He worked hard at training to beat him, but he stopped listening to him. His father’s voice was lost to him. Emotions, family, those were things for the weak and he did not want to be weak. He’d shed the things he thought made him so. And in the process, it seemed that he’d shed the parts that would help make him strong.

He remembered his father’s last words to him, asking him if he had anything to protect. He’d thought it the height of foolishness. His father went off to protect his human mate and half-demon son and it got him killed. Looking back, he realized that it was the strength of his father’s feelings that carried him across the land, despite a fatal wound. His father might have lived, had he stayed to recover, but he’d chosen his lover and child instead. He’d chosen to die so they could live and Sesshomaru had been infuriated. He was right there. His father could have given him his swords, passed on his legacy, but he’d chosen Inuyasha instead. He hated it. Hated the way it made him feel, despite the way he controlled his emotions. He’d seethed with hatred and jealousy. He’d despised the half-breed that his father had chosen over him and the woman who had birthed him. His previous cold indifference to humans had become open disgust and hostility.

Humans and Inuyasha. He had hated them both. Yet now, both were sleeping peacefully in his bed as he watched over them. The things that he had hated the most, were suddenly precious to him and it left him feeling off kilter. He was used to feeling like the calm center of a storm, but now he was thrust into the maelstrom as he tried to make sense of what his life had become. At one time, he would have been more than happy to leave Inuyasha and Rin lying in pools of their own blood. Now, the image made him ill. Rather than killing them, he felt the need to protect.

Of course, some part of him still protested, still wanted blood but he liked to think that he was a demon ruled by his head, rather than his temper. That was Inuyasha’s realm, to jump headlong into things without thought. He could analyze a situation, weighing its pros and cons. Even the angry part of him could see the value of keeping its mate and young safe. Just like that, Inuyasha and Rin were able to pass the wall of ice he’d built around himself as they settled into the roles of mate and child almost without him noticing.

It started with Rin. She had tried to take care of him, despite her own situation. He had been angry that she looked on him with, what he thought was, pity. Now, he could acknowledge that it was not pity, but compassion. The fact that one as unfortunate as Rin could share what little she had, could open her heart to someone as cold as him, was confusing. There was no benefit to her. But still, she came, bringing him food. He ignored it, but it didn’t stop her. Nothing stopped her. Nothing but death.

Something deep inside had driven him to save the child that had tried to help him regardless of the pain it caused her. At the time, he had labeled it as mere curiosity, but looking back he knew it was the spark of his feelings coming back to life. He had seen her broken body and felt the need to acknowledge her compassion. Though their bodies were frail, humans had a great capacity for love and compassion. They also were greedy and selfish, but the world clearly needed more humans like Rin. There was not enough of the emotions she had to offer. Even he, a demon, could recognize that Rin was special.

Rather than walk away from her body on the path, he’d done the only thing he could. He saved her. He cut down the servants of death. He held her in his arms as she woke and smiled at him. He let her tag along out of obligation. He saved her, so he felt mildly responsible for her. He made sure that she didn’t die again, but that was all. He didn’t pay much attention to her or what her diet was. She never voiced complaints, so he let it slide. He was appalled the day he walked upon her trying to eat the desiccated body of a lizard. The tail was hanging out of her mouth as she looked up at him pitifully. He had forced her mouth open, removed the half-chewed creature and tossed it away distastefully. Rin had cried and tried to look for her meal, but he picked her up and carried her to the nearest town where he bought her a proper meal.

After that, he stopped treating her as a burden and began to act like a parent to his human foundling. They had gone shopping in a large trading town, picking out new clothes to replace her dirty rags. She was fitted with new yukata with matching ribbons for her hair. He bought her sandals but had a hard time convincing her to wear them. They’d almost cleaned out a toy maker, purchasing wooden toys and delicately made dolls that were put into a carved trunk. He spared no expense. If he was to take responsibility, it would be all or nothing, so he acquired everything a small child could possibly want or need.

The goods were hauled back to the castle in a large cart. Rin had sat beside him playing with her new dolls for the whole trip. Though her favorite treasure by far was a lacquer box from the toymaker that contained a collection of paints, colored wax sticks, rainbow inks, brushes, quills, and large squares of paper for her to use them on. Rin had taken great delight in designing fantastically colorful pieces of art on her paper squares. She proudly displayed them on the walls of her room and when she ran out of paper, she began to decorate the castle walls.

Jaken had found her at it and scolded her. Sesshomaru had stepped in just as the small toad demon had tried to hit her with his staff. He told her that she could decorate as much as she wanted. Jaken had huffed and stormed off in a rage. Sesshomaru had hidden a smile behind the smaller demon’s back. He took great delight in annoying his servant and Rin presented endless opportunities. He had patted her head, complimented her bright rainbow on his once plain walls, and left feeling strangely content.

Rin started the mellowing process, but Inuyasha managed to reap the benefits. Still, it wasn’t Inuyasha who convinced him to accept his half-brother. It was Naraku who made him take stock of their relationship. Demons, by nature, were mischievous creatures but not necessarily evil. There were plenty of bloodthirsty monsters, but in essence, a demon was a powerful spirit that could lean towards good or evil. Because power corrupts, most demons chose to use their power against the weaker humans. Sesshomaru had done many things that other people would consider evil, but on a whole, his nature was quite neutral and he was able to walk whatever path he chose. Naraku was a creature like none he’d ever experienced. Naraku had all the worst traits of humans, mixed with the worst traits of demons. He was a special blend of toxic malice that sent warning signals screaming through Sesshomaru’s senses.

His first run-in with Naraku had been unpleasant. Naraku had used him, an experience that had been new to Sesshomaru. Nobody manipulated a demon as powerful as himself, but Naraku had. That first encounter had left him with a bad taste in his mouth. Naraku was dangerous, his pores oozed evil like no other. The air around him thickened with malice almost as potent as the miasma he was so fond of. The fact that the demon showed unnatural interest in his half-brother had left him unsettled. At first, he felt that nobody had the right to kill Inuyasha but himself. Inuyasha was the disgrace of their family, a half-breed cur that shouldn't have been allowed to live.

Yet, he had let him live. He hadn’t gone after Inuyasha when he was small and weak and easy to kill. His father had died defending that mutt and his mother. It clawed at him, but he could never bring himself to kill the things his father had died protecting. His father had gone soft and stupid, thinking he had feelings for a human woman. Had he ever felt the same for Sesshomaru’s own mother? Sesshomaru hardly knew her. She had left him in his father’s care soon after his birth and his father rarely spoke of her. It stung to think that his noble mother had left him, but the human woman stayed with her half-breed child, enduring the cruel treatment of her fellow humans. Father and his lover might treasure Inuyasha, but Sesshomaru always saw him as a stain on father’s bloodline. A tainted thing with weak human blood in his veins.

Despite his hatred for his brother, he let him live, because letting him live made him suffer. He suffered the hatred of other humans and once his mother died, he was driven out to suffer the rest of the world. He lived a life cowering from humans and low-level demons alike. It was a wonder he even survived, but he did. He kept tenaciously clinging to life. Even when Sesshomaru finally got serious about wiping Inuyasha out, he’d been the one defeated. The painful loss of his limb was insult on top of injury. Re-growing his arm was a long, painful process that he had no wish to experience again. It made his desire to kill Inuyasha and steal their father’s powerful gift even stronger, at least until Naraku's antics stirred up his ire.

He’d found Naraku’s hounding of Inuyasha to be both amusing and annoying. Inuyasha was his to toy with. The other demon had no right to play with his brother in such a way. The depths to which Naraku stooped were distasteful. It left him feeling inexplicably irritated, more so after his own run-in with the demon, but he never moved to stop it. He’d let the other demon harass his brother, pulling at his emotions and forcing him to fight for his life while Sesshomaru watched from a distance.

Once Rin had managed to crack open his heart, it became harder for him to sit back and watch. He started to interfere. Not with Naraku directly, but with Inuyasha. Inuyasha was of his blood. With their father dead, he was the head of the family and he decided that it was time he took responsibility for that family, even if it was just a lowly half-demon like Inuyasha. Protecting Inuyasha was still beyond him, but training him, that was something he could do. Unlike himself, Inuyasha had never gotten formal training. He depended on his greater strength to fight. Unfortunately, there were creatures out there with strength that both rivaled and surpassed Inuyasha’s. Brute strength would only get him so far, so he began to train him through trial and error. He would lure his brother away from his friends at night and fight him.

Sesshomaru would exploit Inuyasha’s weak points and little by little, the half-demon began to cover them better, to counter his moves. He would battle him until Inuyasha collapsed from exhaustion. Then he’d leave him lying in the dirt to think about his lessons until their next battle. He even started to enjoy their little sessions and he got the feeling that Inuyasha did too, though neither would admit it. Inuyasha seemed almost eager to show him his improvements and every now and then, Sesshomaru would feel his mouth pulling up into a hint of a smile. He lost count of how many times he lured Inuyasha away from his friends to train. He would use subtle signs such as a whiff of scent and a small flex of power to lead his brother away from the main group. Then they’d fight. It was a comfortable routine until it changed. He had no idea that the night of the full moon would be different. He’d drawn Inuyasha away, they’d battled, and then something shifted.

The sight, the scent, the presence of his brother had drawn him like gravity. That night they mated under the moon. Panting, sweating, and biting, they had moved together like wild beasts without logic or care, only the need to mate burning through their blood. The night had been a strange erotic blur, but it was the morning that stuck in his mind the most. He had awoken curled around the smaller form of his half-brother. Still drawn, they mated once more, but it had been slower unlike the wild frantic fornication of the night before. Their bodies had moved together in the rhythm of lovers, golden eyes locked on each other as they reached a shattering release together. It was then that he bit Inuyasha, marking his shoulder. It was that mark that Inuyasha now bore, showing the world that he belonged to Sesshomaru and no other.

It made sense in the moment, but afterward, he was horrified with his actions. He retreated to his castle, wondering how he could have mated with his brother. Training him was one thing. Mating him was something he had never even imagined. He had hated Inuyasha for his entire existence. The only bits of affection he’d ever shown him were not killing him straight away, and training him. It wasn’t exactly a foundation for a happy mating. He felt like it was weakness that made him mate with Inuyasha.

Whatever influence the moon played in their mating, he should have been able to resist. No matter how beautiful his brother was, he should have been able to push back his desires. He prided his control. With Inuyasha involved, he lost it, not only claiming that lovely body like an animal, but he’d mated him too. He had no excuse for that. By morning, the fog of desire had lifted, he was more in control of his actions than at any other time during the night. Still, it felt as though he was in a trance, one of his own making, one that drove him to tell the entire world that Inuyasha was his. So he claimed him. Then, he left like a coward to hide away in his castle and stew in his confusion. He ignored his mate and tried to distract himself by focusing on Rin and spending time meditating in the gardens.

It had worked for a while, at least until fate brought Inuyasha right to his door. He had been shocked to discover their tiny son. He had expected many things to come from their night together, but a child had not been one of them. It was a rare half demon that could carry a child. Inuyasha didn’t seem to realize what an amazing feat he’d managed. The fact that Kuniku had managed to survive Inuyasha’s period of weakness was a miracle in itself. The two of them were amazing. Seeing Kuniku’s small furry ears and his golden eyes, it was as though the confusion inside him instantly cleared. The path forward was perfectly apparent. He had mated Inuyasha and they had a child. He had neglected them terribly and he needed to step up and be the mate that Inuyasha needed. Sesshomaru knew that he had a lot to make up for and he hoped that Inuyasha would give him that chance. He wouldn’t be surprised if Inuyasha decided to take their son and live by himself, as he always had. Or Inuyasha could choose to live in the castle, letting Sesshomaru protect them, but never letting him touch them again.

Why were all of his worst decisions tied so closely to his family? As much as he blamed Inuyasha and his mother for their father’s death, he had to admit that he was partially responsible. If he had offered to protect Inuyasha, his father might have stayed to heal and survive. If he had stayed with Inuyasha after he claimed him, he could have been there when their son was delivered. Instead, he was left trying to clean up his own mess. The years of neglect and outright hostility he’d heaped upon Inuyasha would not help his case when he tried to act like Inuyasha’s mate. He found himself falling into the role of mate with surprising ease, even though Inuyasha was still uncomfortable. He always looked at Sesshomaru’s offered hand like it was going to hit him. He still took it, but he was painfully hesitant. Each little wary glance and flinch was like an arrow to the heart. They were arrows that he deserved. Arrows of his own making. He was the one that made Inuyasha distrust him so. So even as he accepted the situation and vowed to do better, he knew that his previous behavior was not without consequence. He needed to win back Inuyasha’s trust. He needed to show him that he wanted him there, that he was safe in Sesshomaru’s home, in his presence. That would be one of his biggest challenges. However, he was up to the challenge.

He knew that he needed to take responsibility for his mate and child. More than that, he wanted to take responsibility. He wanted to touch Inuyasha and have the half-demon lean into his touch without reservation. He wanted Inuyasha to look at him and not see the brother that had hurt him all these years, but the mate who would protect him to his death. He wanted to be a source of love and support that held Inuyasha up, rather than beat him down. He wanted to be the mate that Inuyasha deserved. A protector, a lover. A partner that he could rely on to raise their child to be happy, healthy and strong. He would become that mate or die trying.

Sesshomaru sighed as he looked back at his family on the bed. He had collected a family that consisted of the two things he once hated most. He still didn't care for humans and he still had problems with his brother, but he was learning to deal with them both. Inflexibility was not an option. He would have to move with the strange flow of life or else not live at all. He chose to go with it. With an amused smile on his face, he fixed the blanket that covered Rin, tucking her small foot under the soft material. He ran his hand gently over the blanket that Inuyasha had wrapped Kuniku in, feeling the soft rise and fall of his son's breath. Finally, he ran his fingers over Inuyasha's fall of white hair as he slid easily onto the bed and curled his body around his mate. It wasn't where he would have ever imagined himself to be, but now that he found himself there he felt content. With that strangely warm feeling sitting in his chest, he allowed himself to join his family in sleep.