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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.

Chapter Text

Inuyasha was comfortable and warm. After his mother died, there weren’t many times that he could say that. The feelings of warmth and safety were fleeting things. They never stayed for long, just like everything else good in his life.

His childhood wasn’t terrible. His mother loved him and showed it to him in her every action, her every smile. But everyone else around them hated him. He could always retreat into his mother’s embrace, but it still hurt. Once she died, there was no retreat at all. He was driven out by the humans he’d grown up with and left to fend for himself in the wild, hiding from demons that would gladly murder a half-demon like himself.

Life was a struggle and it was one he considered giving up many times, but he always reminded himself that his father died so he could live. His father gifted him with life and his mother loved him with every fiber of her being. How could he give up the precious life they’d given him. He couldn’t. There was no way in hell he could meet his old man in the underworld and tell him he hadn’t given his all to live. So he fought, tooth and claw, to survive in a world that hated him.

Everything he had, he won through his own strength. Every day he lived, it was because he fought for it. As a child, he had to hide from humans and demons, but as he grew, his strength grew as well. Slowly, he was able to fight back. After each beating that he took, he’d still pick himself back up and fight for another day. He could never stay down. Staying down meant dying, so he always picked himself back up. Through sheer stubbornness alone, he survived. Nobody helped him. Nobody protected him. There was no safe retreat. He lived in a world where you killed or were killed. So he killed and fought, alone. Always alone.

Then he met Kikyo, the holder of the Shikon Jewel. He heard that it could make him a full demon. The idea of becoming stronger, like his father, appealed to him. The idea of never having to run or be beaten again called to him. His search for the jewel led him to Kikyo and for a time, his life had a little less fighting. He and Kikyo had a thing. He was pretty sure he was in love with her. He’d never been in love before, but he was pretty sure the softness he felt when he was around her was what love was. He wanted to see her smile and be happy. He wanted to protect her. And in the end, he failed. He lost her to that bastard Naraku. It only served to prove that everything good in his life was fleeting.

He spent fifty years pinned to a tree before Kagome came along and freed him. Kagome looked so much like Kikyo. For a while, he thought he loved her too. She gave him soft feelings, but as other people were added to their group, he realized that soft feelings could be different. He finally understood friendship. He wasn’t alone anymore. It was shocking. He’d never had friends before. He had trouble dealing with them, but it was worth it, despite Kagome’s control over him. Every “sit” came cushioned in more of those soft feelings.

Soft feelings were confusing, but once he’d had a taste of them, it was as though he could never get enough of them. It made him feel like his center of gravity was constantly changing and he needed those feelings to keep his balance. It made him feel scared and weak, like he was a helpless child that needed to hide from those out to kill him. So he lashed out grumpily because he had already been hurt. Letting his guard down, letting people get in, that just hurt, like an arrow pinning him to a tree for fifty years. Just the thought of that time made him shiver. He couldn’t remember it as anything more than an aching hole. There was the feeling of betrayal from Kikyo, then he awoke to find her long gone. The goodness that he thought he’d found was yanked away, just like that. Nothing good in his life stayed for long. Warmth, comfort, love, they were fleeting. He shivered as a broken animal noise escaped his mouth and he curled in on himself.

He was on the verge of waking when a warm touch soothed him. A gentle hand slid over his arm and down to his stomach. He uncurled slightly, welcoming the touch. The cold that had washed over him receded and the warmth returned to his limbs. He relaxed and soaked in the feeling. The touch seemed to spark a coil of desire in his stomach. As the thought came to mind, another hand slid down and stroked his hip before gliding over his thigh. It felt good.

It had been so long since anybody had touched him with such tenderness. He could count the people on one hand: his mother, Kikyo, Kagome, and Sesshomaru. The last one was a surprise. For as long as he could remember his older brother had lived to make his life miserable and even end it if he could. Rejection always hurt, but to know that his only living relative hated him and wanted him dead was like poison burning through his veins. He loved his mother, but he would always wonder what his life would have been like if he were a full demon. Would Sesshomaru have accepted him then?

Inuyasha never hated his brother. He wanted Sesshomaru to acknowledge him, to accept him. But he never had. Inuyasha was full of bitter resentment. He hadn’t done anything to deserve Sesshomaru’s hatred. He had merely been born. Why was that so wrong? His parents loved each other. They loved each other so much that his father died so he and his mother would live. How could anyone consider that wrong? Why did everyone look at him like he was dirty? He clenched his fists, the pain of his nails digging into his skin had him surfacing from the comfortable place he’d been drowsing. As if sensing his sorrow, the warm hands ran over his sides, once again stroking his stomach and soothing him. He calmed down with a soft mournful sigh.

Things were changing. He’d found friends. It was annoying at times, but it felt good to have them. Things with Sesshomaru were changing too, though he hadn’t noticed it at first. He thought that Sesshomaru had suddenly decided to make his life hell by harassing him almost every night. Eventually, he saw what Sesshomaru was up to. He was training him. Every little battle they had was a grueling training session all designed to improve his fighting skills. Sesshomaru would go for his weak points and Inuyasha would try to cover them. Sesshomaru never said what he was doing, Inuyasha just caught on. They didn't speak about it, it just happened. Inuyasha was almost afraid that if he mentioned it, Sesshomaru would realize what he was doing and stop. If he let on that he enjoyed it, Sesshomaru would leave.

Then his world shifted. The night of the full moon was like every other spar he’d had with Sesshomaru up until it wasn’t just a spar. They went from sparring to something else so fast Inuyasha’s head spun. He wasn’t sure what was different about that night. Maybe it was the moon. Maybe it was destiny. Whatever it was that triggered it, they had mated long into the night. Sesshomaru had set him on fire with want. He’d felt like he needed his brother more than he needed air. The pleasure had flushed out his logic. He couldn't spare a thought to the fact that they were brothers and what they were doing could be labeled as wrong. He could focus on only one thought as they moved against each other in passion, his brother loved him. Maybe he didn't really love him, but that night, their bodies loved each other. And in the morning, that was best. Sesshomaru had moved with a tenderness that brought tears to his eyes. His brother had licked the tears away as he held him, marked him, made him his. Then he was gone.

After their night together, he didn't see Sesshomaru again. He'd just left and, after what they'd shared, Inuyasha had felt abandoned. He was used and forgotten and it hurt. He was used to being ignored and shoved aside, but to have been so close to what he wanted only to be denied. It stung. It stung like few things in life, such a harsh rejection depressed him. It was as if Sesshomaru had said to his face, "You aren't worth the time. I have what I want. You're just trash again like you always were."

He shifted uncomfortably. He had spent so many months agonizing over it. He hadn't been lost in that much confusion since he was a child and his mother died. He berated himself for his weakness, but he couldn't help it. There was an ache inside him where Sesshomaru had reached inside and torn his heart out. It was as if his brother's poison had seeped into his body to attack him, leaving a constant reminder. He whimpered at the remembered pain. Then those warm hands were back on him, lips pressed against his neck. Words were whispered into his ears. Warmth surrounded him where once there was cold.

He had warmth now. He had Kuniku now. When he first saw the beginnings of plumpness on his normally flat stomach, he thought that maybe he'd been eating too many of Kagome's snacks. When it only continued to grow he'd panicked. He didn't know what was happening to his body. Was it a curse? It hadn't hurt it was just strange. His clothes hid the bulge in his stomach for the first day or two, but soon it became too pronounced to hide and his friends discovered it.

Kagome had looked at him in wonder as she said that it looked like he was pregnant. The thought thundered through his head. He was pregnant? He was going to have a child! Sesshomaru's child! Suddenly, he didn't feel so empty. Sesshomaru might have left him, but he'd left something precious behind. He left him Kuniku.

It wasn't long after their initial discovery of Inuyasha's condition that Kuniku was born. His son was perfect. He was so beautiful and he had the cutest little tail. Inuyasha didn't have a tail and neither did his brother, but Kuniku was three-quarters demon and that might have had something to do with it. He didn't care though because his son was so cute no matter what. Kuniku was precious to him. Kuniku's ears were like his own, snow-white dog ears on the top of his head. They were still floppy because he was so young and they were so soft, like small silk petals. On himself, he had resented his ears and his differences, on his son he loved them, they were a reminder of who his father was. Kuniku's differences made him special and he could see now why his mother loved him so much despite what everybody said.

He had been so preoccupied with his son that he hadn't noticed that they'd strayed into Sesshomaru's territory. It wasn't until Shippo reported that there was a castle nearby that he realized exactly where they were and whose castle it was. He flat out refused to go anywhere near the castle. Sesshomaru had left him. He'd thrown him away. He didn't even deserve to know he had a son. No matter how much it hurt him to not have his brother in his life. He didn't want him suddenly popping back in and taking away his son. He would never let it happen. There would be lots of blood and he'd be in his grave before anyone laid a finger on Kuniku.

But it seemed that Sesshomaru did not want to take Kuniku away. In fact, it seemed like he wanted to keep both Inuyasha and their son. He'd even gone so far as to allow Inuyasha's friends to stay in the castle. It was a shock. Did it mean that maybe Sesshomaru didn't hate him after all? He had kissed him. He was being very gentle with him, spending time with him. It was as if Inuyasha had stepped into another world. He wasn't sure what to think. It was what he wanted, but good things never happened to him, something always went wrong. There had to be a catch. He just knew it. It wouldn't last forever. It couldn't, so he would just have to live in the moment and soak it all up. That way he could store it away for later when he was alone again. He always ended up alone. He would do so again, it was his fate.

Crying tickled at the edges of his consciousness. The warmth around him moved. The crying got faint. The sound of voices lulled him and the crying faded out. He knew he should get up, but he was still so warm. He knew that Kuniku would be hungry soon and he couldn't let his son go hungry. He knew what hunger felt like and he would never let his son go through what he did as a child. With a huge yawn, he stretched out on the bed. He shifted and sat up rubbing his eyes. Finally, he looked around and got a feeling of déjà vu. Sesshomaru was sitting in the chair next to the bed rocking Kuniku. Rin was sitting on his lap looking at the baby adoringly. Sesshomaru looked up at him.

"Good morning."

"Good morning," Inuyasha replied, fighting off another yawn.

"Did you sleep well?" Sesshomaru asked.

Inuyasha nodded. "Yeah. It was warm." The comment brought a smile to Sesshomaru's lips.

"If you put clothes on, we can go to breakfast," he said.

"But..." Inuyasha looked down. He was still wrapped in the white robe from the night before, though it had fallen open and was now providing Sesshomaru with a good view of his naked skin. Inuyasha blushed. He noticed faint trails of claw marks over his stomach. His brow crinkled as he looked up at Sesshomaru. "Did you-"

"We will wait for you in the dining room," Sesshomaru announced as he set Rin on her feet and cradled Kuniku. "Don't take too long."

Inuyasha watched, speechless, as Sesshomaru walked out of the room. He looked back down at the trails on his skin. It hadn't been a dream, there had been hands soothing him and they were Sesshomaru's! He blushed at the thought. Had they been like that all night? Was that why he'd been so warm? No wonder Sesshomaru was smiling. That sneaky jerk.

Inuyasha looked around for some clothes to put on. He didn't see his typical white shirt and fire rat pants anywhere. He moved to the wardrobe to look inside. Opening the wooden doors a light flowery scent wafted out. The closet was filled with clothes. Each and every outfit was a finely crafted yukata with different designs on them. Lots of them were in soft floral designs and he glared at the garments. It had to be Sesshomaru's idea of a joke. He was aware that he wasn't at the height of fashion in red fire rat clothing, but it was durable and practical, so he wore it. It appeared that his brother had other ideas. With a sigh, he settled on a light blue yukata with a pattern like fish scales.

He slid into the soft material and shivered at how soft it felt on his skin. He was positive that he'd never worn anything so fine in his life. It probably cost more money than he'd ever possessed and he felt out of place in the garment. He tied the belt around his waist and looked into the mirrored glass on the door of the wardrobe. It was almost like looking at a stranger. His hair and face were the same as always, but the outfit made him look different. He closed the wardrobe door and moved to leave the room. The fabric whispered softly as it slid over his skin and he licked his lips. Suddenly, he felt very out of place in his brother's fine home, dressed up in clothes too expensive for him as if trying to hide his flaws in beautifully dyed cotton. It looked like there wasn't room in his brother's life for some ragged half-demon brother.

Inuyasha's earlier thoughts came back to him; it was too good to be true. Soon, Sesshomaru would come to his senses and wonder why he had invited the awkward half-demon into his home. He would be ready when that time came. He wouldn't put up a fuss when Sesshomaru told him to leave. He would go quietly as long as Kuniku was with him. With a last glance at the rich room, he made his way into the main part of the castle to the dining room where the others were already eating breakfast.

"Good morning Inuyasha," Miroku greeted taking in the new outfit with a raised brow.

"Good morning," Inuyasha replied uncomfortably. He had to fight against the urge to hunch his shoulders as he sat down beside Sesshomaru at the head of the table. Sesshomaru handed over the squirming infant in his arms and Inuyasha smiled at his son. "Good morning Kuniku. Are you hungry? Let's get you fed." He opened the yukata and began to feed Kuniku.

Beside him, Sesshomaru took a small bite of a frosted pastry. Inuyasha looked down at the table as he felt his brother's eyes on him. He looked over the breakfast selections and felt his stomach grumble. There were many beautiful pastries laid out on a plate, a sharp contrast to his usual breakfast of leftovers from the night before. He hadn't eaten pastry since he was a small child and his mother had gifted him with them. He generally shied away from large towns, some of the only places that pastry makers set up shop and even when he happened to come across one, he never had much money to his name.

As Kuniku finished feeding, Sesshomaru offered to take him back while Inuyasha ate. Inuyasha nodded and gently handed his son back to his brother. He began to select a few of the delicately decorated pastries and poured a cup of aromatic tea. He took his time eating, savoring the flaky sweet treats. He was licking the sticky crumbs from his fingers when a motion from Sesshomaru caught his eye. Sesshomaru gestured to his lips and Inuyasha looked at him puzzled. "What?"

"You have a crumb," Sesshomaru leaned forward, "on your cheek." Sesshomaru reached over and wiped the crumb off of Inuyasha's cheek with a single finger. He pulled back and put the finger into his mouth, eating the small crumb. He smiled wickedly as Inuyasha blushed and quickly took a sip of his tea to try and hide his embarrassment. The fire was just fading from his cheeks as they heard noises outside.

Sesshomaru frowned and stood up. He handed Kuniku to Inuyasha and swiftly left the room to check on the disturbance. Rin was hot on his heels followed by both Miroku and Shippo, who hitched a ride on the monk's shoulder. Inuyasha snatched another pastry as he followed the others, curious about the noises as well. He was surprised to find Kagome and Sango in the yard with Kilala hooked up to a large cart.

"What is all this?" Inuyasha asked as he walked out into the yard.

Kagome grinned at him. "I went shopping!" She announced as she gestured to the cart.

"We can see that, did you buy a whole store ladies? What could you have possibly brought that I don't already have?" Sesshomaru asked dryly.

"Baby supplies!"

"Baby supplies?"

"Yes! We brought Kuniku baby supplies, from Kagome's time that is." Sango explained as she led Inuyasha to the cart.

"You went back to Kagome's time?" He blinked.

"No. I cannot go through the well. Kagome's mother took her shopping and Kagome brought all these things through the well," Sango explained. “It took her many many trips to bring it all through.”

"What did you buy then?" Inuyasha peered into the cart packed with boxes.

"All sorts of things! Let us show you! Sit down and we'll show you!" Kagome pushed Inuyasha over to sit on the porch. With no other choice, he sat down on the step and was eventually joined by the other three males.

Rin was hopping between the girls excitedly. Sango grinned and knelt down beside her. "We have something for you too."

"Me too!" Rin squealed.

"Yes!" Kagome brought over a brightly colored box. She opened it and pulled out a silver tiara that sparkled with jewels.

“Oooooh!” Rin cooed as the tiara sparkled in the sunlight.

Kagome smiled. “Since Rin is Sesshomaru's princess, I thought you might need a crown.” She grinned as she settled the toy tiara on Rin's head.

Rin squeaked with joy. “Rin is a princess!”

“That's right, Rin is a princess.”

Rin laughed in delight. "Thank you!" She said, clapping her hands in delight. "Thank you. Thank you!" She sang out happily.

"You're welcome." Kagome stroked the girl's hair. "There is more, but now we'll show Inuyasha his new toys."

"Yasha toys!" Rin crowed as she hopped over to Inuyasha and Sesshomaru and showed off her new treasure.

The girls proceeded to show Inuyasha Kagome's many purchases. There were so many things that he'd never thought about before as they showed him the strange devices from the future. A playpen to keep Kuniku in one place so he couldn't crawl off into trouble. A baby swing to rock him back and forth when nobody was available to hold him. A special tub and sponge to bath him along with more bath products than he'd ever need. There were soft plush animals and pastel-colored blankets in shades of blue and green. Cloth diapers with decorative pins to hold them on. Something called baby wipes clean up messy bottoms while changing diapers and powder to sprinkle on Kuniku to keep him dry. On and on the list went. From baby clothes to toys, diaper bags and bottles, baby books and strollers, it seemed that the girls had bought every baby item ever invented.

Even after their parade of baby items they continued to pull out new treasures. There were more toys for Rin, toys for Shippo, books on religion for Miroku (not that he'd follow them). For Inuyasha, there was instant ramen and books of manga because Kagome said he needed to read more. They brought items for Sesshomaru, small things to decorate his home, strange treats from the future like pocky and other sweets. They even bought a gift for Jaken. They bought him a pack of toffees, probably to keep his whiny beak shut, but he was delighted that they'd thought of him.

In the end, Inuyasha was more than a little shocked. "Why did you do this? Where did you get all the money for this?" Not that he wasn't pleased, but it seemed too much.

"I did this for you Inuyasha." Kagome smiled.

"It seems that money from this time is worth much more in Kagome's time. She had plenty to spare," Sango explained.

"Thank you," Inuyasha said softly, looking around at all the new things and feeling quite overwhelmed. He'd never owned so much in his entire life!

Sesshomaru put his hand on Inuyasha's shoulder. "Come, we shall put these things in your room."

"My room?" The half-demon looked up at his brother.

"Yes, you don't want to leave them in the yard and there is no nursery available right now, so they will have to go in your room."

"Oh." Inuyasha looked even more dazed than before.

Sesshomaru squeezed Inuyasha's shoulder. It sent a jolt of warmth through Inuyasha's body as he watched Sesshomaru pick up a pile of boxes and begin bringing them into the house. Maybe he would be staying for a while after all. With hope glowing in him and a smile on his face, he let Kagome and Sango hold Kuniku while he helped to carry his new acquisitions inside.

Chapter Text

Inuyasha sat in the garden behind the castle. He had a manga in his lap and some of the baby books on the bench next to him. Sesshomaru was sitting with Kuniku and Rin while they napped. Sesshomaru had been paging through one of the books Kagome had brought when he left. It seemed that his brother liked to read. He made a note to ask Kagome to bring more books next time she went back to her time, he'd have to think about the subjects, but he decided that it would make a nice gift for his brother, who had taken him in along with all of his friends. He flicked his ears and looked up as someone walked along the path. Kagome came around a corner with a flower in her hand. She waved and walked over to him.

"There you are. I wanted to talk to you." She said flapping the flower at him.

"Okay." He shrugged and set the manga aside. "What did you want to talk about?"

"Hold on." She approached him and put her hands on his neck. He looked up at her curiously. She leaned in and grinned and his ears twitched nervously. His hair pulled lightly and he blinked at her.

"What are you doing?" He demanded with a puzzled look.

"This!" She held up the necklace that had seemed to dominate his life for the last few months.

"What?" He looked up in shock. "Why did you?"

She put the necklace in his hand and sat down beside him. "I don't need it anymore. Originally, it was just to control you so you didn't hurt anybody. Then, it was just another way for me to fight with you. Now, well, it's pretty useless. I mean, I don't need to control you because you're not out to kill me or anyone I care about. We hardly fight anymore and if you think about it, it really was unfair of me to use it on you."

"Tell me about it!" Inuyasha grumbled remembering all the pain he'd gone through because of the stupid necklace and its spell.

Kagome looked sheepish and laughed nervously. "Yes, well, I don't know if you noticed, but I did. Yesterday, when we brought all that stuff back, I told you to sit down. I didn't even think about it, it just happened. And you didn't fall! You were holding Kuniku and everything-"

"WHAT?!” Inuyasha leaped to his feet. “You said that word while I was holding Kuniku?! You could have killed my son!"

Kagome held up her hands. "I know I know! I wasn't thinking! I'm sorry! But nothing happened! You didn't fall!"

Inuyasha blinked. He hadn't fallen. "I didn't....why not?" Now, he was confused.

She shrugged. "I'm not sure. Maybe because I didn't want to hurt Kuniku. Maybe it's really some kind of mental trigger?"

"You accidentally "sat" me all the time." He pointed out with a sour frown.

"Well, maybe it was your protective instincts. They flared up so powerfully that they canceled out the reaction? I mean, Kaede said that only someone with enough power could control the beads right? So maybe you had the power to do it? I don't know. All I do know is they're useless now. You shouldn't have to wear them around if you don't want to. So, I decided to finally get rid of them." Kagome smiled.

"Thank you. I appreciate it." He sat down again and looked at the beads in his hands.

"Umm..." Kagome fidgeted, twisting the flower stem in her hands.

"What?"

"I was wondering...are you still going to search for the jewel shards with us?"

He looked at the beads in his lap, then at her face. "I don't know. Before, I did it for reasons that don't seem as important now, to become a demon, to get revenge. But with Kuniku here, I can't let stupid decisions hurt him. I know that Naraku is a threat, and that is all the more reason for me to stop chasing him. I can't risk the life of my child. You have to understand, I care for all of you, but I can't!" He looked torn as he tried to explain himself.

Kagome reached forward and hugged him. "Shh," she soothed, running her fingers through his hair. "I understand Inuyasha. I do. Kuniku is too important. You’re right. I just wanted...I suppose I was being a little selfish. I wanted your company. But you have responsibilities now. How strange." She pulled back and smiled. "Inuyasha with responsibilities. Could it be that you are finally growing up?" She tugged playfully on his ears.

"Quit that!" He protested, flicking his ears. "I'm not a complete loser you know." He grumbled, crossing his arms. "I can be mature and stuff."

"I know, I know." She grinned at his sulking. "I know that when it's called for, you always do the right thing like you're doing now. I just wanted to talk about it. I think that the others and I will start off again soon. However, we’ll make this our new base, whether Sesshomaru likes it or not. We can't just suddenly forget about our friends."

"Thanks, Kagome." He smiled at her, gripping the beads tightly in his hands.

"That's what friends are for Inuyasha." She grinned and tugged on his ears once more before skipping off down the path before he could complain.

He watched her go and sat back with a sigh. He'd been expecting the conversation, but he hadn't thought it would take so much out of him. He certainly hadn't expected Kagome to remove the beads around his neck, but he was glad that she did. It freed him from any power that she'd held over him as well as any residual obligations he might have felt. He still had obligations to his friend, but none that made him follow her around like a puppy. It felt good to have them off like a weight had dropped from his shoulders, which it had. With a smile on his face, he picked up his books and returned to the house to see Kuniku.

After dinner that night, Kagome and Sango offered to watch Kuniku and Rin while Sesshomaru and Inuyasha had some time to themselves. Inuyasha smiled and thanked them both. He was walking down the hall, thinking of what to do with his night off when Sesshomaru walked up beside him.

"Come with me to the hot springs," Sesshomaru said as they walked back to their rooms.

Inuyasha looked up at him. The last time Inuyasha had been in the springs with Sesshomaru, he'd felt nervous about having Sesshomaru watch him. He still felt nervous, but a good soak sounded nice. He weighed his options and finally nodded. "Sure."

"Come then." Sesshomaru set his hand on Inuyasha's lower back and led him out to the gardens. He kept his hand in place as they walked down the path to the springs. Inuyasha felt the warmth from that hand flow through him. When they reached the springs Sesshomaru let his hand fall and began to undress. He wasn't wearing his heavy armor, just a simple kimono and sash. Even his fluffy white thing had been left inside. Inuyasha really had no name for the fluffy white thing. It seemed to be part fashion accessory, part weapon. Maybe someday he'd ask Sesshomaru just what the hell it was. Inuyasha turned his eyes away as Sesshomaru's robe dropped. He began to hesitantly untie his own robes as he heard Sesshomaru slip into the water.

"Come, it is not as if you have things I haven't seen before," Sesshomaru purred, amusement evident in his voice.

Inuyasha shrugged off the comment, not sure how to respond. Did Sesshomaru mean that they were both men and Inuyasha didn't have anything unfamiliar to him or did he instead refer to the fact that he'd already seen Inuyasha naked? The half-demon wasn't sure and so ignored it as he finally let his robe drop and turned back to the water. Sesshomaru had moved out into the deeper parts of the water but was still watching Inuyasha. Inuyasha put a toe in the spring before he stepped in, sighing as the warm water surrounded him.

"Around here there is an alcove to sit in," Sesshomaru motioned around a bend in the spring and moved towards it.

Inuyasha nodded and followed, moving slowly through the warm water. As he rounded the bend, he saw Sesshomaru settling down onto a submerged shelf in the small alcove surrounded by green plants and blooming flowers. Inuyasha moved into the small rounded cove and settled himself across from Sesshomaru, closing his eyes and letting his head fall back. He let his mind drift for a little while as the heat of the water sank into his bones.

"You are no longer wearing those beads," Sesshomaru commented after a while.

"No. Kagome took them off this afternoon. I put them away in a drawer," Inuyasha said, not opening his eyes.

"That is good, you are free from them now. And your skin is no longer blocked by their presence."

Inuyasha felt the heat rising up to his cheeks and mumbled an indistinct reply. He heard the swish of water and a moment later the ripples touched him. He opened his eyes to find Sesshomaru sitting inches away. His eyes widened, but he didn't withdraw. instead, he sat and watched his brother, who was staring at him intently. Shivers crawled down his spine as Sesshomaru continued to stare.

"What?!" Inuyasha finally burst out. "Why are you staring at me?"

"You've turned human." Sesshomaru said reaching out and running his fingers through silky black hair.

Inuyasha blinked and looked up at the dark sky. Sure enough, the moon was nowhere to be seen. How could he have forgotten something as important as the New Moon, when he changed into a human? With all the activity from the arrival of Kuniku and settling into Sesshomaru's house, it had completely slipped his mind. He jumped slightly as lips nibbled at his ear. "S-Sesshomaru!"

"Hush," Sesshomaru murmured as he ran his tongue over the delicate pink shell of Inuyasha's human ear. His fingers massaged his brother's scalp, running through the silky black strands of hair. "I wish only to touch my mate." Inuyasha shivered at his brother's husky tone of voice.

"It's weird.” He complained. “I-I'm not used to this s-stuff," Inuyasha stuttered. Indeed, he was not used to his brother's attention at all. He was used to death threats and fights. He wasn’t used to the more affectionate side of Sesshomaru and especially not his sensual side. This didn’t turn out so well for him last time. Still, he couldn’t pull away.

"I will make you accustomed to this attention my beautiful Inuyasha," Sesshomaru informed his brother, nibbling on his tender earlobe.

Inuyasha let forth a little squeak of surprise. Sesshomaru's hand wrapped around his waist and settled on his hip, pulling him to face his brother. Sesshomaru leaned in and captured Inuyasha's lips. The first kiss was aggressive, his tongue reaching into Inuyasha's mouth and stealing his breath. As he withdrew, he looked deep into Inuyasha's deep brown eyes. "You no longer draw away at my touch." Sesshomaru said running a clawed hand over Inuyasha's soft cheek.

"I like your touch," Inuyasha admitted quietly, leaning into Sesshomaru's hand to demonstrate.

Sesshomaru smiled and moved back in to kiss Inuyasha, softer this time, lingering sweetly. The kiss made Inuyasha's heart flutter. It was so tender and gentle. He wanted more. He leaned into Sesshomaru's kisses eagerly. Sesshomaru's hand slid down his back, leaving faint trails of fire where his nails barely scraped the skin. Inuyasha hesitantly wrapped one arm around Sesshomaru's shoulder, pulling himself closer. Sesshomaru's hand pressed on his lower back, drawing their bodies together and Inuyasha moaned softly.

"So beautiful, my mate," Sesshomaru whispered as he pulled back, gold catching brown. He lowered his lips to Inuyasha's neck and sucked on the pale skin there. Inuyasha let his head fall to the side as Sesshomaru licked on the delicate flesh of his neck. Kisses dragged downward to his collarbone, where teeth scraped lightly, causing the half-human to shiver in his brother's embrace.

Sesshomaru dragged Inuyasha in to straddle his lap with a small growl. He bent in towards Inuyasha's chest, a source of fascination for him these last few days. Despite Inuyasha's change to human form, he still had swollen breasts. Arousal made his nipples stand at attention and Sesshomaru ran his tongue around one of Inuyasha's nipples. The flesh was soft and the nipple tightened further at his attention. As he wanted to do since the first time he watched Inuyasha feed their son, he took the tight nipple into his mouth and sucked gently. His suckling yielded drops of sweet heavy milk that his brother's body had produced. The thought was somehow arousing and he continued to suckle at his brother's breast, bringing forth low groans from Inuyasha who began to squirm in his lap.

"Sesshomaru!" Inuyasha exclaimed breathlessly as the demon switched breasts. Inuyasha's hands tangled in Sesshomaru's silvery white hair, keeping his brother's face to his chest. The strange jolts of pleasure he experienced while Kuniku fed seemed to have intensified a hundredfold as Sesshomaru suckled at his chest. With a small nip, Sesshomaru finally drew back licking his lips.

"Did you like that?" He asked running his hands along the insides of Inuyasha's thighs.

"Yes." Inuyasha hissed softly, eyes glazed with pleasure.

"Good." His hands spread Inuyasha's thighs wide as he wrapped the long legs of his brother around his waist. The motions brought their erection in close contact and Inuyasha moaned, his head resting on Sesshomaru's shoulder. Inuyasha had just begun thrusting gently against his brother when a loud crash from the house made him jump.

Sesshomaru froze. "Something's wrong." He stood and bringing Inuyasha with him. "Hold on." Inuyasha barely had time to wrap his arms around his brother's shoulders before Sesshomaru leapt into the air. They landed in front of the bathhouse where Sesshomaru paused for a moment to grab two white robes. He grabbed Inuyasha around the waist, both of them in robes half tied and leapt once more towards the house. There was a large hole in the ceiling where Sesshomaru's private chambers were. Inuyasha's heart dropped into his toes as he realized that it was also where Kuniku and Rin were. They dropped straight through the hole and into a fierce battle between Inuyasha's friends and Naraku.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome called out from a corner where she cradled Kuniku and sheltered Rin and Shippo.

"Kagome!" Inuyasha freed himself from his brother's arms and ran to them, taking a crying Kuniku from his friend's arms. "What happened?"

"We were sitting around with Kuniku and Rin when the ceiling exploded and Naraku came in." Kagome waved to the scene behind Inuyasha's back.

Sango was battling with her little brother, Kohaku, and trying not to damage him. Miroku was trying to fight off the many-tentacled Naraku without the aid of his wind tunnel because of the wasps hovering in the air. Jaken was in the background sending fireballs at the wasps, but there were so many it barely reduced their numbers. Sesshomaru immediately joined the battle, attacking the baboon-skinned demon with intense ferocity.

"You dare invade my house?" Sesshomaru hissed, clawing at the waving brown tentacles of the other demon.

"Ah, Sesshomaru. It seems that you harbor something I desire. Once I have what I want, I will be on my way," Naraku said calmly even as Sesshomaru and Miroku separated groups of his tentacles from the main mass only to have more sprout out.

"If it is here, then it is mine and not yours to take," Sesshomaru growled, wanting nothing more than to rip the other demon to shreds.

"Surely you have noticed that I always get what I want," Naraku replied, his tentacles stabbing at Sesshomaru, who easily dodged.

"Not this night." Sesshomaru sent a sizzling poisonous claw towards Naraku's cloaked face only to be brushed aside with a powerful swipe of a tentacle.

"What have we here?" One writhing brown limb began to reach towards Inuyasha and Kagome. "Could this fetching creature be dear little Inuyasha? And what's this you carry? A child? How interesting."

"Don't touch him!" Kagome stepped out in front of Inuyasha, her bow notched with an arrow.

Naraku laughed. "Foolish child, I will take what I want." He swiped at her, but she leapt back and let her arrow fly to the heart of the baboon skin that rested atop the swarming mass of tentacles. Naraku jerked back as the arrow hit with a bright flash but was not deterred. Another tentacle wrapped around Kagome's ankle and threw her into a wall.

"Kagome!" Inuyasha cried watching his friend crash through the wall and skid out into the hallway. He growled as he retreated, holding Kuniku tightly in one arm and herding Rin and Shippo along with the other. "Naraku you bastard." He muttered, glaring at the white baboon skin.

"Inuyasha. I'm hurt by your words," Naraku crooned as he sent another wave of tentacles towards Inuyasha. Both Sesshomaru and Miroku leaped forward to prevent the tentacles from reaching Inuyasha, who was vulnerable in his human form.

Behind Inuyasha, Rin screamed and the robe he was wearing was pulled tightly. He spun around as one of Naraku's tentacles picked up the small girl by her throat. "Rin!" He cried lunging forward to save the girl. He jerked to a halt mid-air as a tentacle he hadn't seen plunged through his chest. With a strangled gasp, he looked down to make sure Kuniku wasn't hurt. The tentacle had gone through Inuyasha's heart, but Kuniku was safely cradled in the crook of his right arm. He could feel the blood welling up in his lungs as he suddenly coughed, turning his head so he wouldn't bleed on his son.

"Inuyasha!" Miroku barked, trying to get through to his friend but was thrown through a wall.

Sesshomaru turned to see the disturbance and snarled in fury. A tentacle impaled his leg before he could move off to Inuyasha's side and he was left to watch as the tentacle in Inuyasha's chest wrapped around his body, lifting it up into the air. Inuyasha was drawn up towards Naraku's main body and delivered into Naraku's fur cloaked arms. Inuyasha's blood immediately stained the white fur. The demon's pale hand appeared and caressed Inuyasha's face. "Such a shame that you are going to die." Naraku purred.

"No." Inuyasha gasped, even as blood welled up in his throat, dribbling down his lips.

"Yes." Naraku had leaned in so that the outline of his face was almost visible. "You will die." He whispered, his cold lips caressing Inuyasha's bloodied ones. "And I will take this precious child of yours."

"No!" Inuyasha denied, feebly trying to escape to no avail. He'd lost too much blood and without his demon healing abilities, he was fading quickly.

"Do not worry. I will take good care of this little one." Naraku said lifting a wailing Kuniku up out of Inuyasha's grasping arms. "I'm sure he will be as pretty as you. Too bad you'll never know." Naraku smirked as he kissed Inuyasha deeply, swiping the taste of his blood out of his mouth before letting his limp body drop down to the floor with a dull thump.

"Kuniku!" Inuyasha gurgled with the last of his strength, watching through a haze of black as Naraku stole away his child. A scream that he didn't have the life to release bubbled through him as his world turned dark with death and despair.

Chapter Text

Naraku was retreating, but the battle was far from over.

"Sango! Miroku! Follow him!" Sesshomaru ordered. "I will join you shortly. Do NOT let him harm my son."

"Yes!" The duo replied as they hopped onto Kilala and set off to chase the demon.

"Jaken! Bring the Tenseiga immediately!" Sesshomaru yelled as he limped to Inuyasha's side.

"Yes, Master!" The toad demon sped off.

"Inuyasha," Sesshomaru murmured as he knelt into the pool of blood that surrounded his brother. "I will not let you die," he promised as he pulled the limp form into his arms. Even knowing that he could bring Inuyasha back didn’t lessen the pain of seeing his lifeless body. Somewhere along the way, Inuyasha had become so precious to him it felt like he was the one with a hole in his heart.

Jaken quickly reappeared dragging the Tenseiga along behind him. "Here Master! Here is the sword!"

"Good, now go find Rin and bring her to me." Sesshomaru turned his attention back to Inuyasha. "Brother," he whispered, running a hand over Inuyasha's cooling cheek. "You will not leave me." He picked up the sword and used it to cut the chains of death surrounding his brother, killing the ones who had come to take his mate from him. The wound in Inuyasha's chest pulsed. A light shone through and Sesshomaru watched as the gaping hole closed. Inuyasha stiffened and twitched as his body began to live again, his heart starting and a painful gasp drew air into his lungs. He coughed up blood and Sesshomaru tipped his head to the side so it would come out and he wouldn't choke on it.

He gathered Inuyasha in his arms standing carefully, his own leg just beginning to heal. He limped towards Inuyasha’s bedroom, which hadn't been destroyed in the battle, and laid his brother out on the bed. Inuyasha's body had healed, but he was still out cold. He looked up as Jaken pattered into the room with Rin in tow. Kagome and Shippo followed.

"I want you to stay here and watch over Inuyasha. I shall be going after Naraku," Sesshomaru said to Kagome as he stood up.

"No, I want to go with you," Kagome said, stepping forward.

Sesshomaru frowned and shook his head. "Someone must stay behind with Inuyasha."

The girl crossed her arms stubbornly. "But I can help you. I can see jewel shards."

"So can Master!" Jaken squawked indignantly.

Kagome blinked. "You can?"

"Yes, I'm a demon. I can see them as well as sense them. That is why you are forever chasing after demons with shards of the jewel."

"Oh." Kagome frowned.

Sesshomaru frowned. "I am wasting time, all of you stay here. We shall return with Kuniku and the jewel shards."

Kagome nodded, still not happy with it, but not about to argue with Sesshomaru, who was looking quite murderous, his eyes beginning to tinge with red. She was stubborn, but not so stupid as to provoke a demon lord who was worried about his mate and child. Sesshomaru turned and left. Rin jumped on the bed beside Inuyasha poking him gently with her finger.

"Yasha sleep?" She asked Kagome.

"Yes, Inuyasha is sleeping. He got hurt but he's all better now." Kagome moved to the bed.

"Rin slept too. Sesshomaru-sama wake Rin up." Rin smiled. "Yasha wake soon and live here like Rin!"

Kagome was sure that's the most she'd ever heard the young girl speak at one time. She nodded. "Yes, he will wake up soon and stay with you."

"Good good." Rin smiled sitting back on the bed and waiting.

She didn't have long to wait as Inuyasha bolted upright with a pained gasp and a frightened cry. "Kuniku!" His brown eyes searched the room wildly, landing on Rin whom he immediately snatched up. "Rin, you're alive." He hugged her tightly.

"Alive!" Rin glomped Inuyasha back, uncaring of the blood that soiled her clothing.

Kagome leaned in to touch Inuyasha's shoulder. "Inuyasha, are you alright?"

"Where's Kuniku?" Inuyasha looked over Rin's head at Kagome.

"Sesshomaru and the others have gone after him."

"Take me to them."

"I don't think that's such a good idea! You just almost died! You did die! And now you need to recover," Kagome argued.

"No! Take me to them!" Inuyasha set Rin aside and struggled off the bed.

"Inuyasha! You're too weak! You died! You're a human now and you'll only get in the way." Kagome fluttered around nervously, trying to push him back on the bed.

Inuyasha grit his teeth and glared. "Kagome, take me to them or I will go by myself."

"Inuyasha! You're so stubborn!" She yelled in frustration.

"Naraku has my child!" Inuyasha yelled back, fury in his brown eyes. "I am going and you can't stop me!" He staggered to his feet, holding his chest as he panted heavily.

Kagome stood, fists balled tightly as she counted to ten and back. "Fine. But you're not going without me."

A grim smirk twisted Inuyasha's features. "I knew you wouldn't let me down."

"Stupid jerk," she muttered as she pulled his arm over his shoulder, supporting him. "Shippo, you stay here with Rin and Jaken."

The fox demon nodded and leapt onto the bed, avoiding the large blood spots on the sheets. Jaken stepped forward hesitantly. "There are horses, plain stock, in the stables. Take them. He won't make it. Master would wish it."

Kagome nodded as she half lead, half dragged Inuyasha, out to the stables. Jaken and the others followed them to the front of the castle, watching as Kagome rode off on a horse, supporting Inuyasha from behind. Jaken wandered back into the house muttering about repairs leaving Rin and Shippo sitting in the night air. Rin stood up and started walking towards the gates.

"Where are you going?" Shippo asked, bounding after her.

"Rescue Kuniku."

Shippo paused, weighing the possibilities and consequences in his head. Finally, he looked up. "I'm coming too!"


Once Sesshomaru left the grounds, he shifted into his larger demon form. While he was a master at swords, his slender human form was vulnerable in ways that his larger form wasn't. Right now he needed brute strength more than finesse. He’d gladly bite Naraku in half should the opportunity arise. He leapt over trees as he spotted his prey ahead. His sharp ears picked up the sounds of Miroku and Sango as they harried the demon. He put on speed as he neared his prey. Naraku would pay for stealing his child and harming his mate. He growled as he gave a mighty leap and soared into the battle with a feral snarl. The two humans fell back as the giant demon dog leapt into battle. Large teeth fixed on some of Naraku's tentacles. He tore the appendages off, tossing them aside and looked up at the demon before him. Greenish black ichor leaked from the wounds before new tentacles sprouted and started wriggling towards him. He snarled at the baboon-skinned demon, his red eyes raking over him. Where was Kuniku?

"Where is my son?" He demanded in a gravelly bark.

Naraku's laugh filled the clearing. "Did you think that I'd make it easy for you? He is gone. Your son is mine."

"Bastard!" Sesshomaru snarled as he hurled himself at the laughing figure with every intention of tearing out his throat.

Had anyone had time to look, they would have noticed Kohaku slipping through the trees with a small form cradled in his arms. As he had retreated after his master, Naraku had handed him the child and told him to run with him. Just as Kohaku had moved away with the baby in his arms, Miroku and Sango had arrived. He'd watched the battle only for a moment, his eyes locked upon the demon hunter. Then he had shaken off the sudden thrall and turned to follow out his master's orders.

He left the sounds of battle behind as he moved silently through the woods. The child in his arms seemed to have calmed down as his master passed him over. It was good that the child made no noise, for they were circling back towards Sesshomaru's castle. Now that it was nearly empty, the second part of his mission could be carried out. He would steal Inuyasha's tetsusaiga. Since he was human, he could touch it. His master had said that the sword might prove troublesome someday and it was best to be rid of it early.

Once he had the sword, he was to return to his master's castle. He would summon a flying demon and escape into the sky. He still needed stealth to complete his mission and so proceeded by foot. He could distantly hear the signs of battle as he left them behind. At one point, he had frozen as he heard the sound of hoofbeats thundering down the path. He was not on the path, but he was not far from it as he headed back towards the castle. If the child decided to cry, he might have a fight on his hands. Luckily, the child seemed content to sleep and the horse and rider passed.

He thought that he might reach the castle again without incident. Of course, once the thought entered his head, everything changed. The child in his arms began to shift restlessly. A hitch in the baby's breathing signaled the start of a long cry. Kohaku winced as the forest seemed to echo with the sound of the baby crying. He made soft noises and tried to comfort the child to no avail as it only continued to wail.

"Kuniku!" Kohaku looked up as a childish voice called out. A small figure rushed out from behind a tree and bounded for him. Rin bounced on her feet in front of Kohaku squealing, "Kuniku! Kuniku!"

"Rin!" Hot on the girl's heels, Shippo, the little fox demon, rushed out. He stopped short as he saw Kohaku holding Kuniku. "You." Shippo frowned.

"You," Kohaku replied, looking down at the small demon.

"What did you do to Kuniku?" Shippo growled, moving forward slowly.

"I did nothing."

"Then why is he crying?" The fox demanded.

"Wants Yasha." Rin nodded, moving closer to the boy and the baby.

"Stay back," Kohaku ordered as he stepped back.

"Rin, be careful," Shippo warned the girl.

"No!" Rin shook her head fiercely. "Kuniku needs sister."

Kohaku froze. "What did you say?"

"Kuniku needs sister. Rin is sister and here now. Give Kuniku to Rin, Kuniku needs Rin." Rin said matter-of-factly, holding her arms out to collect Kuniku.

Kohaku hesitated. "I...I can't give him to you. My master..."

"Is a killer. He's a liar. You shouldn't follow him." Shippo bristled. "You don’t owe him anything. He took your life to begin with!"

Kohaku paused. His master...his master gave him orders. Orders that hurt him. But he had to follow. Kohaku shook his head. "Don't talk, you lie."

"I'm not lying. Naraku killed your whole village. He killed you to use against your sister."

Again, Kohaku startled at the word. "My...my sister?"

"Yeah. Sango, your sister."

"Sango."

"Yes, Sango. Your sister that you hurt. You hurt her every time you follow Naraku's orders. Don't you think it's time you stopped hurting her? Shouldn't you leave Naraku behind? Is he really so strong that you would forget your family?" Shippo chided.

"I-I don't mean to!" Kohaku argued defensively.

"But you do!"

"But my master..."

"He uses you. But his hold is broken now. Usually, you're a zombie,” Shippo pointed out. “Now you can talk about Sango. You should run while you can."

"I..." Kohaku looked confused.

Rin put out her hand, resting it on his where he held Kuniku. "Come with Rin. Give Kuniku to Rin and come home."

"Kohaku, don't let him win," Shippo said, approaching carefully. "Don't let him use you. Don't let him ruin your family. If you come with us, you can be happy again. You can be with your sister, with Sango, and Naraku can never hurt you again."

Kohaku's eyes shifted restlessly between the fox demon and the child before him. Rin smiled sweetly while Shippo looked focused and hopeful. Kuniku shifted in his arms, mewling out, a tiny fist waving out of the blankets. Rin tugged on Kohaku's arm, pulling him into a kneeling position. She moved in looking down at Kuniku and smiling. Her hand gently ran over his small arm and down to pet his stomach.

"No worry Kuniku, Rin is here now baby. Your sister is here." She leaned in and kissed his cheek delicately.

Kohaku made an almost inaudible noise. Shippo's ears pricked and he looked at the other boy. Tears had collected in the corners of Kohaku's dark eyes as he watched the scene unfold. Slowly, he looked up at Shippo, the tears breaking free and sliding down his cheeks. "I will come with you," he whispered.

Rin looked up at him, her small hands reaching out to touch the glimmering wetness on the boy's cheek. "You come home now," she instructed as she took his free hand and held it firmly. He nodded silently and allowed the girl to lead him home.

Chapter Text

Kagome frowned as Inuyasha sagged in her arms. He had insisted on going to the rescue even though he had no energy for it. He had barely recovered from dying and yet he forced her hand. She had to go with him. He hadn't even let her put proper clothes on him. He was still wearing the tattered blood-soaked robe from earlier. She could feel the wetness seeping into her own clothing but she ignored it. Her discomfort was far from her main concern. She was worried about Inuyasha and his son. If anything happened to Kuniku she wasn't sure what would happen, but she was certain that it would devastate her friend.

For his part, Inuyasha kept his eyes closed so he didn't have to watch the sickening blur of the scenery. The movement of the horse made his stomach twist in rebellion, threatening to empty of all contents. His death and resurrection left him feeling so weak. He knew that he shouldn't have gotten out of bed, but his son's life was at stake. There was no justification for laying in bed while that monster had his child and he still had life in his body. Perhaps he would be of no use in a battle, but he needed to know for certain that Kuniku was all right. His hands gripped the horse's mane as he gave it a weak squeeze with his knees.

"Faster."

Kagome leaned forward. "Did you say something?"

"Faster, we need to go faster," Inuyasha wheezed, trying to urge the horse onward.

"We can't. The horse can only go so fast Inuyasha."

Inuyasha frowned. "We have to go faster."

"The others are doing what they can. We will get there when we get there, hopefully when they've gotten Kuniku back." Kagome replied, holding her friend tightly as she felt him waver.

"What if they don't?"

"Don't what?"

"What if they don't get him back?" Inuyasha's voice was strained as he forced the question from his mouth.

"Don't even think such a thing," Kagome said harshly. "They will get him back. Everything will be fine if you just have faith in everyone."

"I do...I'm just...just so scared," Inuyasha admitted in a whisper that was barely heard over the hoof beats of the horse.

"I know. I am too, but you know they will do everything to get him back safe. You have to believe. Everything will be alright." Her arms tightened around his waist as she nuzzled him comfortingly.

"I hope so."

"I know so," she replied firmly, reassuring herself just as much as him.


"He's not real," Sango yelled from where she and Kilala were battling Naraku’s tentacles. "We have to get to the totem and this puppet will disappear."

"We're trying," Miroku called back, batting away a tentacle with his staff. He really wished that there weren't hundreds of wasps hovering in the air around them. They weren't attacking, but they still prevented him from fighting as effectively as he could. If only there were some way to get rid of them. A tentacle flew out at him but was stopped by a giant paw.

"Watch yourself," Sesshomaru growled as he battled the tentacles.

"Yes," Miroku vaulted back, studying the battlefield from a sturdy tree branch. Naraku was focusing most of his attention on Sesshomaru. They either needed to draw the demon's attention away from Sesshomaru or destroy the totem themselves. Miroku looked up at the wasps hovering over the clearing. He judged their distance carefully. Without warning, he pulled the beads from his wind tunnel, opening up the great hole, aiming straight at Naraku.

"Miroku!" Sango yelled frantically. She threw her weapon, desperately trying to take out some of the wasps that were moving towards Miroku.

Miroku didn't waver, completely focused on his task. Naraku turned as he felt the pull of the wind tunnel. The distraction was enough. Sesshomaru snapped his jaw shut over the wooden totem, crushing it between his sharp teeth. Naraku's puppet exploded in a puff of putrid black smoke. Miroku quickly looped the beads back over his hand and dove from the tree as some of the closer wasps headed for him. Miroku landed on his feet and swatted a few of the angry wasps. Without leadership, the insects quickly began to retreat.

"What were you thinking!" Sango yelled at the monk as she leaped from Kilala’s back and ran to Miroku.

"We had to get rid of him. I provided a distraction and Sesshomaru used the opening to destroy the totem," Miroku said calmly.

"You could have been stung," Sango argued.

"The risk was worth it. While we have gotten rid of Naraku's current incarnation, we have yet to find Kuniku," the monk pointed out.

As the two humans stood off to the side talking, Sesshomaru quickly circled the clearing, sorting out the scents in order to track down his son. His ears perked up at a swiftly approaching sound. Cocking his head, he identified the sound of a single horse that was most probably carrying two riders. He lifted his nose to the air, but the horse was downwind. He waited as the horse approached. It was only a moment before the horse galloped into the clearing that had been mowed down by Naraku's passing. Sesshomaru's eyes narrowed as he stomped forward.

"What are you doing here?" He barked out upon seeing Inuyasha sitting limply on the front of the horse. "I told you to keep him home," Sesshomaru growled at the girl supporting his brother.

"I tried! But he said he'd come with or without me. I thought it would be better if I was with him," Kagome called back, trying not to wince at the anger that showed on the dog demon's face.

Inuyasha slowly raised his head. "I needed to come." His voice was strained, his breathing harsh and his skin pale, but his jaw was set in a firm line of stubborn determination.

Sesshomaru shook his head. "You are stubborn. Get onto my back, you shall come with me." Sesshomaru laid out on the ground. Kagome helped Inuyasha off the horse. Miroku and Sango moved forward help Inuyasha onto the dog demon's back. They laid the weakened Inuyasha on his brother's neck, making sure he was settled in before stepping back. Inuyasha clutched Sesshomaru's fur tightly as his brother stood up carefully. Sesshomaru turned to the humans. "I want you to return to the castle. Aid Jaken and the servants in the cleanup and repairs to the castle. We shall return shortly."

"But what about Kuniku?" Kagome frowned.

"We shall return with him shortly."

"And my brother?" Sango asked quietly.

"We shall see." With that Sesshomaru turned and moved off in the direction of his son's scent.

"Can you smell him? Is he okay?" Inuyasha asked worriedly, clutching his brother's fur tightly as the moved swiftly through the forest.

"I can. He is unharmed. You should not worry, we will get him back Inuyasha." Sesshomaru moved steadily forward, following the scents of Kohaku and Kuniku.

"I'm so scared," Inuyasha whispered into Sesshomaru's fur.

"Fear not. No harm shall come to him. We are getting close, the trail is fresher here."

Inuyasha nodded silently as he clung to his brother's broad back. He felt so helpless. He really wanted to get down and run after his son, but he didn't have the strength. When it came down to it, he couldn't protect his child. Naraku had taken him with hardly a fight. It was all because of his weak human form. Maybe he should continue to find the jewel shards in order to become a full demon. What use was he if he couldn't protect his own child? Yet even as the thought crossed his mind, a small voice in his head reminded him that his life would be much different if he was a full demon. He might not have Kuniku now. Inuyasha looked up as Sesshomaru paused. "What is it? What's wrong?"

"I smell Rin and your fox demon. They have joined up with Kuniku and Kohaku." He walked forward a few more steps. "They are heading towards the castle."

Inuyasha chewed on his lip as he looked off in the distance, just able to make out the castle. "What does that mean?"

"I believe that it means Rin has put her persuasive powers to good use and done what we could not. Mainly, rescuing her brother."

Inuyasha held his breath before slowly releasing it. "Do you think so?"

"We shall find out. Hold on tightly." No sooner were the words out of his mouth than he set a much faster pace following the scent trail, which led almost directly to the castle. Inuyasha watched the dark form of the castle grow larger and larger before they finally came to a halt in the courtyard. Sesshomaru laid out of his stomach and Inuyasha slid down to the ground. His legs gave out and he ended up sitting in the dirt, struggling to get back to his feet. Sesshomaru shifted back to his human form and lifted his brother into his arms. "Come, they're close."

Sesshomaru walked through the halls until he ended up in front of the door to Rin's room. Within, he heard the soft lull of voices. He carefully slid the door aside to reveal all four children sitting on Rin's large bed. Kuniku was sleeping and Rin was petting him softly as she chattered to Kohaku and Shippo.

Inuyasha gasped. "Kuniku!" The word burst past his lips as a sob. He reached out his arms and Sesshomaru carried him to the bed, laying him down gently. Inuyasha reverently gathered Kuniku in his arms and kissed him gently as tears of relief poured down his face.

Sesshomaru looked at Shippo and Kohaku. "Take Kohaku to his sister's chambers, they shall be arriving shortly."

"Ok," Shippo nodded as he bounced up and motioned for Kohaku to follow him.

The young demon hunter stood and bowed. "I am sorry Lord Sesshomaru, Lord Inuyasha." He kept his eyes lowered as he quickly left the room, sliding the door shut.

Sesshomaru picked up Rin and sat on the bed, settling her into his lap. He wrapped his arm around Inuyasha and pulled him against his shoulder. Inuyasha melted into his side easily, his flagging strength leaving him. Sesshomaru's hand carded through his dirty blood-caked hair, but he did not attempt to move Inuyasha from his son's side. There would be plenty of time for bathing later. For now all that was needed was a good night's sleep to recover with their small family gathered closely together.