He knew it had happened, of course. He was just choosing the right moment to see the results for himself.
Sesshoumaru watched the small group sitting in a meadow at the edge of the village. There were three of them, sitting on a cloth spread on the ground, an assortment of dishes spread before them. The day was brilliant and warm, one of those days that heralded the transition from spring into summer, and the meadow was filled with blossoms, a pleasant day to take to the air and enjoy the sunshine.
His brother, his silver hair shining in the sunlight, sat next to his wife, who was dressed not as a miko today, but like the wife she was, in a becoming robe of red and beige. Something inside of Sesshoumaru tightened as he watched the miko and his brother banter back and forth. It was not a feeling of anger, but yet a reminder of a void he had yet to properly fill. As he watched from the shadows, he saw Kagome feed InuYasha a tidbit, and he said something that made both of them, and the young girl sitting next to them, laugh.
The daiyoukai’s eyes settled on Rin, wearing a yellow and orange kimono, vaguely reminiscent of the one she wore as a child, as she sat next to the miko, and some of the tightness eased. The color suited her well. She was beginning to lose her childlike figure, and had begun transforming into a budding young woman, with every potential of great beauty. Her hair glinted in the sunlight, a beautiful raven black. Rin was wearing it now pulled back into a long, loose pony tail, another mark of her leaving childhood behind. Besides her ready smile and bright laugh and love of song, she was fast leaving the child who had followed him happily for almost a year behind, and turning into something that both pleased the youkai, and that he found somehow disconcerting.
Kagome handed her a bundle wrapped in bright red cloth which she cradled gently in her arms. Rin bent over it, talking softly, rocking slightly back and forth. Although his face remained calm and unreadable, Sesshoumaru took a deep breath as he watched her handle the child, stifling half-raised thoughts.
“Sesshoumaru-sama, is that your brother’s child?” asked the small green youkai standing beside him. “I had heard the child was born.”
“Yes,” the daiyoukai replied, letting no emotion color his voice.
Suddenly, the infant’s voice began to wail even as the girl held the child tenderly, speaking to it to calm its discomfort down. Rin had no success. His brother jumped up, and very gently picked up the little bundle. The child found something soothing about the red-clad hanyou, and as he grabbed one of his father’s fingers, he began to settle. Watching his brother handle the infant, Sesshoumaru lifted an eyebrow in surprise at the calm and gentle way his brother managed his son. He was reminded of another memory, long, long ago. It was not one that had come to mind in many years, nor was one he wished to recall. Once again, he took a steadying breath. “Come, Jaken,” he said, and stepped into the meadow.
InuYasha held his crying son as his son grabbed onto his finger. “Hey, kid, why’re you making all that fuss?” he asked the baby. “You know Rin just wants to play with you.” He sat back down carefully next to Kagome as Atae quieted. “It’s too nice a day to be making all that noise. I know you’re not hungry yet. You just ate.”
His son looked back at him with solemn golden eyes and blew bubbles.
“Oh, so that’s how you talk to your dad,” he said. He looked up at Kagome, who smiled at him. “Got any more of those dumplings?” he asked.
She nodded, and picked up a bowl, and brought one to his lips. He allowed her to feed it to him, and then with a quick glance at Rin, he looked down at the child in his arms. “Ummm. Mama fed the baby, fed the husband. Who’s she gonna feed next, Atae? You think she’s gonna feed Rin?”
Rin giggled. “Rin is too old to feed like a baby, InuYasha-sama!” she said, gracefully bringing a dumpling to her own lips.
“Oh, and how young am I?” he asked.
“That’s different,” she said, still giggling. “That’s different! Your hands were full! And Kagome-sama’s your wife!”
InuYasha’s smile was happy, and relaxed. Kagome, smiling, offered him another dumpling, and he shook his head. “Maybe one of those rolls,” he suggested.
“Here,” Kagome said, reaching for the baby. “Let me take him and you and Rin can both feed yourselves,” she said. “He’s probably ready for a nap, anyway.”
“You sure, Koibito?” InuYasha said as he let Kagome take the baby from his arms. “You’ve hardly had a chance to eat anything.”
“Well, then, you can feed me,” she said, smiling. Atae stirred a little, snuggling next to his mother’s bosom, then stilled. She brushed a wisp of silver hair away from the baby’s forehead.
“Here you go,” InuYasha said, holding up a bit of fish with his chopsticks. Kagome had just gotten it into her mouth, when InuYasha wrinkled his nose.
“We have company,” he said, then turned around, his stance immediately going from relaxed to on alert.
Rin stopped, chopsticks in midair. Quickly she lowered them. Her face broke into a radiant smile. “Sesshoumaru-sama! And Jaken!”
The girl carefully put her bowl to the side, and watched as the white robed youkai walked across the field. InuYasha, on the other hand, stood up, placing his body in front of Kagome. He wasn’t growling, but he was tense, waiting to see how his brother would react. His amber eyes narrowed as he watched his brother draw closer. Behind him Kagome stood up, holding Atae, and rested a hand on his shoulder. She took a step so she was standing next to her husband.
“I’ve been wondering when he was going to show up,” the hanyou muttered. “I just don’t know how he’s going to behave.” His right ear twitched.
“I suspect he might just want to see his nephew, InuYasha,” she whispered. “And besides, Rin is here. I doubt he’ll do anything that upsets her.”
“Keh,” he muttered softly, and wrapped his arm around her, drawing her close. “You got a point there.” The sternness in his face softened slightly.
The tall and graceful daiyoukai approached the group, stopping in front of InuYasha and Kagome. His long hair stirred slightly in the breeze.
“Sesshoumaru-sama,” said Rin, breaking the silence that was beginning to get uncomfortable. “You are well, my lord?”
He looked at the girl. Something in his eyes softened. “Yes, Rin, this Sesshoumaru is well. And you?”
“Rin is well, my lord. Are you here to see InuYasha and Kagome’s son?”
“Yes, Rin,” he replied, switching his glance to his brother and his wife. “This Sesshoumaru is here to pay his respects to the child if my brother allows it.”
InuYasha tilted his head, somewhat surprised at his brother’s words. Sesshoumaru met his brother’s eyes, and something wordless passed between them. The hanyou looked at Kagome and his son. She gave a little smile of encouragement to her husband.
“It took you long enough,” InuYasha said, not unfriendly.
“Hn,” Sesshoumaru replied.
Jaken started to say something, but Sesshoumaru’s hand signaled him to be silent. Rin, seeing his distress, slipped the little youkai a mochi cake.
Kagome stepped forward and held out her son. Before he realized it, Sesshoumaru had the small bundle of white-haired baby wrapped in blue and red in his arms. He was surprised at the weight of the small body and at the strength of the youki he felt coming from the infant.
“We named him Atae,” she said, stepping back.
“Isn’t he beautiful?” Rin asked, standing up next to Sesshoumaru. “He looks like a baby InuYasha.”
The daiyoukai held the small child, a bit awkwardly but carefully. Atae stirred from his nap, yawned, then and looked at him with a steady amber gaze. The baby brought his fist to his mouth, not exactly sure what to make of the golden eyes looking back at him. Sesshoumaru ever so gently brought a clawed finger up and touched the small flap of a white puppy ear, covered with a fine white down. So soft. The child frowned.
Inwardly sighing, the memory the daiyoukai had pushed away earlier came flooding back, filled with the taste of the anger he felt the last time he had held a small child who looked like that. His father had handed him the infant, looking down on him with a happy pride.
“Say hello to your little brother,” his father had said.
Instead, he had looked at the small child like he was a monster, aghast at the missing ears at the ends of his jaws and the puppy ear flaps at the top of his head. He had not really thought much of his father’s dalliance with the ningen female. That was his father’s affair. His mother still kept court in the castle above all this ningen activity. The Inu youkai still went about their own business. But he had felt the anger burn in him when he realized his father was going to acknowledge the small abomination he held in his arms as his own child instead of putting it down. He had looked up at his father, and handed the child back without saying a word.
He saw the happy light die in his father’s eyes, and a hardness replace it. “He is still your brother,” his father told him then. “Whether you approve of him or not, he is family. This is a matter of honor. Promise me.”
His father had rested his arm on his shoulder, but he had shrugged it off.
“It would be better if you drowned him,” he had said, pulling away, going off into the forest to find relief for his anger. It would be the last time he saw his father.
Shortly after that, his father, fighting and sealing the dragon, took a mortal wound and died. The two events had stayed linked in his mind for a long time, and festered, unresolved.
And even now, long years later, the old memory came back with a pain he refused to acknowledge to anyone. While he was lost in the past, Atae made an unhappy whimper.
Perhaps Sesshoumaru thought, the child he was holding picked up on his pain. In return, Sesshoumaru made a small comfort sound, almost too soft to be heard by any there except Atae and InuYasha, who lifted an eyebrow, but said nothing. Atae stilled.
“Yes, Rin,” Sesshoumaru said, “He does indeed look like InuYasha as a baby.”
He returned the child to Kagome’s arms. Looking his brother in the eyes once again, he said, “Father’s blood runs strong.”
“I guess,” InuYasha said.
“Raise my nephew well,” Sesshoumaru said. “Come, Jaken.” Turning, he left the meadow.
Jaken, who had been eyeing the bowl of dumplings, sighed, then hurried off to follow his master.