Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own Inuyasha or any of the affiliated characters. Despite my best efforts. Sesshoumaru has declined my offer to be my personal daiyoukai and live under my bed, and as of earlier today has yet to take the bait that I have placed under my laundry basket. I think he saw the stick and string. Fear not, I am patient...

~Chapter 1~

Sesshoumaru closed his eyes and lifted his face into the wind, savoring the feel of it as it slid through his long silver hair. He inhaled deeply to take in the scents around him, but could detect no threat. His golden eyes slid open and his sharp gaze traveled over the meadow in front of him, taking in bright patches of sunlight as it filtered through the trees to fall softly on the rich green grass, clusters of flowers waiving gently in the breeze. It was very quiet, very peaceful. Almost.

"Rin! My patience with you is growing short!" Jaken's shriek cut jarringly through the air. The lord of the western lands glanced over his shoulder to see the little toad demon glaring daggers at the tiny human child seated nonchalantly on the back of Ah-Un. The girl smiled and kicked her feet back and forth where they hung over the side of the dragon's saddle.

"Careful, Jaken-sama, I don't think you can afford for anything to grow shorter!"

Sesshoumaru felt a twinge of amusement as Jaken's eyes bugged out of his head and he began to dance around in a fit of rage. Rin was utterly unimpressed with the display and ignored the apoplectic demon, instead turning and smiling sweetly up at her lord. Sesshoumaru did not return the smile, but gazed down into her large brown eyes. They were wide and trusting, and despite the horrors she had faced; happy. Not for the first time, Sesshoumaru wondered at that. From the first time he had seen her, her happiness had mystified him. She had been beaten badly, one of her eyes was swollen closed and she was limping. Bruises covered her from head to toe, and yet when she had found him injured and lying against a tree, her first instinct had been to try to care for him. He was a daiyoukai, one of the most powerful creatures to walk the earth, and she had smiled at him.

Since then, very little had changed. She followed him blindly as he traveled the lands searching for Naraku. She never questioned him when he went off, always waited patiently for him to return and never doubted that he would. She watched him with complete adoration and an open affection that he had never experienced before. This tiny, fragile creature accepted him completely, trusting him with her life and never once looking upon him with fear.

This knowledge was not entirely comfortable, and caused a tightness in his chest that he was both unfamiliar with and unwilling to examine too closely. Turning, he leaped into the air. As he flew, searching both for signs of Naraku and for any threats to his companions below, he breathed deep and focused on his task, leaving everything else for another day.

Much later, Sesshoumaru turned through the air, tracking Rin's scent to the small group's new location. Below, he saw his little companion in a grove of peach trees, reaching high into the air for some of the sweet summer fruit that still lingered on branches. Many had already fallen to the ground, skin splitting to reveal the overripe white flesh of the fruit within. Over a small ridge in a shallow ravine, Jaken was pacing back and forth, complaining that he had been left with the care of the worthless human and lamenting the fact that Sesshoumaru had abandoned him once again. Though his sharp ears picked the words up as he descended, he was mildly surprised to see Rin turn around indignantly, obviously she had also heard the less-than-flattering complaints from the small demon. He watched with interest as she stooped to gathered several of the rotting fruit from the ground into the skirt of her kimono and began creeping up the small hill towards the muttering youkai, clearly bent on retaliation. Sesshoumaru frowned, she was very noisy despite her efforts, if Jaken had not been so busy muttering he would have noticed her long before now. She was doing it all wrong. With one last quick glance to confirm that no one was around, and dropped below the tree line.

Silently, Sesshoumaru swooped down and landed next to her. He motioned for her to be silent, and she immediately cut off her delighted greeting. Carefully, taking small steps that she could emulate, Sesshoumaru crept a few steps into the underbrush. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw Rin copying his every move as best as she could, looking so ferocious and intent that he found himself fighting not to smile. What a strange experience, and odd how he found that he was enjoying himself. Carefully, he stepped over a branch, watching in amusement as she navigated the obstacle, holding her rotten treasures to tightly that he thought they might burst. He came to a large wispy bush and turned to catch her eye. With slightly exaggerated movements, he demonstrated how to slip through without rustling the leaves and giving away his position. She studied the bush intently, then wiggled through almost as silently as he had. Slowly, the pair reached the top of the ridge, and in her excitement to see her quarry, Rin popped her head over the edge. With an inaudible sigh, Sesshoumaru placed his hand on top her head and gently pulled her down until only her eyes and the top of her head were barely visible as they peered down at her quarry.

Below, Jaken caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and stopped his rant long enough to turn and look up the ravine wall, but saw nothing but the long grass. With a snort he turned away and resumed his list of complaints.

Seeing the little toad turn away, Sesshoumaru felt a rush of satisfaction. He silently caught Rin's eye and nodded. Stealthily, she set her peaches in a pile within easy reach, then with astounding accuracy began pelting the hapless demon below them. Jaken shrieked and began running in circles, but Rin adjusted her aim and each throw connected with a satisfying squelch. As the last peach dripped down the side of Jaken's head, he finally got his bearings and furiously started climbing the cliff towards his unknown assailant. Sesshoumaru scooped Rin into his arms and flitted into the cover of the trees. He set her down just as Jaken reached the top, and they watched as he screamed and kicked at the ground when he found his enemy had escaped. His temper tantrum grew until he was rolling on the ground in his rage, forcing Rin to clamp both hands over her mouth to stifle the giggles that Sesshoumaru could see shaking her whole body. He looked down at the girl standing next to him and felt an absurd pride, she had done very well on her first "hunt". Rin looked up into his unsmiling face and beamed at him, eyes sparkling and her cheeks flushed with victory. She reached into her sleeve and pulled out another peach, this one smooth, golden and ripe. Still smiling, she held the fruit out to him, her joy flooding his senses and sinking deep into his dark heart. With a solemn nod, he carefully reached out and accepted her gift.

~ Five years later~

Sesshoumaru flew quickly through the air, his mokomoko snapping behind him. In the distance he could see the village where Rin now resided with Kaede under the watchful eye of Inuyasha. She had been heartbroken when he had left her there after the final battle with Naraku, but it was true that the girl needed to spend time with humans. When he had informed her of his decision, she had not cried or fussed, but the light in her eyes had dimmed until they were dull and lifeless, and for the first time there was not even a hint of a smile on her face as she gazed at him. His chest had tightened painfully, and he had found himself kneeling in front of her so that they were eye to eye. He had been lost, wanting to comfort her and not knowing how. He reached out and cradled her face in his hand, poisonous claws resting carefully against her skin as she nestled her face deeper into his palm, her fingers clutching his hand as if she could keep him with her if only she held tight enough. His golden eyes locked on hers, he spoke firmly, determined that she would have faith in him.

"I will always come back for you, Rin."

She blinked, and a single tear had escaped to slide down her cheek. Slowly, she nodded, and unable to bear her pain any longer Sesshoumaru had turned and disappeared in a ball of light.

Since that day, the daiyoukai had returned faithfully every few months to spend several days with Rin, making sure she knew he would never abandon her. Those visits were secretly some of the happiest times for him. With Rin he didn't have to prove his worth, or dominate to maintain his status as lord of the western lands. He did not have to be cruel or cold, with Rin he could be kind, and though not openly affectionate, he could allow her to be affectionate to him. With Rin he had a sense of humor, and if he could not abandon his dignity altogether, he at least learned to participate in her games and mischief. With his subtle assistance, Rin had managed to pull some truly legendary pranks on his half-brother and wreak a great deal of harmless havoc on the villagers, though her sweet disposition usually kept her from being suspected. Rin even sometimes attempted to trick him, which naturally resulted in Sesshoumaru's gentle retaliation. She laughed these off as good naturedly as any of her own victims. Jaken was never safe.

Sesshoumaru had long since made peace with Inuyasha. It was an unspoken agreement that they would truce that had started during the final battle with Naraku, and been sealed when Sessoumaru had entrusted Rin to his protection. Still, it brought Sesshoumaru a great deal of pleasure to see Inuyasha suffer the indignities that came of Rin's increasingly elaborate and diabolical tricks. Even so, had had been very pleased when Kagome had returned from her world after three long years. Inuyasha had been very good at protecting Rin, and had been surprisingly patient, but Kagome was as open as Rin and Sesshoumaru was glad that Rin would have someone there who would love her without reservation. Kagome and Inuyasha had been married soon after, and once Kagome had borne her first child Rin had had a chance to be part of a family again.

Landing lightly on his feet just outside the edge of the village, Sesshoumaru caught Rin's familiar scent and followed it away from the buildings to a small nearby lake. His young companion was sneaking up on a rather large turtle who was sunning himself on the shore. She had grown very quickly recently, and was now quite tall, though she had yet to fill out. She had that long, coltish look that children get when they are right on the brink of adulthood, though her features held the promise of great beauty. She moved as quietly as she could, but she was still a little awkward in her new body with its long arms and legs. The turtle saw her at the last minute, and slid quietly into the water swimming slowly across the surface before coming to stop near a fallen log only a few feet out. Crestfallen, Rin began to turn away. Suddenly she noticed that one of the trees on the shore had a long branch that extended out over the water. Brightening, she ran over to the tree and began to climb.

Sesshoumaru immediately understood her plan, and since no one was around he could not stop himself from grinning. This was going to end very poorly for her. He double checked the water beneath the log, it was only a few feet deep and she wasn't very high up. It was a warm day. Somewhat gleefully, Sesshoumaru settled back to watch. Rin scurried out on the branch until she was over the log, causing the branch to dip until Sesshoumaru thought it might break and end her adventure right there. The wood held, however, and Rin swung down and stretched as far as she could, toes barely touching the rough log beneath her. Fearlessly, she released the branch and dropped down, wobbling dangerously on the log. She recovered her balance, but the tree branch had returned to it's original position, making Sesshoumaru wonder what her escape plan was once she had actually captured the turtle. Undaunted, the girl teetered her way across the log to where the turtle was floating gently in the water. Carefully, she crouched down and stretched her arms out as far as they could go. Unable to reach, she grasped a dead limb and repositioned herself, stretching further out over the water.

Sesshoumaru's sensitive ears picked up the tiny sound of wood cracking, and knew he didn't need to wait much longer. Suddenly, the limb snapped and with a squeak Rin fell into the water with a resounding splash. Sesshoumaru snorted and strolled out onto the bank while Rin stood up and pushed her sodden hair out of her eyes.

"Sesshoumaru-sama!" She exclaimed, eyes wide when she noticed him standing a few feet away.

"Rin."

"You were there the whole time?" she demanded, eyes wide. Sesshoumaru quirked an eyebrow and did not reply.

"Sesshoumaru-sama, you were there and saw everything... and you let me fall?" She bowed her head, her bangs hanging over her eyes. Sesshoumaru's eyes widened, and he felt uncertainty flood through him. Before, Rin would have laughed, or perhaps tried to get even with him. He knew from watching the others in the village that many girls her age became very self-conscious and wanted to be taken seriously as adults. Had she outgrown her games? Tentatively, he took a step forward.

"VENGENCE SHALL BE MINE!" she cried, laughing as she dragged her hands through the water and launched a wave of water in his direction. He skipped deftly out of the way, nearly dizzy with relief as she continued to splash water at him. He grinned tauntingly at her, only moving fast enough to just barely evade the water droplets while she laughed hysterically.

"Resistance is futile!" she gasped, "I will defeat you, my lord!"

Sesshoumaru snorted his opinion of that as he casually side stepped another attack. Suddenly Rin slipped, in her enthusiasm she had moved too close to the deeper water and she gasped as her head went under, water rushing into her mouth and choking her. In an instant, Sesshoumaru had plucked her out of the water and was holding her, one arm under her legs, the other supporting her back as she coughed to clear the water out of her lungs. She seemed to be trying to speak through her fit, and Sesshoumaru had the vague impression of a question. He cocked his head.

"I said, 'do you concede?" Rin repeated between coughs.

"Concede? Not a single one of your attacks landed, Rin." He waited while she coughed on last time, then turned to smile cheekily at him.

"And yet, my lord, you are as wet as I am!"

Sesshoumaru stared incredulously at her before glancing down at his own kimono, which was indeed soaked through from where he held her. Looking again at the half grown girl sitting so smugly in his arms he shook his head in disbelief, and in a rumble that began deep inside his chest, the lord of the western lands began to laugh.

~Five years later~

Once again, Sesshoumaru found himself streaking through the sky towards the human village. He was flying at top speed, though he told himself it was because traveling was tedious, not because he was eager to reach his destination. It had been three years since he had last been able to visit. During that time, he had been waging an all-out war against a group of demons who were determined to overthrow him and claim his lands and their own. It had been a trying battle, not because the demons were strong, but because of the sheer number of them. They had used strategy to compensate for their lack of power, and ferreting them out had taken much longer than he had wanted. Though loath to admit it, Sesshoumaru had missed his visits. He had become accustomed to seeing the village people. He had liked being able to check in to make sure that Inuyasha and Kagome were caring for Rin properly, making time for her though their second child, a daughter, had just been learning to walk. He did not miss his half-brother and sister-in-law, but their oldest child had constantly run Inuyasha ragged, which Sesshoumaru appreciated, and the baby had been funny.

More than anything, he missed Rin. He craved the light and warmth that surrounded her, yearned for her easy acceptance, the total confidence that she had in him. He missed how she made him laugh, he missed how she brought him peace. Only Rin could do these things, and Sesshoumaru longed for the simplicity of it.

As he neared the village, he filtered through the myriad of scents till he found the one he wanted. He paused, confused. There was no doubt about it, this was Rin's scent, but it was far different than the scent he remembered. The base was the same, the scent he had always associated with sunlight and spring, but there was a new complexity to it that he could not identify, layer upon layer of subtle nuances that flitted into his senses, then slipped away before he could properly examine them. It was frustrating, and enticing. It smelled lovely.

Still puzzling through the scent, he traced it along the outskirts of the village. The scent became stronger, and Sesshoumaru lifted his eyes and inhaled sharply at what he saw, flooding his senses with the heady fragrance. Stunned, he blinked slowly, but the vision in front of him did not fade. Rin.

Rin was...beautiful.

A/N: Yay, chapter one down! Reviews welcome =^.^=