A Family of Rin's Own
By: Ailian Rhys

Summary: What she misses most from her past is a family. Now Rin gets the chance to have a real, human family. Will she take it?

Notes: Yeah, I admit it, this was inspired by the picture mentioned on my "author page". Yes, I'm a major sap, but that picture is just so cute! And, naturally, I did this while I should be doing other things.

Disclaimer: I'd never be able to come up with the characters in Inu-Yasha, so there's no way in heck anyone here belongs to me. Anyone else here? Who cares?

*Additional Notes: AHH! This thing was supposed to be a one-shot, but it went and ran away from me! I do think it has started writing itself. So now I spilt it into two parts, to deepening the angst. ^__^

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Part One: One Step Away

"Sesshoumaru-sama?"

The little girl gazed upwards at the towering white form beside her, her tiny fingers clutching a bunch of white flowers that she was fond of collecting. She could never seem to find flowers that were of a white as brilliant as her Sesshoumaru-sama though, but she kept trying.

Sesshoumaru-sama did not stop walking or even speak, but he did tilt his head slightly towards her to show he was listening. Rin smiled lightly to herself as she fiddled with her flowers. He usually didn't react to her questions at all. Sesshoumaru-sama must be in a good mood. Or what would constitute as a good mood in her stoic guardian. After spending the past year with him the little girl was starting to learn a small bit about her protector. Not much, but now she could somewhat determine his mood, something she was finding very handy.

"Sesshoumaru-sama, Rin was wondering if she may go to town for a new kimono soon. Rin's kimono is getting short"

The girl looked down past her flowers to stare at the offending hem. It was a good ways up her shins now, almost near her knees. And she'd gotten it not too long ago. The last time Sesshoumaru-sama had been in a good mood.

Sesshoumaru-sama did not reply at first, making Rin think he hadn't really paid attention to her at all. Or that he didn't like her question.

"You will have to go by yourself. I have no desire to enter a human village."

Rin beamed up at her guardian. "Hai! Rin will be a good girl for her Sesshoumaru-sama!"

Sesshoumaru-sama inclined his head slightly in reply to that statement. His long hair swayed with the movement, shimmering against his white haori in the sunlight streaming through the trees. Rin looked up at him for a moment before staring down at her flowers again and shaking her head. Nope, these weren't even close. Wishing them a silent goodbye she bent down at placed them at the side of the road.

By the time she straightened up she was no longer beside Sesshoumaru-sama. Ah and Un stared down at her, Ah's head titled to the side quizzically. Rin gave the pack beast a beaming grin of reassurance before hopping back onto the forest path.

"Stop lagging, girl," a familiar voice grumbled from the other side of the dragon. Rin bent forward to look around Ah and Un's neck as the dragon turned its heads to look at the little toad demon as well.

"Rin wasn't lagging, Jaken-sama."

The little toad demon leaned on his staff as he trudged after his master. He sent the girl a sidelong glare. "Just keep up."

Rin was about to point out the fact that she had just been walking beside Sesshoumaru-sama while Jaken-sama was the one plodding along behind, but she decided against it. Jaken-sama usually got grumpy when they would walk for a long time, although he never said anything to Sesshoumaru-sama.

Rin herself loved to walk with her Sesshoumaru-sama. She would follow him all day, taking in the sights of the sun-dappled forest with its trees that reached towards the sky and the colorful flowers that bloomed along the edge of the path. Then there were the open glades with grasses that were taller than she was. They swayed peacefully in the wind and from a distant hill always looked like a green and yellow lake.

Rin never saw many animals on all their travels, except for the regular birds and small furry animals that squeaked at her from hidden places in the underbrush. She'd asked Jaken-sama about this phenomenon once and the toad had told her, in his normal waspish voice, that it was because of Sesshoumaru-sama. Something about how powerful he was and something called youki. According to Jaken-sama, when animals felt Sesshoumaru-sama draw near, they hid. Rin didn't really understand why, since Sesshoumaru-sama wasn't some scary old youkai. He was a good one, she was sure of it. Why else would he have been so nice to her?

The little girl looked up towards her Sesshoumaru-sama, who was strolling along steadfastly in front of her, his steps never faltering once even as they started uphill. Rin could barely remember not having him there, not seeing that white figure gliding along in front of her like some protective spirit.

Barely being the word. Rin frowned slightly, her eyes dropping down to the moss-covered ground under her feet. She could remember a little bit of before, about living in that village where the wolves had come. Rin shivered slightly, wrapping her arms about herself. She remembered the wolves and how they'd chased her down. But that was all. The next moment she'd been waking up to see Sesshoumaru-sama bent over her.

Her lips turned up at that thought and she hugged herself happily this time. That had been one of the best moments for her, seeing someone actually caring about her like that. She remembered having gazed up at him and trying to remember the last time someone had been that close to her and had not tried to hurt her. Or the last time someone had even held her at all.

Rin's arms tightened around her slim body. She could remember that. The last time she'd been held like that before her Sesshoumaru-sama. The memories were very hazy now, only flashes of pictures that made her smile and sigh at the same time. There was a pretty lady with big brown eyes and a little boy. There was a tiny house with a tiny garden. An old faded doll missing some hair and one of her sewn on eyes. A man with almost black eyes that sparkled as he smiled.

All of those pictures seemed so much like the families Rin had seen in the village. An okaa-san, an otouto, an otou-san. Whenever the families were together they'd always seemed so happy. Rin had always watched them sadly from her little hut.

It wasn't really fair that she couldn't have a family anymore. Why couldn't Rin have someone to smile at her and tell her stories like all the other kids? Why couldn't Rin have hugs and kisses like everyone else? Why'd she have to only have old flashes of memories of her otou-san? That, and memories of blood.

Rin swallowed hard, squeezing her eyes shut. She concentrated adamantly on making that memory go away. She didn't like that one. She didn't like all the red stuff that had been sticky on her face, or the cruel laughter of the dirty men who had come to her house. She really didn't like the memory of a woman screaming or the sight of the man with dark eyes laying all red on the ground.

The little girl shook her head firmly, opening her eyes. She looked up from the ground and, ignoring Jaken-sama's befuddled stare, raced towards the solid white figure that was still in front of her. She reached her Sesshoumaru-sama's leg and looked up at him. His face was as calm as before, fixed ahead on the road as usual.

The little girl felt a sense of relief wash over her. Those old memories didn't matter now. She was sure Sesshoumaru-sama would keep those scary men away.

But she couldn't help but to wonder on the smiling faces that had popped up into her mind. What was she going to do about them? There were no families here now. There wasn't an okaa-san to clean her face or an otou-san to tell her stories. Not like the other children she'd known.

Rin looked down at the ground, feeling sad and even a bit ashamed. This wasn't very nice of her, to start thinking of things she couldn't have while Sesshoumaru-sama was being so kind to her and all. But she couldn't help it.

The little girl walked along beside her guardian for a while, lost in thought. It was only when she heard his soft voice that she looked up at her Sesshoumaru-sama, surprised.

The taiyoukai was watching her askance, a fair eyebrow raised slightly. "Why do you smell of sadness, child?"

Rin blinked up at him, confused for a minute, before remembering something else about her youkai guardian. He could tell her moods by scent. Rin struggled to make a smile alight on her face as she gazed up at him. "Rin was just thinking, Sesshoumaru-sama. That's all."

If this answer satisfied him or not, Rin couldn't really tell. His eyes darted back to the path in front of them. "I see." There was a slight pause as he took a glance at her again, this time turning his head slightly. "We will be stopping soon, to allow you to enter the nearby village."

Rin nodded, a real smile crossing over her face. She set her mind to thoughts of the upcoming trek into a village instead of her old miserable thoughts as Jaken-sama shuffled up and started grumbling about going to the village.

"Jaken."

"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama."

"Be quiet."

"Yes Sesshoumaru-sama"

Rin giggled. The regular routine.

*

Rin patted the tiny sack hanging from her obi carefully for what had to be the hundredth time. In it were the gold pieces Sesshoumaru-sama had given her to buy a new kimono. She didn't know where the money had come from, since she never saw Sesshoumaru-sama use it and it was so much different than the little bit of money she'd seen in the village, but a sack of it was always hanging from Ah and Un's saddle. It had to be worth a lot too, because whenever Rin would give anyone the shinny gold coins their eyes would go wide and they'd give her almost anything she wanted. And they always treated her nicely, although many times they seemed kind of nervous.

The girl continued down the path towards the village that loomed ahead. Jaken-sama wasn't that far away from her, having stopped to wait for her at the edge of the forest. Sesshoumaru-sama, on the other hand, was up where they had first found the dirt road, waiting patiently for the two of them there, the closest he would ever go to a human village besides her old one.

Rin knew he would wait for her; he'd done so every time so far, but she still didn't like to make him wait long, half afraid that if she was gone too long he might forget about her. And so she hurried into the busy little town, ignoring the questioning looks the townspeople sent the strange child that entered their village all alone. She weaved through the legs of the adults clustered around and made a wide arc around the playing children, trying not to look at them.

Rin scanned the buildings around her, trying to find the seamstress. Some villages had theirs hidden and she had to ask someone, but usually she tried to find it on her own, so as to not trouble anyone. Thankfully, this village seemed to have theirs in plain sight. It was a small hut with its windows and door wide open. A young girl sat outside, practicing her sewing on a small piece of cloth while her mother spoke to a lady on the doorstep. The mother held a kimono in her arms and was nodding as the woman pointed out some areas on the fabric that were torn.

"Yes, Masahara-san, I can fix this for you. And it won't be too expensive either."

The woman seemed relieved by this. "That is good. My daughter was very upset over this."

The seamstress smiled at the woman as they bowed to one another. "It will be repaired in about two or three days, Masahara-san. I'll send Naoko with news when it is finished."

With a final thank you' the woman shuffled away and the seamstress stepped back inside to put the kimono away. Rin patted her money pouch once more before stepping forward. The little girl didn't look at her and just continued to sew, her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth as she concentrated.

"Anou" Rin started, standing in front of her. The girl didn't look up and just continued to work on her stitching. "Is your mother the seamstress?"

The girl spared her a glance. "Hai. Go on in if you need her."

Rin swallowed and stepped past her to the doorway. She paused on the doorstep, peering into the room. The seamstress was putting the kimono down on a nearby table, which was littered with a few others as well as hakamas and haoris of all different colors that all seemed to be in need of repair. Another table held a bunch of rolls of fabric and sewing supplies.

The lady turned and seemed startled to find her there. She gave a slight gasp, a hand rising to her chest. Rin jumped. The woman, not appearing to notice the girl's fright, chuckled quietly. "Oh, foolish me. I even heard Naoko talking to someone outside. But you still startled me." She smiled warmly. "Come on in, child. I don't remember having ever seen you before."

Rin took a hesitant step forward. She wasn't really used to being around people and always found herself becoming shy in their presence. She was so used to just her Sesshoumaru-sama and Jaken-sama. "Anou Rin isn't from here" she trailed off, not knowing how to address the woman.

"Yasuda is my family name," the woman offered, with a slight smile.

"Yasuda-san," Rin finished.

"Is that so?" The woman stood up and approached the girl. Rin drew back a step and Yasuda-san stopped and gestured towards the only clear table instead. "Why don't you have a seat. You look as if you are a forest child, little Rin." She laughed lightly at the little joke.

Rin made her way over to the chair and hopped up on it, sitting on the very edge and swinging her legs nervously. "Yasuda-san, Rin would like a kimono. Hers is too small now."

The seamstress sat down in a chair opposite Rin's. "I can see that," her eyes scanned over the little girl, "but what is a little girl like you doing coming into a town all by herself? Don't you have a mother to help you?"

"Rin's a big girl. Rin can go alone." This lady was making Sesshoumaru-sama wait

"Yes, I can see that," Yasuda-san replied kindly. She leaned forward slightly. "Where do you come from Rin?"

"Rin travels with Sesshoumaru-sama."

The lady sat back at this and blinked in surprise. "Sama? I'm sorry dear, you look like a wonderful little girl, but you do not appear to be of nobility to me." Some realization sprung up behind her eyes and she tensed. She hesitated before going on. "Rindoes this Sesshoumaru-samaown you?"

Rin was confused. Own her? NoSesshoumaru-sama saved her. "NoSesshoumaru-sama helps Rin"

Yasuda-san studied her. "Are you sure? I've seen girls and ladies like you before, traveling with important people and not being treated very nicely"

Rin shook her head. This lady was very strange, she decided. Couldn't she just get her a kimono? Sesshoumaru-sama was waiting. "Sesshoumaru-sama is nice to Rin. He saved Rin from the wolves"

"Wolves?" the seamstress asked her eyes worried.

Rin shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "Yasuda-sanRin really needs a new kimono"

Yasuda-san smiled apologetically but her eyes still looked worried. She got to her feet. "I'm sorry, dear, but I always get carried away when I meet new people. Definitely cute little girls like you." She sent Rin a wide smile over her shoulder. "So don't you mind nosy old Yasuda-san, dear."

The seamstress went over to a nearby closet and rummaged around in it for a moment before drawing out an armload of small kimono; a whole array of beautiful colors. "Here you go dear, why don't you look through these and see if you'd like any of them before you commission me to make one for you. Some of these will probably fit you and it'll be faster for you that way," she winked, catching Rin by surprise. "You seem very anxious to return to your Sesshoumaru-sama."

*

Rin sat back on her chair dressed in her new kimono. It was pale brown like old leaves and had a dark brown obi. She'd thought about getting the lovely lilac one with pink cherry blossoms sewn into the sleeves and hem, but Rin knew Sesshoumaru-sama wouldn't like it very much. He told her once that he preferred that she took more forest-like colors. He told her that it was something a girl that wandered as much as she did should do. Rin had often wondered about that, since Sesshoumaru-sama wore white and stood out even in the darkest of forests like a beam of sunlight in the pitch dark, but she never questioned his wisdom and did as he asked.

Yasuda-san was writing in a small book now with small neat kanji marks saying that she sold the kimono. Rin watched her in interest, looking at all the other things she had written on the paper. Rin didn't know how to neither write nor read; no one had ever taught her. She wasn't really all that concerned about it, seeing that she had no use for it on the road. But it was interesting to watch the seamstress make all these marks on the paper that had to mean something.

Rin wondered vaguely if Sesshoumaru-sama could write like Yasuda-san.

Yasuda-san looked up as she finished marking down Rin's purchase. Rin hastily looked away before the nice lady could see her staring. Sesshoumaru-sama had told her once that it wasn't polite to stare.

The seamstress put down her brush and blew on the ink lightly. "Rin-san," she started, quietly. Rin's eyebrows drew together in puzzlement at the formal address.

"Yes, Yasuda-san?"

"Can you not write?"

Rin gaped at the lady in surprise. "NoYasuda-san. Rin cannot."

Yasuda-san's lips pursed slightly. Rin suddenly felt ashamed. Was she disappointing Sesshoumaru-sama by not knowing how? Apparently she was making Yasuda-san angry

"Rin is sorry" she mumbled meekly.

Yasuda-san seemed a bit taken aback by the quiet apology. "No, no, Rin-san, there's nothing to apologize for. I know many good people who cannot write. Nor read, for that matter. But, I was just wondering that if your lord takes such good care of you, then why do you not know how to write?"

Rin shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Should she know how to, since she was traveling with Sesshoumaru-sama? But he'd never asked if she could had he already assumed that she knew? Was she being bad by not telling him?

"Rin never got the chance, Yasuda-san"

"Then your lord was not able to put time aside for you?"

"No Rin thinks Sesshoumaru-sama does not know Rin can't write"

Yasuda-san gave Rin an incredulous look. "Really? I would have assumed a lord would know all about his young ward."

Rin was starting to feel very uncomfortable for some reason. There was something about the seamstress's tone that put her on edge. She didn't sound as if she liked Sesshoumaru-sama very much. And she'd never met him either!

Rin tried her best not to pout. That wasn't fair! Sesshoumaru-sama was nice to her. This lady shouldn't be talking about him like this. It was all Rin's fault for not telling Sesshoumaru-sama that she couldn't write anyway.

"Rin has to go now, Yasuda-san."

Some emotion past over the seamstress' face with the conversation change, but it was gone as soon as it appeared. She smiled cheerily. "Well then. I'll let you go after you give me three of those coins." She gestured to the sack now sitting in Rin's lap. "I assume that's money, hmm?"

Rin nodded, happy to finally be leaving. She opened the bag and pulled out three of the coins like the lady said.

Rin always liked these coins. They were much rounder than the coins she'd seen back at her village and the edges were smooth. The gold was much brighter and they sparkled in even the dimmest of light like polished steel. They reminded her of a princess's golden jewels.

Yasuda-san's eyes grew as big as the coins when Rin pulled them out and put them on the table. The seamstress reached out a hesitant hand to touch them. Using the very tips of her fingers she took one and held it up. "Youkai" she mumbled, a look of fear and awe on her face. She shifted the coin in the sun, watching the light from an open window reflect off of it and flashes of gold flutter across the desk.

Rin stood up from the chair, smiling. She'd done that many times when she had the gold. Sometimes she even took one out of the bag when they stopped so she could play with it. But only with Sesshoumaru-sama's permission, of course.

"Thank you, Yasuda-san," the little girl chirped quietly, bowing as she'd seen the other lady do when she had left.

Yasuda-san dropped her coin back to the table, whipping her head around to stare at Rin. There was fear in her eyes. "Where did you get this, Rin-san?" Her voice shook lightly and Rin drew back a step.

"Sesshoumaru-sama gave it to me."

"Sesshoumaru-sama... Sama!" Something seemed to click in the woman's mind. "You belong to a youkai!"

Rin nodded. And what of it? Sesshoumaru-sama was nice to her. And he was able to keep bad people away. Rin knew that there was scary youkai out there, but Sesshoumaru-sama plainly wasn't one.

Yasuda-san rose to her feet and pushed the coins to the side of the table. She went to the door and slid into her shoes. She gestured to Rin. "Come, Rin-san. I want to see this lord of yours. It isn't right for a beast like that to have a little human girl like you. I'll do whatever I can to help you."

Rin was confused. Her eyebrows drew together again. "Yasuda-san"

The woman shook her head and Rin trailed off. The seamstress put her head around the door and told the girl sitting out there to get her father before she gestured Rin forward again. "Come on, dear. We'll ask your guardian to release you. That's the best we can do."

"But Yasuda-san, Rin doesn't—"

Yasuda-san shook her head sadly. She came over to Rin and knelt down. "Rin, let me tell you a story, all right?"

Rin nodded hesitantly before glancing out the window. The sun was starting to set. The sky was turning to a brilliant red. She'd been gone a while now

Yasuda-san looked up at the girl beseechingly. "When I was about your age, I was living in a poor little town with only my father and my elder sister. My father was a very weak man, nearly crippled. My sister was given the responsibility of the house.

"One day out of the blue, a youkai suddenly showed up in our village. Father said he was a cat one. He came and ended up leaving with my sister, who he took right out from my very grip. No matter how much we pleaded the beast took her!"

Yasuda-san looked away for a moment her face twisting up slightly before she turned back, her face smooth once more. "The youkai left me to care for my father all alone. Otou-san died not long after that. Then I was completely alone. I traveled to another village, this one actually, and I was taken in by one of the elderly ladies here. That's how I got where I am now."

Rin didn't really understand what Yasuda-san was getting at but she listened as patiently as she could as the lady continued. "Not too long after I married Yasuda-san, I opened this shop with him and one day a thin, dirty woman came in. She was the scraggliest thing I'd ever seen. She came asking for a new kimono, carrying the same money that you do. Her other one was in tatters. After helping her dress in her new kimono I realized something about the woman. She was my sister!

"I was overjoyed to see her again and she recognized me after a while. But once she did, she started crying, telling me the horrors the youkai was inflicting upon her. He still held her as his and treated her awfully. She told me how he had been nice enough in the beginning but now she could not stand his brutality any longer. I asked her to leave, but she could not. He would not let her. I told her I'd beg for her, but she would not allow me too. And so I had to let her go back to that monster who had stolen her and now I live with the knowledge that she is out there, suffering.

"And now, little one, I want to make sure the same doesn't happen to you. It may be early enough for me to convince your lord he doesn't need you anymore. And then you can come stay with us. Wouldn't you like that?"

Rin stared into the lady's wide, beseeching eyes, a funny feeling bubbling up in her chest. That storySesshoumaru-sama wouldn't do that to her. He had saved her, not taken her away from home. She'd followed him. And he never raised a hand or his voice against her, ever. Not like the mean people back in the village.

But

She could stay here, with this lady and her daughter and her husband and Rin could have a family. Yasuda-san already seemed to like her. She could stay in this village and learn to read and write and maybe even sew. She could get those happier memories back.

Rin stood in silence as the woman slowly rose to her feet. There was the sound of footsteps outside the door and a man stepped in. His eyes, so dark they almost appeared black, peered down at Rin in puzzlement. "Is this the girl Naoko told me you wanted to see me about?"

Yasuda-san nodded. "Yes, Shinichi. She has youkai coin."

The man's eyebrows lifted to his tightly bound hair. He reached up to adjust the bow that was slung over his shoulders. He stared down at Rin. "Is this true, little girl?"

Rin gazed up at the man before her. He was tall, but not as tall as Sesshoumaru-sama. Shinichi-san skin was dark, his hair was dark and his eyes were dark. Not like Sesshoumaru-sama, who was all light. But whereas this man had a darker appearance his voice was much lighter than Sesshoumaru-sama. Although serious, Yasuda-san husband's voice was of a high pitch and had a more joyful timbre, reflecting warmth in his tone easily. It reminded Rin of what her father's voice had to have sounded like. And from the looks of him he was able to protect his family as easily as he could laugh. Just like a father should be able too

But Sesshoumaru-sama

Rin frowned lightly. He was still waiting for her. And she was sure that he wouldn't like her to bring all these people back with her.

"Sesshoumaru-sama won't like it if you come with Rin"

Shinichi-san's eyes widened with that. "Sesshoumaru?"

Rin and the lady nodded.

The man's eyebrows furrowed as he glanced at his wife. "You know whom that is, don't you?"

"Why no, I do not"

"He's the Lord of the Western Lands."

Rin nodded, although he hadn't asked a question. This man seemed to know of her Sesshoumaru-sama. Jaken-sama often prattled on about how well known and important her Sesshoumaru-sama was. It appeared that that wrinkly old toad was right.

Yasuda-san's eyes bulged out to almost resemble that old toad. "Oh my"

Shinichi-san turned to Rin. He knelt down just as the seamstress had done. He took up one of Rin's hands in his own. The little girl let him without comment, curious as to what he was doing. But she was starting to get anxious. She was really late now

"How did he get you, Rin-chan?"

"Sesshoumaru-sama saved Rin from the wolves," the girl repeated, starting to become frustrated. She'd already went through this with Yasuda-san.

"He saved you?" the man asked, incredulous.

Rin nodded resolutely. "Hai. And Rin is now very late, Yasuda-san. She really must go now."

There was no way she would stay with this family without at least saying good-bye to Sesshoumaru-sama first.

If she even stayed at all. Rin wasn't really sure

The man rose to his feet, looking over at the seamstress, who was playing with her kimono sleeve anxiously. "I'll go and see if I can talk to him. You've better stay behind."

Yasuda-san nodded mutely, before dropping to her knees again and giving Rin a quick kiss on the head. "I hope to see you soon, Rin-chan."

Rin fiddled with her own sleeve, very confused now. What should she do? These people seemed to want to keep her, give her a family.

But Sesshoumaru-sama

The man extended his hand to Rin as his wife rose. "Come on, Rin-chan. Let's go see this Sesshoumaru-sama."

Rin couldn't do anything else but nod and follow. Either she went with this man now or it would take a very long time to get to Sesshoumaru-sama.

As the two of them started through the village towards the woods, Rin remembered something else. Jaken was waiting for her. What would he do to Shinichi-san? Trying not to think about it Rin watched the people that they past. Most of them waved at Shinichi-san, sending happy greetings. The man nodded to each in turn, holding Rin's hand as they went. A few even gave Rin smiles and gentle hellos.

It felt verystrange to be walking through a village with someone else. Definitely someone holding her hand. It was almostnice.

Rin found herself grinning back at the men and women, waving happily at a few of the children. Shinichi-san glanced down at her and smiled gently. "I think you'll like it here, Rin-chan."

The girl nodded, watching a giggling girl race by with a boy right on her heels. "Yasuda-san said that Rin could stay with Yasuda-san and Yasuda-san."

"I suppose that is true," the man replied thoughtfully, clutching her hand tighter.

The man and the little girl left the village and started towards the woods hand in hand. They started up the trail when Rin stopped and looked around.

"Jaken-sama should be aroun—oh!" Rin stopped with a gasp.

Standing in the shadows of the forest was the dusky white form of Sesshoumaru-sama.

"Sesshoumaru-sama!" Rin exclaimed happily, racing forward. She stopped with a jerk. Shinichi-san still had a hold on her hand.

"Rin." Sesshoumaru-sama came towards them then seeming to glide right out of the shadows themselves. He peered down at her with his brilliant golden eyes. Rin stared up at him mutely.

"You are Sesshoumaru-sama then."

The youkai moved his eyes away from Rin and turned towards Shinichi-san. He drew himself up and gave the man a disdainful glare. "I am he."

Shinichi-san tugged on Rin's arm softly trying to draw her behind him. She didn't move. "I am here to ask you to release this girl."

Sesshoumaru-sama raised a slender eyebrow. Rin continued to stare at him. He seemed so bright now, sparkling white against the black forest and the man beside her. But Shinichi-san's warm hand was still in hers.

"Release her? I was not aware that I held her captive." His voice was quiet and smooth and surprisingly unthreatening.

"Youkai are not known to adopt, Sesshoumaru-sama."

"I see. Then you believe that this girl would be better off with you than I, Sesshoumaru?"

Rin stared up at her Sesshoumaru-sama, who was avoiding her gaze skillfully. What was he going to do? She felt her little heart start to beat madly. She didn't want to leave her Sesshoumaru-sama; he had saved her after all. But, the Yasuda's seemed so nice

Rin was about to open her mouth to interject into the conversation, but Shinichi-san's voice stopped her.

"She is human, Sesshoumaru-sama. You are a youkai. I do not think such a relationship will work out for the best." Shinichi-san spoke polite but with a bit of steel behind his tone. Sesshoumaru-sama seemed to catch this and his eyes sharpened.

"You propose to take her by force, then?"

Shinichi-san shook his head with a sigh. "No, my lord. I know I would never best you in anything having to do with battle."

"But you believe you will be better at raising the girl?"

"For one infamous for despising humans Yes, I do believe so."

Rin felt Shinichi-san's fingers tighten around hers as he stood his ground. Sesshoumaru-sama watched him with a look that Rin had often seen Jaken-sama cringe under. After a quiet moment Sesshoumaru-sama turned his gaze on Rin, his eyes softening to indifference. Rin blinked up at him. "Sesshoumaru-sama"

Sesshoumaru-sama closed his eyes slowly and Rin trailed off. It was the unspoken sign for her to be quiet. The little girl reached down to fiddle with her money pouch, the gold clinking together slightly.

The youkai did not open his eyes as he spoke. "You appear to think highly of this child, seeing as that you are willing to go through all this for her."

Rin was a bit confused. Usually after Sesshoumaru-sama glared at Jaken-sama like that Jaken-sama got kicked or something like that. But Sesshoumaru-sama hadn't moved an inch and was addressing Shinichi-san quite cordially. Did that mean he liked Shinichi-san? Rin smiled at the thought. That was good. Then maybe Sesshoumaru-sama would come visit.

If she even stayed at all.

"Yes, I do. She is a sweet girl. It is not fitting for such a child, or any for that matter, to live with a youkai."

Sesshoumaru-sama's lips twitched upwards into what for him was an amused smile. His eyes slid upon and focussed fully on the man before him. They had an odd glint to them. "Well then. Isn't this an interesting situation we find ourselves in?"

Shinichi-san's fingers were trembling in Rin's but the man didn't step down. His other hand twitched slightly as if ready to go for his weapon at the least indication.

The little girl frowned, looking up at Shinichi-san. Why was he so tense? Sesshoumaru-sama was being so nice to him!

The little girl glanced up at the youkai. He was studying Shinichi-san intently but as soon as she moved he turned his eyes on her. "Rin."

Rin nodded and pulled on Shinichi-san's grip. "Thank you, Yasuda-san for bringing Rin back here. She—"

"Rin-chan" Shinichi-san chastened softly, drawing her back a few more inches. Sesshoumaru-sama was silent but his eyes narrowed dangerously. Shinichi-san addressed Sesshoumaru with a strained formality that even Rin picked up on.

"Sesshoumaru-sama, I will take this girl with me. A taiyoukai as you are should not concern yourself with the welfare of a little human child. That is for others such as myself to do.

"I understand," Shinichi-san continued, "that youkai think in terms of possessions and territory and not in family affection when it comes to these things. Youkai cannot touch such deep emotions as love and trust. And I must say a taiyoukai is the farthest removed as any."

"Why are you telling me all this, human?" The amusement was gone from Sesshoumaru-sama's tone completely as his smile faded immediately. Rin pulled against Shinichi-san hand but he refused to release her.

"I tell you this so that you may understand why I am doing this, Sesshoumaru-sama. I mean no disrespect to you for it does seem that the girl is in good health at this time. It is her future that I look towards, Sesshoumaru-sama."

"I see" Sesshoumaru-sama closed his eyes, face blank. The little girl stared at him dumbly, feeling as if her heart was sinking down to her knees. Something inside her told her that her life was about to change.

Icy amber met Shinichi-san's dark eyes as the taiyoukai spoke. "She shall go with you then If that is what the girl—Rin—wishes."

Rin gaped at him. He did not look at her. The little girl turned her head and looked up at Shinichi-san, wanting to ask if he had heard what she had heard. "Shinichi-san"

With those two words the atmosphere turned positively icy. Rin's voice fell dead and she stared up at Shinichi-san with shocked eyes. The man had a tight smile on his face, eyes directed over her shoulder. He bowed swiftly. "Thank you for your time, Sesshoumaru-sama. Good day then."

He bent down swiftly and scooped up the astonished child. As Shinichi-san raised her off the ground Rin snapped out of her funk and whirled around to see her Sesshoumaru-sama. He stood exactly as he had before except now his only hand was wrapped around Tenseiga's hilt, the fingers white and stiff. His expression was icy, eyes narrowed marginally as he stared at them. He openly stared at her, not even trying to hide it behind his normal indifference.

Rin gazed back at him unflinchingly, looking past the cold exterior to watch his eyes. They seemed to burn like two coals in his steely face, melting the hard amber into liquid gold. Rin tried to remember when she'd seen that before

Before her mind could make the connection Shinichi-san turned, breaking her eye contact with her former guardian and started towards the village. "We will take very good care of her, Sesshoumaru-sama," he promised, addressing the lord over his shoulder.

Rin swallowed painfully watching her Sesshoumaru-sama watch her as they quickly left the forest. Only once his white figure was out of sight did Rin turn and bury her face in Shinichi-san's shirt. The man brought up a hand to rub her back comfortingly.

The little girl's head was spinning. What had just happened there? Was shewas she going with Shinichi-san? Was she going to live with the Yasudas? But what about Sesshoumaru-sama?

He'd let her go, hadn't he? He had said that she could go....

Feeling tears well up in her eyes, Rin sniffled quietly.

"Goodbye, Sesshoumaru-sama," she whispered.