Author's Note – We've come to the end, my friends (but maybe just for now!). Thank you again for your comments last chapter blush, blush. I hope you won't mind an extra long author's send-off. I know that Sess isn't very demonstrative about his emotions and that last chapter may have been disappointing to some (maybe this one will make up for it!) . But it was very important for me to try to keep everyone in-character, and the fact is that Sesshoumaru is a warrior-male and eldest son in a culture where emotional display, especially among the aristocracy, is severely frowned upon. Time and time again Sess has shown himself to be a silent, stubborn, locked-up, and (seemingly) detached sort whose words don't always match his actions and, in my opinion, true and sometimes hidden feelings ("Ha! Naraku thinks that this Sesshoumaru cares about the welfare of a human girl?" "Ack! That bastard Naraku! My little Rin-chan's in danger!" rushes off to thwart Kohaku or "I will KILL that lousy hanyou!" "Give Inuyasha the sword to restore his mind… and even though I have him at my mercy and it would be very easy to kill him, I won't because…um… it wouldn't be worth it because he doesn't know himself! That's it! And I'll kill him some other time! Count on it! GRRRRR!"). And taking a human mate would have been a big step for him, going against years, maybe centuries, of ingrained disdain, if not all out disgust. I do see him as gradually thawing out over the years, softened by Rin's presence. A few decades from now I'm sure he'll be affectionately chuckling at the antics of his grandkids as he shows them the proper way to rip out an enemy's spine. I think that he was conflicted and emotional (for him) last chapter, but since this story has been told primarily from Rin's point of view I deliberately didn't try to get into Sesshoumaru's head and the only clues you get to his emotional state are the subtle ones seen through Rin's eyes (the epilogue of this chapter is one exception). I've put poor Rin through so much angst and anxiety it was fun to write a chapter where it was Sesshoumaru who was unsure. Last chapter also intentionally echoed Ichiro's marriage proposal in Chapter 10, and there's something that Ichiro tells Rin afterwards that explains why she felt like giggling after Sess's "proposal." I hope that I didn't leave too many unanswered questions – I think you can safely assume that Sess's plans to marry another demon are now off. (Remember, he just TALKED about it, he never actually DID anything about it. Like I wrote above, Fluffy has a problem where he likes to SAY one thing, but then goes off and DOES another.) I think that RabidAnimeGurl nailed another important character trait of Sesshoumaru's in a review she left last chapter (RabidAnimeGurl, I hope you don't mind me paraphrasing you!). No matter how much he may want something, he never wants to ask for it. Fluffy attire withstanding, he refuses to do anything that may make him appear to be soft. That's a major character flaw by the way, and it almost cost him something that he wanted very very much, but it's a part of him that I think Rin understands and accepts. Again, time (and Rin) might begin to change this too… which leads me to my next announcement. I've already written several scenes for a sequel, which I'm very excited about, however I'm entering a very busy time of year so it may be summer before the new story appears. I recommend checking out my Favorite Stories if you're looking for some good Inu-fiction in the meantime. A quick note about rating – I wanted to keep this fic at a PG-13 status, and I tried very hard to keep this chapter within bounds. However, be aware that adult situations of a sexual nature lie ahead (Hey, they're married, folks!). The time has also come to thank everyone who has supported me by reading and reviewing this story thus far – as I said before, I probably would have given up on this fic several weeks ago if I didn't know that there were people out there interested in knowing what happened next. So thank you to anhimals (my very first reviewer!), marnika, SessRinFan, Miyu6, drake220, GreaterBeast-Xellas, Cookie6, Nikajendayiuadjit, darkrose24, New Fan, vino-chan, ;fgakhasfeoj, merryday, Jochnap, InU aNd YyH gUrL, Stratus5, I, shadowedtears, Lavender Valentine, Dragonsdaughter1, shin, Eyes-of-Lily, Noir12, Dragonite Konacko Himura, D-Chan3, Snow Wing, SiriusWillBeMissed, sweet stuff, DiLLiRgA, immortal under the stars, DameNight, theMaven, midori318, aznchicki, Dark King, Catarina, edragon, fluffyscatdemon, kikyo-san, SilentBrat, baby-fanfiction, charmedone04, Kawaii-Inu-Inutaishou, g27, kawaii28, starwave, Random Thoughts, RabidAnimeGurl, Amanda, TigerJade, Sals, Tigris-Lex, Fighter-Chick-Charsi, Sara, Funky-phantom Inu-lover, annie, yoshikuro, Mystic Hanyou, Datchi, ZeldaLink786, blah, flowers-followed, MariQ, sarah, cotton-angel, madamebee, Jill E Bean, Raedyuwen Arankh, Rin-chan, AriKitten, e. thompson, Niebezpiczny Ksiezyc and anyone else I may have inadvertently missed. Oh, and if you've been reading, and holding off on writing a review till the story concluded, NOW IS THE TIME! (Seriously, I appreciate all comments – positive, critical, or both). Thank you for reading, and I hope that you will enjoy The End…
A few days later, they left Inuyasha's village behind.
She followed Sesshoumaru as he led the way through the forest. It was a warm, strange sensation to be traveling with him again, to know that she was going home with him. Rin had never seen his father's home before, and now, not only she was going there for the first time, she was arriving as the lady of the house.
Jaken was in for quite a surprise. She grinned in anticipation.
The sun had evaporated with the last of its pink and violet haze, replaced by grey and silver-lit twilight filtered through the black leaves of the trees. Earlier in the evening he had been willing to share quiet conversation with her, but over the past hour he had fallen silent.
The demon stopped in small clearing, stood still for a moment, and began to unfasten his armor.
Rin suddenly felt a dozen butterflies quivering in her stomach.
She watched as he pulled loose his elegant sash and removed it from his waist. Methodically he removed his spiked shoulder guards and lifted his breastplate from his chest, laying Tenseiga carefully beside them under a gnarled magnolia. He drove his other sword Toukijin upright into the ground.
He stood up, looking idly at the canopy of leaves above them.
Rin hadn't moved from her side of the clearing.
"Are you afraid of something, Rin?" His attention was still fixed on some spot in the branches ahead.
She studied his face, wondering if he was serious. She noticed the small flicker of a smile on his countenance. The barest hint of annoyance in her eyes told him that she knew he was laughing at her.
Sesshoumaru caught the reproach from the corner of his eye and fought to keep his smile from broadening. He willed himself to look appropriately serious, with mixed success.
So much for being all grown up Rin admonished herself. Not that she couldn't see the humor in the situation. She'd provoked him, teased him, attacked an armed taiyoukai with her bare hands, and NOW she was nervous? She wanted this.
"No," she answered, shaking her head for extra emphasis. She hesitated a moment, then crossed the distance to his side.
She tentatively laid her head against his chest, waiting to see what he would do.
He rested his hand against her waist.
Rin cautiously relaxed, reveling in the sensation of being so close to him. She felt the strength and warmth of his body through their clothes and leaned her weight against him.
She reached with her right hand and timidly touched the side of his face. His skin was so soft, so beautiful. He closed his eyes as she passed her fingers lightly across his forehead, barely tracing the crescent moon there, then cautiously moving her fingertips across the delicate skin of his eyelids.
She was actually touching him, she thought in awe. She reverently stroked the magenta stripes that ran down his cheek, feeling his breath warm on her palm. He encircled her with his arm, and pressed her palm against his lips. His mouth was hot, open.
Rin sucked in a deep breath, the jolt from that kiss traveling down her arm and met by a tug from deep inside her body.
She looked up into his eyes – golden, resolved, studying her face and features as if they were precious. She smiled at him between deep breaths. She wrapped her arms around his neck, tilting her face upward as he kissed her mouth.
She woke up later, curled up on his furry pelt and nestled against his side, her kimono comfortably draped around her body.
Rin felt his arm lightly wrapped against her bare shoulder and arm. She rubbed her cheek twice against the white fur and thought about all the times she snuggled next to him as a young child – safe, warm, protected.
She had been his then, and she was his again. Only now I'm REALLY his she thought to herself, and blushed all along her body. This was completely different. Now he belonged to her too. Their former relationship had been precious to her, but she was glad it was ended. This was so much better. Even demons changed…
"Does it hurt?" he asked quietly. He knew she was awake.
"Only a little," she answered. He was concerned for her. Her smile widened. It reminded her of the time when she had found him, and he had asked after the bruises she had received from the villagers. It had made her so blissfully, purely happy.
He was watching her, puzzled. She sat up and touched the junction of her neck and shoulder, where he had bitten her earlier. "Youkai will recognize this? They'll know that I belong to you?"
He looked away from her, but the corners of his mouth turned upward. She was beginning to find that it was much easier to interpret his moods. He was pleased.
"But what about the lord Sesshoumaru? How will others know that the handsome Lord of the Western Lands belongs to Rin?" She teased.
He regarded her seriously for a moment, then calmly reached up and brushed his silky hair away from his right shoulder.
"My lord, I wasn't—" Rin faltered.
He did not speak, calmly watching from golden eyes.
Her duller human teeth tore his flesh unevenly. He didn't flinch. The wound was angry and puckered, unlike the clean nick he'd given her. She recoiled.
"I'm so sorry!" she cried out, horrified. Her fingers flew up to stem the blood
He caught her wrist.
"Leave it." He did not take his eyes from hers.
"I love you so much," she stammered, her voice trembling with emotion.
He hugged his face tightly against her heart for a brief moment. He released her, sweeping her hair back with his hand, kissing her.
She could feel the tips of his pointed nails, deliberately and carefully turned away from her skin. She sensed the equally keen fangs lay just beyond his lips pressing against her collarbone. Demon fangs, demon claws. He could hurt her so easily, and yet he never, never would.
He was moving her. He kissed her again and she gasped, closing her eyes.
It was a late spring evening the following year. Near the edge of the forest, the two sons of the Great Dog General stood a few paces from one another, deadly silent. A warm breeze uplifted a few strands of their light hair. Golden eyes identified their mutual demon heritage – and betrayed their mutual irritation and determination not to acknowledge one another.
Inuyasha bristled with impatience. Although he supposed that he couldn't blame even Sesshoumaru for choosing his company over the muffled chatter of excited females coming from his house, although he could hear Miroku's voice comfortably mixing with the others. Inuyasha scowled. He cast a quick glance at his brother, who despite his high-and-mighty silent routine, looked equally pissed off. Well, at least that was something. It couldn't hurt to liven things up a little.
"So, have you ever told her?" Inuyasha asked.
"Told her what?" He asked, feigning indifference.
"C'mon, you used to hang around here all the time when she lived with us. It's not like I couldn't smell you."
Sesshoumaru looked murderous.
"And now the mighty youkai Sesshoumaru is going to have a little half-demon just like his little brother." Inuyasha crossed his arms and smirked.
"Inuyasha," Sesshoumaru responded coolly, "MY child will be nothing like you. You are a brainless, miserable excuse for a warrior, with no manners, pride, or sense of honor. You will be no equal to MY son in strength, skill, or ability."
Inuyasha glared at him. "You may have a girl."
Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow.
"You would not be her equal either." Sesshoumaru was inwardly rewarded by a low growl from his brother.
Rin appeared in the doorway, the gentle swell in her lower belly already apparent beneath several layers of richly worked silk. Sesshoumaru's hand impulsively reached for Tenseiga, his fingers lightly brushing the hilt. Not for the first time, he felt an impulse of gratitude for Chichiue's wisdom. He had been given a much greater gift than Tetsusaiga ever would have been. Father... Father and humans. He wondered if his father's spirit still existed in a place where he could see him now. He would be… pleased.
Inuyasha watched his brother's eyes soften on his pregnant wife.
"You're more like Dad than I thought," Inuyasha said, a little amazed and reining the sarcasm in his voice to a bare minimum.
"Our father was a Great Demon, but I, Sesshoumaru, have done better," he answered, walking towards the dragon and deliberately choosing to ignore Inuyasha's shock.
It is true thought Sesshoumaru, as he waited for Rin to join him. I have done what my father dared not. He smiled to himself. His family would be strong, undivided. The child would be a hanyou, but he would be strong – Sesshoumaru would see to that. He would be strong enough to defend his inheritance. Even Inuyasha wasn't entirely worthless. He would be the child of parents who adored him, of a mother devoted to him, devoted to his father. That devotion would also foster unity and strength. Yes, taking Rin as a mate was good sense. And, he reminded himself, her life was his obligation. It would be dishonorable to allow harm to come to the life he had revived and clearly protecting her would be much easier if she lived with him. And he couldn't expect an adult female of marriageable age to live with him without offering her a husband and father for her children. His choice had been calculated and rational, there was nothing emotional or weak about it he congratulated himself.
Rin looped her arms around her husband's neck and smiled. He slipped his arm beneath her knees and lifted her onto Ah-Un's back. Her eyes met his in thanks – brown human eyes, warm and trusting, filled with love for him. And Sesshoumaru paused to swallow the sudden choke of wonder and love that turned over in his heart.