Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, just borrowing, don't sue….

I hope that I'm not ruining the memory of 'Courtship' with these stories. I have to admit that I'm hesitant to keep putting out these one-shots for fear of weakening the original. Please let me know if you think that's the case, before I totally ruin it!

This one is pretty much 100% waff-free, but hopefully contains more emotion than my last piece. Also, no I/K – a first for me! Assuming that my one-shots continue to garner interest, I may attempt the San/Mir I've been considering but as I've said before I'm not sure how to handle them. Possibly in conjunction with Inu/Kag.

For my loyal readers, here's a list of the one-shot plot bunnies running around in my head. Since I might not write them all, any opinions on favorites should be voiced now and I'll give them top priority.

1. Inuyasha and Kagome's first Christmas (with a little San/Mir action)
2. Conception of the first Inu/Kag pup, with a Kikyou cameo
3. Kouga's reaction to Inuyasha/Kagome
4. A pregnancy story (this would be half San/Mir half Inu/Kag)
5. The birth of Inuko (labor story)
6. The birth of Kano (just the end of the labor with another father/son moment)
7. A sequel to this one-shot (Rin would be seventeen in that one)
8. Inuyasha and Kagome having a night out in Tokyo.
9. Miroku and Inuyasha bonding during hut-building

Ok, on with the story!

The Heart's True Path

He was sending her away.

Rin wiped the moist tears from her eyes roughly, sniffling back a sob. She reached forward for the last of her kimonos and angrily stuffed it into the bag he'd given her that morning. All of her worldly possessions, haphazardly shoved into this plain-looking sack that she would carry with her on the two-day trip.

A trip away from the only home she cared to remember. Away from the man she'd spent the last eight years clinging to like a father.

And he'd been so damned casual about it too!

"You are leaving today at sundown."

The demon lord dropped a red-dyed burlap bag onto the floor before her. "Pack all your things."

"Sesshoumaru-sama?"

"Kagome-nee-san has whelped her third pup recently and fallen ill. I'm sending you to aid her. When she is well, you will stay with them and learn from her."

"When will I come back?"

Sesshoumaru didn't answer, turning away instead and retreating to his chambers.

Sighing, Rin pulled the heaving bag up off her futon and rested it on her shoulder. That had been hours ago, and already the sun was beginning its descent. Jaken would come to fetch her soon. She had no doubt the little toad demon would be thrilled to see her go.

The soft squeak of her bedroom door brought Rin out of her reverie. "Yes, Jaken, I'm coming."

"Rin."

She started at the deep voice of her … what? What was he to her? She pushed the question out of her mind and turned to look up into Sesshoumaru's emotionless face. "Sesshoumaru-sama!" She paused, wondering what prompted the personal send-off. "I'm ready to go," she finally continued. "I… I wanted to thank you. For your kindness and your protection these last nine years. I will not forget you."

To her chagrin, the tears again pooled at the corners of her eyes. She pushed by the demon, knowing he wouldn't abide her weak human display. She'd barely passed him when she felt a tight grip on her arm pulling her back to stand before him.

"Sesshoumaru-sama?" Her voice was a whisper, betraying the cool exterior she'd fought to display. He'd never touched her before. Not like this...

"You will be on your best behavior, Rin."

"Hai, I will help Kagome-oba-san as much as I can," she agreed, still confused by the soft but insistent grip he had on her arm.

"Kagome is not your aunt," he chided her sharply. No, he couldn't have her looking at his family in that way. If she did, that meant she saw him as her father and he couldn't bear that.

Sesshoumaru continued to stare ahead in silence, never making eye contact. "You are no longer a little girl, but a young woman. Kagome will prepare you for your life as an adult. When you are of age, you may choose to marry a man in the village and begin a family." Casting a look to the side, in a quieter voice he added, "or you may return, to live in this kingdom again. The choice will be yours."

Rin blinked up at him, but said nothing.

"Farewell, young Rin." The stately youkai closed his eyes, and for a fleeting moment Rin thought she detected the hint of a tear in them, and a sigh on his breath.

He said nothing more, but released her arm quickly. She took her cue and, readjusting her pack for comfort, bowed quickly to him.

"Sayonara, Sesshoumaru-sama."

Sesshoumaru's sensitive youkai ears held to the sound of her soft footsteps until he was certain she was gone. At the silence, he let out the breath he'd been holding and took in the emptiness of the room. Her room. It would hold her scent for many weeks, and that realization both annoyed and comforted him.

She'd been developing rapidly over the last several months, and the changes hadn't escaped the demon lord's acute senses. Only weeks earlier Rin started to give off the scent of a woman. Soon she would be able to bear young, and with that knowledge Sesshoumaru's own instincts kicked back into full gear.

He'd begun lusting after her scent. Not Rin. Not yet. She was in many ways still a child; but her scent, her body, her blood… they called to him with such a strength he wondered if the time would come when he couldn't hold back.

Then came her first blood. The poor girl was terrified, lacking the female guidance most young women received in their early years. With his usual calm demeanor Sesshoumaru had guided the frightened girl to one of the older servants in the household, who took her under wing.

On that day, he knew. Inuyasha was right when he'd pointed to Rin as his chosen one eight years prior. He hadn't meant for her to be anything more than a traveling companion, but before he realized what had happened he'd developed feelings for the young girl.

And now – now she was a young woman. A young human woman. Was he such a hypocrite?

The bigger questions loomed in his mind. Would she accept his affection? Would she return to him when Inuyasha and Kagome sent her off again? Could she see him as a mate, instead of the father figure he'd set himself up to be?

A small rodent scampered in the now darkened room, bringing Sesshoumaru back to himself.

That was the true reason he'd sent her off, the demon acknowledged. He needed to know if she could love him as a male, instead of a guardian. If she would return and give herself to him completely and of her own will, knowing that there were other choices out there. It was the only way he could keep her with a clear conscience.

"Lord Sesshoumaru?"

"Is it done?"

The small toad bowed to his master, ever jubilant and submissive. "Yes, my lord. The girl is finally out of your way, never to pester you again."

A swift swipe of Tenseiga split the annoying creature in two. Sesshoumaru glared down at Jaken, knowing he'd piece himself back together easily, before stalking out of the room.

Two years. In two years Inuyasha and Kagome would release his Rin into the wide world to follow her heart. Sesshoumaru could only hope it's path lead her back to the West. Back to him.