"The cure for anything is salt-water – sweat, tears, or the sea."
So he brings her down to the sea, little dried leaf bones wrapped in her paper body, cradled in his arm because she will plummet if he does not hold her. Her sick scent curls in his nose, makes him almost sick himself, and the barely perceptible motion of the dragon beneath him roils his stomach. Jaken clings to his pelt and snores.
He is tired. He dreams of sleep.
When they finally reach the ocean, it is still not good enough. From out of dim remembered times, when he was just a boy - so long ago - he drags dusty recollections of islands to the southwest, where it is always warm even when winter grips the land. He remembers traveling down and down with his mother who loved to journey, who loved the sea, who shook down her long blue-silver hair in the rain when the typhoons swelled over the sky.
Who wandered until her feet forgot the way back and she was lost.
In his embrace, Rin trembles, is so tiny, so small -
It is probably too late to leave her as food for wolves, so they fly low over the waves and into the sunlit country of the south.
He thinks that it has been too long since his last visit. He thinks that he is tired of the cold. He thinks he could revive her if need be.
They settle on a secluded beach, but it's still not as warm as he would like. Without being told, Jaken gathers firewood, while high on shore Sesshoumaru bends and kneels, placing her in the warm dry sand.
Next winter, he thinks, she will be warm.
The fire is built. He sits and leans against a palm tree. Before settling into the stillness of a demon that is dreaming, he places her head on his long trailing sleeve.
She sleeps for days, only waking to stumble into the sheltering arms of the trees and to sip the fishy broth Jaken has boiled. Sesshoumaru does not ask how Jaken learned to make soup, but the little toad hops on the sand beneath his gaze anyway.
"I'm making it up as I go along!" he shouts, indignant, as though he has been caught in a heinous act and was melting beneath his guilty conscience.
Sesshoumaru says nothing. He turns away and watches the sea.
The days slink by in the roll of the tides, and it occurs to him slowly that should he live as long as he believes he will - that is, forever - he will one day cross the ocean. The thought has a tiny thrill to it, like the spark before the fire, or the pebble before the avalanche, as if the act of thinking had any weight beyond the heaviness of breath.
On the tenth day the sun is setting in fiery brilliance on the waters, each wave on the endless sea rising up and flashing once before sinking down again, and it is at once different and exactly the same as the iron grey ocean in the north. How far would he drift, how far could he wander, if he were on the waves?
On the fourteenth day he rises and walks down to the tide line, and then into the wet sand, and then down to the water to watch the waves swirl around his feet. He can feel them dragging him out to sea, into the endless undulating ocean, where all that lingers drowns.
Without difficulty, he lets his eyes slide down and to his side to see Rin, bright-eyed, standing next to him and letting the waves tickle her naked toes. He can still hear the rattling of her lungs, but it is faint now, a single bone rolling in a clay pot. When they are again where they belong, she will have warmer clothes, and shoes. It was careless - no, more thought-less - to have forgotten how fragile she was, how susceptible to cold and heat.
How brief she is, and how difficult to hold thoughts of her - like trying to grasp the sea only to have it slip away through his fingers. Like the sea, it is she who holds him by the slightest of tethers. He could break it, if he so chose.
And now Jaken has run down the beach to her, squawking that it is still too cool, and too cool to be in the water, and what did he ever do to deserve such a disobedient whelp? She only laughs, grabs his little resisting hand, and drags him through the shallow eddies, leaving tiny ripples in her wake that are gone as soon as he spies them. She flashes, bright, limber little legs splashing through the tide.
Rin runs out of breath quickly, and a jabbering Jaken leads her again toward the trees and their little campsite and the light of the fire.
Sesshoumaru thinks that he has all the time in the world to walk the waters.