His

Disclaimer: I don't even own the computer I'm typing this on, much less the rights to Inuyasha.

(A/N: I know I should be working on my other fan fics, but this idea has come into my head over the past couple of days so I had to write it down. Hope ya'll like. For those of you who haven't read my other fics, please do to check them out. I'm done shamelessly plugging myself now.)

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Sesshomaru stood stone still in the field, sniffing and searching. Rin was late. This was not like her; if there was one trait that he had passed onto her from his time with her, it was a strict adherence to punctuality. This meant either one of two things: she forgot to come, or something was preventing her from coming. The taiyoukai knew that Rin would not have forgotten him; therefore something was wrong. His logic never failed.

He scented the wind that had shifted in his direction. His sense of smell was something he always took for granted, because he needed it to be there. The Lord of the Western Lands needed nothing, and as long as he remembered that simple fact, he would never lose his mind with paranoia over the loss of his sense of smell. After all, it was said that as dog demons grew older, their senses became duller, and their tempers increased as a result. Just the other day, he had failed to scent Jakken's approach. Granted, the toad was downwind, but he had never ever failed to catch the distinct odor of the greasy toad. And then he remembered that "just the other day" was in reality a decade ago. A mere second to his kind, but still enough time to cause him a small amount of worry. He could not deny that he was no longer the spry young pup his father had left to rule the Western Lands upon his death.

But these thoughts, petty and useless, were distracting him from the task at hand. Snuffing the air through his lips, Sesshomaru strained for any evidence of Rin's unique blend of dirt, flowers, and the slight ferrous tang of her blood. All humans tasted of blood, but Rin's blood was always…different. The stoic taiyoukai was never able to pin down what exactly it was that made the girl's scent stand out beyond comparison, and he wasn't sure he wanted to.

There. He'd found her. She was a half a ri away, roughly, and she wasn't moving. Perhaps she was waiting for him. She knew better than to wait for her lord though; the agreement was that she would come to him. He snorted indignantly, then startled with the additional trace he picked up in Rin's scent. It wasn't characteristic of her; in fact it was only the second time he'd ever detected this particular element in her usual blend.

Perhaps, this time, it would be acceptable if he came to her.

Sesshomaru walked. He was in no hurry to reach his ward, and had a feeling that she was in no hurry to see him. He would walk, and take his time in reaching her. She had to know he was coming, anyway. She had to know that he would always come for her.

Right?

Time for doubt was over. His feet were moving, one in front of the other, and gradually carrying him to his destination. Idly, he thought that he might be somewhat sentimental and present her with a wildflower when he found her. She was quite fond of them, and he had no intention of scolding her too harshly for making him come to meet her instead of what they had agreed upon. It was for her own safety, after all. But he could not bring himself to be harsh on her, at least not this time. He also could not bring himself to stoop and to pluck a flower from the earth at his feet. Some ways are just too hard to change.

Unfortunately, he could never hope the same for her. Rin was human, and her lifespan dictated that she would experience nothing but change. She would grow and develop and mature, and he would blink his eyes and she would be a memory.

The great taiyoukai smirked at this thought. Ah, memory, he said to himself, I seem to have a lot of memories now a days.

So he walked, and he remembered.

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When she had stood up and dusted off her corpse scent, he had not ever expected her to follow him.

For the next few days, Sesshomaru and Jakken ignored the girl stumbling along behind them in an effort to keep up. The dragon was different though, and kept looking back at her. It slowed its pace when she seemed to be lagging behind them. Sesshomaru was increasingly annoyed by this, at first. He would fall back in step to grab the dragon's reigns and tug him forward. The stubborn beast would dig in its feet and protest, but in the end Sesshomaru dominated over his pack animal. He wasn't exactly surprised when, one unusually cold night, he returned from his moonlit walk to find the dragon sleeping a distance away from the established camp area. When he had investigated, he found the girl tightly embraced by four scaly legs and a whip-like tail. She would stay.

It was that simple. Or that complicated. Nothing happened in Sesshomaru's life without his will for it to happen. His arm would never re-grow, because he did not want it to. The girl would stay because he wanted her to. Sesshomaru didn't know exactly what to do with the girl to begin with. After all, it would be kind of…barbaric of him to bring her back to life and then kill her for tagging after him. He could not abandon her at a human village, because he despised the thought of having to interact with the filthy ningens he found there in order to pawn off the child. In good conscience, he would not leave her at a human village either. She was beaten and abused by these brutish creatures. Sesshomaru was ruthless, but he did not engage in acts of torture. And that is how he saw the outcome of leaving her in the next town. This left him void of options, in his mind. In a way, the dragon's embrace of the girl relieved him in a small way: he knew what to do with her then. She was his, and that was how he decided to see her from that night on. She owed him a life-debt, after all. And now that she was his, he needed to make sure that she would be a proper traveling companion. He hunted.

The little girl woke up to Jakken kicking her in the shins. "Get up, filthy human!" he squawked.

He watched her rouse. At first, she seemed to forget where she was, and addressed her surroundings with wide, curious eyes. There was no fear. When she seemed to get a bearing on where she was and who she was with, she yawned lazily and embraced the dragon's thick middle to thank him for his warmth and protection. The dragon's left head grunted. Then the girl gingerly climbed out of the scaly embrace and made her way over to the fire, where Sesshomaru was sitting. There was no fear. She politely tucked her legs underneath her bottom and kept her distance from the demon lord, out of respect.

He rose. She watched him. There was no fear.

Sesshomaru plucked the rabbit he had caught the night before from the fire. Jakken had grouchily cleaned it and placed it on a pike to roast that morning. The taiyoukai noted that Jakken must have greatly resented doing this, because the task was sloppy. Singed tufts of hair still lingered on the body, and the upper body cavity still held organs. He would address Jakken with this matter later, with a particularly sharp rock.

The rabbit was handed to the girl. He did not look at her. He felt her small hands within his larger palm for a second, and then she had taken hold of the pike and was holding the rabbit. He knew she was looking at him, because he could feel her large, brown eyes upon him. The inu taiyoukai stole a brief glance, and saw that her gaze was full of questions, and a slight awe. Why wasn't she eating? Was she waiting for him to…do something, say something, eat something too?

"Child," he growled. "Eat."

"Hai, master," she replied quietly. Her famished little mouth began to greedily suck and gnaw at the meat in her hands. He had not seen her eat the entire time she started following him. More than likely, she did not know what was okay to eat in the woods, having lived in a village for so long.

He was a powerful demon, with poisonous claws. She had seen his feral rage, when she first found him laying wounded in the forest. He had given her food, and she had taken it. There was no fear.

Sesshomaru was amused and intrigued all at once.

Jakken watched the child as well, but with a resentful glare. He tended to the fire, and sat quietly, and knew better to do anything without his lord's consent. The Staff of Heads was gripped tightly in his slimy hands, awaiting orders for action. Surely, any second the great Sesshomaru was going to tell him to roast the child where she sat for being so presumptuous as to believe she could hold company with the Lord of the Western Lands as a stinking ningen whelp. Any second.

"Jakken," Sesshomaru barked, making both the child and retainer jump slightly.

Yes, now! The little green youkai clamored to his feet and had the Staff at the ready, already aiming at the child. "Hai, my lord!" he exclaimed eagerly.

The girl continued to eat, despite the danger that was waiting to claim her life only a few paces away. There was no fear.

The taiyoukai smiled for only the briefest of moments, before he turned to address his retainer fully. "This Sesshomaru has an errand for you. In the ningen village that is beyond the trees east from here."

"Ha—huh?" Jakken sputtered. "My, my, my lord! What would you have me do in a place like that?" His bulbous yellow eyes stared at his master in disbelief and a slight twinge of fear poisoned his scent.

Sesshomaru looked to the child, who was almost finished eating. "You will find clothes and supplies for the child there," he murmured lowly, making sure only his intended audience heard his words.

"MY LORD!" Jakken protested, waving his arms. "You cannot honestly be thinking that thing is going to keep…"

"Do not question me!" Sesshomaru thundered, clenching his fist and burning his gaze at the terrified frog.

"No, no, my lord," Jakken hiccupped. "It's just…"

Sesshomaru narrowed his lids. He distinctly heard the child giggle.

"Uh, nothing! It's just, uh, yes! This Jakken just wanted to know if he could take the dragon with him?" the quivering youkai tried weakly.

Sesshomaru nodded.

"Hai, my lord!" Jakken sobbed, jumping up and running towards the dragon. "I will do as you ask!" He wiggled his stubby body on the reclining dragon's back, then smacked its withers with the Staff of Heads. "Up, you lazy beast!" he grumbled, taking the reins and urging the pack animal to turn east. Both heads rumbled an angry protest, but complied. The taiyoukai and child waited in silence, staring at the retreating dragon until it was long out of the range of sight.

Sesshomaru rose. "Come," he beckoned in a firm but quiet voice.

The girl stood and trotted over so she stood behind the imposing figure. He began walking. She followed.

He showed her where she could find food. With his clawed hand, he pointed out which plants were safe for humans to eat, and which plants were poisonous. All the time, she would nod and respectfully reply, "Hai, master." She never asked him to repeat himself, and when he looked at her, he could see her learning what he was telling her to remember. Her eyes sparkled with a light of enlightenment, and her face was longer with her efforts to take everything in. He told her to collect a little food for herself to save for later. She did. He fell silent, and led her back to the camp. Without any gestures on his part, the girl deposited the fistfuls of mushrooms and roots she had gathered by the smoldering fire, then turned to resume her place behind him. He began walking in a different direction. She followed.

He led her to a stream and stopped. She looked at him with questions unspoken on her face, and he flicked his eyes to the stream. She nodded, then walked to the water and knelt beside it. He reclined himself against a tree and watched.

The girl first cupped her hands and pooled water in her palms to take a few drinks. She then stood, and primly removed the tattered child's kimono she wore, and folded it carefully before placing it on the grass. With a little trepidation and a few shivers, she walked into the shallow water, sat down, and began to bathe.

He used this time to inspect the effects Tenseiga had on her body. When she had come to him that morning, covered in bruises, he could also smell blood from her back. Apparently, whoever had taken his fists to her had also decided to lash her a few times across the back with a switch or a rope. The wounds had not been deep, but they had bled a good bit, making him disgusted with her smell.

There was not even a scratch on her body now. Looking closer, he could see that scars replaced the wounds she once had. There was a jagged white ring around her neck, from the wolves tearing at the throat from all directions. Her back was hatched with fine, pale lines. Her belly had a large, pink, comet shaped mark from where a wolf had gutted her. The sword had ripped her from death, and quickly closed her body. She would wear the marks of her first death until she died again.

Sesshomaru looked to his hip and placed his palm on Tenseiga. A life-giving fang, he mused, for the youaki who has mastered the perfection of killing. Chichue, you must have hated me.

The girl had dried herself the best she could in the air, and already dressed herself back in her old rags and skipped over to Sesshomaru. He hadn't noticed her until she was at his feet. "Master," she chirped, "what is your name?"

The taiyoukai blanched at the child's boldness for a moment. For her to address him by his name, instead of an impersonal title, would mean that she was associated with him. By giving her his name, he would be adopting her into the furthest circle of his social network. He would not be able to deny her connection to him if confronted.

He looked, and she was smiling. There was nothing but adoration in her eyes. Of course, because that is the way it should be. She recognized her debt to him. She recognized his superiority over her. She knew she would be traveling with him for a long time. She was his ward now, and he was her guardian. It happened just that fast, without him even realizing. When he did realize, he accepted it. It was what he wanted. She was his now. He owed her his name, to seal his claim on her life.

"Sesshomaru," he dully stated, as if giving his name to strangers was something he did with great regularity.

"Sess-sho-ma-ru-sama," she pronounced.

Should I ask for her name? he wondered. Does she have a name?

"Sesshomaru-sama!" she cried gleefully, then bowed low. When she rose, she flashed him her sweetest smile, with the gaps in her mouth being filled by her tongue. "My name is Rin," she introduced matter-of-factly.

"Rin," he coolly repeated. She nodded in satisfaction. He stood.

"We're going, Rin," he commanded in a dry tone, then began walking back to the camp.

She followed.

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Sesshomaru stepped on a rotted log and splintered it. The splitting wood filled his nostrils with the sickly sweet scent of decay. Rin had smelled a little like that, before he had revived her. She smelled of death, and of decay. When she stood up, she smelled of Rin.

There never had been any question in his mind that the girl was unique. She walked with demons and did not fear. She protested being taken away by her own kind, "for her own good," and was always happy when she was reunited with the emotionless taiyoukai. She recognized her own mortality from a young age, and asked that he remember her when she had died. She knew that her lifespan was nothing in his sense of time, and the earlier she put in her request for remembrance, the better her chances were of it. But he knew, he could never forget her even if she had not asked him to remember. He had never known anyone as closely as he knew her.

And he knew why she was making him come to her.

This forest was part of his lands. His lands were vast, and guarding them took up a great deal of his time. He had a house, a quite impressive shiro in fact, but he only stayed there for one year out of every five. When he was at the shiro, he could conduct the more diplomatic aspects of being a lord. He would write letters, hold meetings, settle conflicts, wage wars, and read from the many writings his honored father had left behind. After that single year was over, he would spend the next four patrolling his lands on foot. This was how he had always done it, ever since he had inherited the Western Lands.

Like himself, Rin had never cared much for the time spent at the shiro. She was respectfully impressed by it on her first visit, but as time wore on she grew bored and fidgeted a great deal. Perhaps it reminded her of the poverty her family had grown up in. While in the shiro, she was surrounded by pomposity and glamour. Her own home had been a mud cave carved into the side of a hill. The silk and china and ivory made her nervous. Perhaps, she liked being in the woods because it was more like her home. Perhaps, she liked being in the woods because she could forget about the titles and wealth that separated her from her lord.

In the woods, they were traveling companions to one another. They were equals; as equal as a ningen and a youkai could get anyway.

Rin's scent spiked suddenly, and he quickened his pace. He could taste her fear, and it sickened him. Rin never feared anything. At least, she never feared anything when she was around him. He would dispatch of whatever it was that was causing her discomfort so she could return to her normal scent and he wouldn't feel so goddamn nauseous. Everything would be fine again. He told himself this, and he knew it was a lie.

It had been nearly sixty years, and he knew this time, he could not bring her back.

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He needed her. He did not like leaving her. She was his, and only his, but he knew they could not stay in each other's company forever. That was just not how it worked for youkai and ningens. His days with her were numbered from the beginning, yet he clung to her presence all the same.

Sesshomaru grew in his attachment to the child as the years waxed on. She had helped him stumble through his brief relationship with Kagura. The human child knew the adoration Kagura felt, and was very vocal in reminding her master of it. She had even saved Kagura once, though she told the wind witch that it was Sesshomaru who had done it. The night Kagura had died, she hugged him tightly around his neck in a quick manner, as if to let him know that she would willingly share his hurt.

He watched over her constantly after Kagura's death. Perhaps it was because he knew that once the wind witch was gone, any manner of youkai off-shoot from Naraku could come and take Rin away. Kagura would never have hurt Rin if it was what her master ordered, because she knew it would hurt Sesshomaru deeper than he was willing to admit to even himself. Sesshomaru could not stand the thought of some carrion feeding putrid mass of a youkai pawing on his Rin, squeezing the life from her. He learned much about human behavior from Rin, and the time he spent closely watching over her.

When she started to develop breasts and grow hair between her legs, she became skiddish around him when he took her to bathe. She wasn't afraid; she was embarrassed. It was a hard day for him, when she asked him to turn around while she stripped and got into the water. It signified the passage she was making from child-hood, to adult-hood. And her growing closer to her inevitable death. He turned his back. She would clean herself, then return to his side, happy that he understood her wishes without making her explain the mortifying details of them. He made sure she was provided with adequate privacy from that point on, without letting her stray too far from his senses.

The day she started to bleed, she was a wreck. Not because she did not understand what was happening; apparently her human family was thorough in educating her in women's matters at a young age. No, she was upset because she thought she was an inconvenience to her youkai companions. She would frequently have to stop and change her bandaging, and wash out the dirty wrappings so they would not attract any rouge youkai in the area to her. Often, they would spend her bleeding times holed up in a cave or valley somewhere, to provide her with the privacy and safety that she needed. He caught Jakken scooting closer to her one night, and laying his head in her lap while she talked to him. While the girl took the action to be affectionate, Sesshomaru knew that Jakken's motives were anything but innocent in nature. He kicked the toad away and told Rin to come sit by his side. Admittedly, she did smell good to his youkai nose when she bled, but it was nothing that he could not acknowledge and then ignore. He was a higher developed youkai than Jakken, and was not driven on baser instincts. After all, Rin was still a little girl in his eyes, and not sexually attractive in any fashion despite her fertile smell. Bottom feeders did not care how old she was, or what she looked like; they noticed only the smell of her blood and were driven mad with lust.

Sesshomaru asked for her to sleep with him that night. The girl blushed, and stammered out a few unintelligible words.

"This Sesshomaru has no intention of doing something untoward to you, Rin," he sneered. "I ask this of you for your own safety." After all, who knew what Jakken would do when the girl was helpless and asleep. He cast a vicious, knowing glance at the toady retainer and watched him cower in shame.

"I would not think that my lord," Rin replied, nervously laughing and blushing hotly. "I…just don't want…my lord wears white, his clothes are fine, and Rin does not want to…make her lord look undignified." It was almost painful for her to admit this, he could tell. Her eyes were slightly brimming with tears from the embarrassment. Still, he had not considered this. Rin was always a very thoughtful child, especially when it came to him. She worried for his safety when he fought the two undead soldiers on the holy mountain. She worried for his heart when the woman he had briefly trysted with died. Now she worried about his vanity.

Sesshomaru stood up and approached the dragon, Aun, who the child had lovingly named. He took the blanket from the beast's back, and walked back to where he had been sitting. He then laid the blanket on his lap, and looked to Rin. She nodded.

Even though it had been six years, and she had grown considerably since he first found her, she was still very small in his lap. The taiyoukai wrapped his ningen child up in the blanket and held her with his legs and arm in a cradling position. She fell asleep quickly, and slept soundly. He did this until her bleeding time was over. She seemed to understand his reasoning behind it, because she did not question sleeping alone when her cycle was done. Sesshomaru always thought that she studied him just as hard as he studied her, and there was an unspoken understanding between them that accompanied any action they did. When her cycle started the next month, she proved his theory to be sound because she waited by his side when it was time to go to sleep, for him to be ready to take her in his lap.

He had stopped wearing his armor when it hurt her. One day, a centipede youkai was charging at Rin from underground. She did not see it, or sense it. Sesshomaru rushed over to her and grabbed her, tackling her to the ground and away from the rearing youkai as it appeared. He made quick work of the beast, pulling out Tokijin and slicing the body in half. When he turned to assess Rin for wounds, he found her clutching her shoulder and whimpering, with blood flowing over her hand that was pressed to the wound. He looked down, and saw the culprit had not been the centipede, but himself; one of the spikes on his breast-plate was glistening with blood. She had been embarrassed to let him treat her wound, but knew it was necessary in order for the puncture to heal without any further danger to her health. She pulled the collar of her kimono down on his order, and he cleaned and packed the wound so it would not become infected. For the first few days when he asked to see her wound and change the dressing, he did not understand the girl's initial apprehension. Then, one morning he was a little more forceful with the packing than usual and she lost her grip on the collar of her kimono, leaving a breast bare to his view. She let out a small cry and scrambled to cover herself once more. Sesshomaru was slightly taken aback by how far along she had developed right before his eyes. He could not think of her as a little girl any longer; she was a woman now. He snorted indignantly and finished dressing the wound.

That was when he put away his armor. He didn't need it after all. If it might hurt Rin again, and cause her the awful pain and embarrassment that it already had, he didn't want it either.

When she was eighteen, she asked for him to come on a walk with her in the moonlight. This seemed out of the ordinary to him, because they often took walks at night together, without even asking one another to go. When they were a safe distance from Jakken and Aun, Rin took his hand and stopped him in his tracks.

"Sesshomaru-sama," she said, mournfully. She petted her fingers across his claws, then over the back of his hand and across the stripes he had on his wrist.

He let her. Something told him that she needed to do that to comfort herself. He would not touch her, but she could always touch him.

"I cannot travel with you anymore, Sesshomaru-sama," Rin whispered.

The taiyoukai said nothing, and did not move. He merely continued to stare down at his hand while Rin stroked it and finally gave it a squeeze before letting it go.

"I am a ningen woman, and I do not belong in your company," she explained seriously. "It was okay when I was younger. You were my entire world then. But now…now, I need to have my own life. I want to have children. I want to have a house. I cannot have these things when I am with you."

"No," he answered firmly. He wasn't sure, but he thought she might be asking him this instead of telling him this.

She laughed softly. "I have very much enjoyed my time with you, Sesshomaru-sama, and I am thankful for every day! But I am quickly turning into a burden for you! You have been so kind to watch over me and keep me safe for all these years, but it is I who owe you the debt of my life. The longer I stay in your company, the deeper my debt grows."

He snorted. Ridiculous, he thought. She thinks my protection was some how meant to indenture herself further to me?

Rin looked to his face and waited for his golden eyes to meet hers. He kept her waiting for a few moments, before he conceded and gave her what she wanted. She smiled at him in return, and he felt something in his chest tighten. Her smiles always had an affect on him.

"I will leave tomorrow morning," she said. "I will burden you no longer, and I will make a life for my own."

He nodded. Deep down, as much as he wanted her to stay, he knew this day would come. Who was he to tell her she had to spend her entire life in his service? She owed him her life, but not her happiness.

She had already given him plenty of that.

The next morning, he took her to a field just outside of a nearby village. He had given her all of her things to take with her: her clothes, her comb, a small winter blanket, and everything he had taught her in order to help her survive. He also surprised her when he roughly pushed a few coins into her hand; Rin did not know her lord was one to carry money around. She blushed and nodded gratefully. It was time for her to leave.

He wanted to give her something. He felt like he was leaving her with nothing, and in essence, he was. She was without his protection. She was without his company. She was without his guidance. She was alone and had to rely on herself and her own wits and means to survive now. It just did not seem right.

"This Sesshomaru," he began, but stopped short. He was not a man of words. He was a man of actions. He always had been, and some things were just too hard to change.

Gently, he lowered his face to her forehead, and kissed her there. When he pulled away, he saw Rin's eyes were glistening with tears she would not let fall. He had told her everything he wanted to in that one action. And she had understood him.

She turned, and slowly walked away from him. He watched her fade from his line of sight, and lingered for awhile, before he too, left.

It would be five years before he saw her again.

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Sesshomaru finally saw Rin now. She was slumped against the roots of a large tree, growing in the middle of the field. He trained his eyes on her, and saw she was still breathing, albeit very slowly. She was probably asleep. He would try not to wake her.

When he reached the spot where she was laying, he stood over her and surveyed her for a long while. Her skin was tan from work, and not as tight or glowing as it had been when she was a child. Her eyes were surrounded with wrinkles, but the skin around her mouth was relatively smooth. Unlike most aged humans, she did not have a permanent frown grafted to her face. He could not imagine her with a frown.

She had her head rested on a tuft of moss at the base of the tree. Her arms were tucked against her chest, and her hands were folded together and laying on her neck. He had always liked the feel of her slender, dainty hands on him. As a child, she often grabbed his legs or sleeves to get his attention, and the smallness of her had him reeling in disbelief every time. How could something so brave be so tiny?

He sniffed deeply, then took a seat next to the sleeping woman. She was in her sixties now, and no longer the pale child he had saved from death those many years ago. She was a worn woman who he had to watch die, and could do nothing to stop it.

It was close; the scent was heavy in the air around her. It clung to her skin like a cold, wet blanket. He could almost taste it. It…made him uncomfortable. He felt disgusted, and almost wanted to spit to get rid of the rancid flavor in his throat. But he would bear it for her. It would be the last time he had to bear it for her. He owed her that much. She was his. Soon, she would belong to the cosmos. He had to send her off properly.

Something told him that a mere kiss on the forehead would not be enough this time.

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It had been five years since they left each other's company. Five years since he had stood in this very field, and let her walk away alone. Five years spent wandering without her, returning to the shiro without her, and wandering again. He could not say it was "just like old times," because the old times were traveling with her. This was the new times, and he would adjust. That did not mean he would give up on her entirely.

She was his, after all.

Demons are incredibly territorial creatures, he had explained to her as a child. They are protective of what is theirs. They will defend it until their last breath, for the sake of pride and honor in themselves. Once something is claimed by a demon, that claim stands valid for as long as the demon lives.

Or, in Rin's case, as long as she lived.

He had not been expecting to see her. Truthfully, he wasn't even looking for her. It happened that it was the time of year that he ventured into this particular area of his lands. His feet drew him towards the field, and he did not even realize where he was until he did see her, in the distance. It came flooding back to him then, and he was slightly irritated at himself. Why was he here?

She was playing with her children. She had a three year old son, a two year old daughter, and another child growing in her belly. She had made a hoop from a long strip of bamboo, and was rolling it across the ground so the children could chase it. She would throw it up and out with a whip of her arm, and the hoop would wobble in the air, then land and roll back towards her. The children were laughing and trying to catch it. She saw him then.

Sesshomaru silently cursed himself for remaining still after he had seen her. By staying in his spot, he increased the risk of Rin seeing him, which she had just done. He had wanted to leave the area, undetected. It was too late for that. For him to leave now would be strange also; it might make the girl think he was afraid. He was not afraid. He stood, and watched, and waited.

Rin slowly made her way over to the taiyoukai that had once been her guardian. She had grown much in the five years they had been apart. Her hips were broad and thick with the child she carried, while her belly was rounded and hung low and tight in front of her. Her breasts, once small and pert from what he could remember, were now full and soft. On her face was a look of surprise and genuine happiness at seeing him again. She looked like a woman, for the first time he could remember. He did not move, and watched in silence as she encouraged her slightly nervous children to follow.

He chuckled in his head. They had not inherited their mother's lack of fear. Or her blind faith.

"Sesshomaru-sama," she greeted warmly. She suddenly remembered her children, and knelt down slowly so that she could tug them into respectable positions and lick her thumb to clean their slightly smudged faces. She told him their names, but he forgot them just as quickly. He was focused on her alone.

"You are well," he concluded, lamely. Speech was not his strongest suit.

"Hai," she replied graciously. "I am. I am married. My husband is a carpenter. He helps build houses, and chairs, and tables, and things. Nothing as fine as you have in your shiro," she added, slightly teasing, "but I've seen him create some beautiful things. I am a potter. A carpenter and a potter. They compliment each other nicely, ne?"

He nodded.

"I'm sorry my children are slightly afraid of you," she continued, blushing with embarrassment. "They are wary of strangers. It is their nature I'm afraid, because they are afraid of the strangers who visit our home to seek the services of my husband and I. They don't know you're a demon, and I'm not going to tell them. It would scare them even more."

He nodded.

Rin smiled, then took his hand. She placed it on her belly before he could protest, and pinned it there with both of her palms. Immediately, he felt the child in her belly begin to move. His eyes widened, and he remained still, utterly enthralled with the sensation. He knew all about the cycle of life, from conception to birth. He just had never been this close to a pregnant female, and so he was not aware of how fast the child inside would grow. It was…amazing. The speed of human development almost made his head spin.

Then his Rin giggled. "I thought you'd like that," she explained, then let go of his hand. He obliged her gesture and lowered his arm back to his side. "My husband hopes for a boy," she explained shyly, "but I am hoping for another girl. Girls are much easier to raise."

Sesshomaru's eyes glinted. For a moment, he was inclined to disagree.

They stood in silence, staring at one another for what seemed like an hour. Truthfully, it was a long time, much longer than the children were willing to put up with. They began to whine and pull at their mother, trying to get her to go back to the game they were playing.

"I guess I should go then," Rin decided, pulling her eyes away from the taiyoukai's at long last.

He nodded.

"Thank you for coming," she added, quietly. "It is always good to see my lord is doing well."

All this time, and she was still concerned with his well-being.

"Say hi to Aun and Jakken for me!" she called over her shoulder, as she led her children away. He watched her disappear again, before he turned to leave.

Another five years passed. He returned to the field.

This time, he was actively searching for Rin. He wondered if she would do the same for him, and remember this time and set it aside. Perhaps she would not. After all, she had expressed that she had wanted a life of her own. Indeed, she was working hard on that, and had gotten herself a good life, as human standards go. She had a mate. She had a brood of whelps. She had a livelihood. She had a human life.

He waited. Would she come? Why did he want her to come? Why did he want to see her again? Why could he not let her go?

Sesshomaru snarled angrily. He loathed circular questioning. It was a waste of time, and it wore on his nerves. She is not coming. He did not want her to come. He did not want to see her again. He had already let her go.

It was a lie. She would always be his, and he knew it. His instincts and his sword had claimed her life. He did not want to see her---he needed to see her.

He snorted and violently shook his head. That was not a thought he felt he was ready to come to terms with. He still hated humans. He could not need a human. Why would he? Did he actually have a sort of sentimental attachment to her? When had this happened? How did it happen without his knowing?

Turning on his heel, Sesshomaru made motions to leave. He would not stand here and question himself all day long. He was going.

And then he heard her call his name.

He stayed. They talked. She left.

Another five years passed. He came to the field. She met him there. They talked. She left. Another five years passed in kind.

The twentieth year of her departure came. He went to the field, and was surprised to see a teenaged girl waiting for him. He recognized her by scent as the girl that had been in Rin's company during his second visit. He'd never bothered remembering the names or ages of Rin's growing family, and for a moment, he wished he had. But that did not matter now. What mattered was that the girl was there, and Rin was not. Which meant something was wrong with Rin.

"Mama told me you'd be here," the girl explained nervously, bowing low before the taiyoukai. "She told me you'd be upset if she didn't come, so she sent me."

Sesshomaru's face set itself in a scowl. This was against their unspoken agreement. She was always supposed to come to him. Something was very wrong.

The girl blanched at the stern face she was getting, but did not move from her spot. Instead, she grappled onto the grass with her fists and pushed her courage up into her chest. "Mama's sick," she announced in an almost shout. She flinched at the volume of her voice, then tried again. "Mama's sick, so she won't be here. She wanted me to come tell you that. She says she'll see you next time."

No, Sesshomaru told himself in his mind, what if there is no next time?

He began to walk forward. The girl watched in awe. If she had doubted before, she was a believer now. It was easy to see why her mother had followed this man for as long as she had. He was beautiful.

And he…gods, did he know where he was going? Where exactly was he going and what were his intentions?

"Wait!" the girl cried out, and ran to catch up with Sesshomaru. "I can take you to the house!" she offered breathlessly. "That is where you're going, right?"

Sesshomaru inclined his head slightly.

Mama was also right about the silent treatment too, the girl thought bitterly.

"This way," the girl said.

Sesshomaru followed.

About fifty paces away from the hut, he stopped himself. It was never his intention to go in, but he needed…

He needed to be close to her. To see if everything was going to be okay. To let himself be comforted with knowing that as she lived she was dying, but she was not leaving him yet.

The girl stopped when she realized her strange companion was no longer following her, and she turned to see what he was doing. The man was standing still, and staring intently at the village before him. He was…sniffing? He was definitely trying to smell something. He truly was magnificent, with his fine clothes and regal stature. She had never seen anything or anyone like him, and she knew she probably never would again. Mentally, she noted to herself to ask her mother who exactly this strange, and powerful man was, and what his connection to her had been.

Sesshomaru was satisfied. Rin was going to live, for now. He turned to leave.

"Aren't you going to see her?" the girl gasped in shock upon his apparent departure.

The taiyoukai looked briefly over his shoulder, not to the girl, but to the house. Then he faced forward.

"She knows I am here," he replied coldly. "That is enough."

With jaw agape the girl watched the beautiful man in white go back to wherever he had come from. She never saw him again.

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"You are here," Rin weakly murmured. She had woken up without his knowing, probably due to the continued shallowness of her breathing.

Sesshomaru merely looked down upon the woman with a masked face.

Rin smiled warmly. She never lost her talent for her wonderful smiles. "I did not doubt you would come…this time," she stoutly declared. "I only doubted…in myself. I didn't know…if I could wait for you…if I could make it…to now."

Her breathing became short and quick, and her face contorted with anguish. She was in obvious pain, but from what he could not tell. He could only guess if it was the throes of death that was causing her discomfort, or else the heaviness of her heart. He was not sure which one would be better. Her eyes glistened, and for the first time, she let her tears fall in front of him.

"I was afraid…I would die alone."

Sesshomaru blinked and furrowed his eyebrows. He then lifted his head and gave a sniff to the air. He could only find Rin. There were scents of other ningens, but they were old and fast fading. There was no one around for leagues. How long had she been living like this?

Rin seemed to know the unspoken questions of her lord, and so she propped herself up weakly and began to explain. "My children have been married and gone, for a long time," she offered in her thin voice, "and my husband died six years ago. I miss my children, but…I know it is ill to speak of the dead, but what harm can it do if I am going to join them soon, ne?" She laughed softly at her weak joke, then continued. "My husband was…a jealous man. He knew about me going to meet you, because he followed me once. That time…that time I could not meet you, remember that time? I could not meet you because I was beaten quite severely…I could not move."

Sesshomaru snorted and his lips curled into an angry sneer. So that had been her "sickness." Why had he not smelled it? She had probably covered the scent somehow, so he wouldn't get wind of it and rip apart the village. Which he would have. They both knew it. He cursed his own blind faith in her; he should have taken those few extra moments just to see her with his own eyes. Then, he would have gutted the man from nose to nads and hurled his carcass to the ravens. He would have scooped up Rin and taken her back to his shiro, where she would live out the rest of her days under his protection once more. But would she have been happy with that?

No, she wouldn't, he knew. She had other children to tend for, and she could not abandon them, just as he would not take them in. She had asked for her own chance at life, and that meant she was willing to take the good with the bad. She had known life on her own would not be easy, and she was facing a potential catastrophe when she left his side. But it was what she wanted. How could he deny her that?

The taiyoukai gradually calmed himself. It was in the past, and could not be changed. She had not told him, and she had her reasons. She hadn't lied to him exactly; she just knew he wouldn't be ready to hear the truth right away. Of how her life without him had caused her physical pain. Of how she struggled to find happiness and met adversity throughout the entire journey. Of all the things she gained, that had to be bought with her own blood.

And how she would not change anything.

Neither could he say that he would change anything, if he had been given the power to. Rin had filled his life with memories, and glittering slivers of happiness. If things were changed, he would be endangering those shards from ever embedding themselves in his core. Some ways were just too hard to change, and some ways were best kept just as they were. She had never tried to change him.

He looked at her now, with new eyes. This woman had…loved him. He couldn't recall being loved by anyone in his life, except for her. Rin loved her Lord Sesshomaru, and it had taken him all these years to realize it. As much as he would have liked to come to this realization earlier, he knew that the timing of it did not diminish it in any sense. She loved him, and she always would love him, even after she was gone.

"Will you," Rin whispered, even as she began to fade, "take care of me…in death…just as you cared for me…in life?"

"Yes," he whispered back, "you have this Sesshomaru's word."

She smiled, and motioned for him to come closer. He obeyed. Gently, with the last of her strength, she raised her head and kissed him softly on the lips. He moved his arm underneath her head to support her. A final tear rolled down her creased cheek. He continued to kiss her until he heard her last breath blow from her soul.

Her body was cremated at sunset. Though he did not know the particulars of human funeral rites, he felt that all she truly needed for her soul to be at peace was for him to let her go.

He mourned for her for five days in the village.

On the evening of the fifth day, he sensed an intruder. The newcomer was ningen, but had a familiar tinge to their scent. He had not smelled this particular person before in his life, yet their was an element to them that was calm and familiar. Though he was slightly dirty with ash and dust, and hollow-eyed from his constant meditations over the past few days, he would let whomever it was come, and meet them.

When she appeared, he almost choked. The resemblance was uncanny. It was as if her spirit was wandering the realm of the living, in the form of the youthful girl he once knew. But it was not her, he knew. She was some relation to his Rin, which gave the girl the scent he barely recognized, and the appearance he had grown fond of.

Gods, he was pathetic. He already missed her scent, and was taking comfort in the reminder of it from the timid girl making her way through the empty village.

She startled when she found him, but she was not afraid. In fact, she seemed relieved, as if she was beginning to wonder if she was all alone in this place. She bowed low when she drew closer, instantly acknowledging his regal presence.

"Child," he thundered, "why are you here?"

The girl raised her head and looked puzzled for a moment, as if she had expected her mission to be obvious. She soon loosened her looks and addressed the nobleman before her. "I have come looking for my grandmother, the honorable Rin-sama who has lived here alone for nigh on eight years."

Eight years? Then her miserable husband must have left her before he met his death, Sesshomaru deduced. It was a small consolation.

The taiyoukai inclined his head and looked straight-on at the girl. "You will not find her here," he calmly informed her, "she died before you have come."

The girl quivered and bit her lower lip with anguish. "I see," she said, barely loud enough for anyone without youkai senses to hear.

Sesshomaru turned his head away to look upon the stars beginning to appear in the sky. "She is at peace," he added in a respectful tone. "You do not need to worry yourself about that."

He continued to gaze upward, wondering if the girl was going to linger any further or leave now that she knew her quest had been futile from the beginning. The air about them was silent for a long time, and the sky darkened overhead. When at last it seemed that all the girl could do was just stand still and not make a sound, she reacted. Falling to the dusty earth, she buried her head in her arms and wept, hard.

"What am I to do?" she wailed. "What am I to do? I have no where else to go!" Her sobs wracked her petite frame, and he could almost hear her heart shattering with every whimper she gave.

He…did not hesitate. Not this time.

"Child," he addressed sternly, "what is your name?"

The girl slowed down the intensity of her weeping by giving a few hiccups. "My name is Michi."

Pathway.

"Sesshomaru," he offered, without her prompting.

"Sesshomaru-sama," she pronounced slowly, looking up to him. She dried her tears with her sleeves and did her best to regain her composure.

He smiled gently, and chided himself for not knowing better. Rin would never leave him to be truly alone. The ones who love you never do.

Sesshomaru stood. Quietly, he dusted off the dirt and ashes of Rin's death from his clothes. He knew what to expect from her.

"Michi," he coolly beckoned, "we're going."

She stared at him in disbelief for a moment, and then she smiled. Though older, it was the same smile that Rin had given him when he first showed her his concern. Bright. Warm. Genuine.

Loving.

It would be just like old times again.

She was his. Some ways were just too hard to change.

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(A/N: Got a little misty eyed typing this. I know this doesn't seem to fit with the style of my other fan fics, but I think of all of them, this one is the one I am most proud of. Read, re-read, enjoy, and thank you.)