…………

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters from Inu-Yasha (created by Rumiko Takahashi) or Fruits Basket (created by Natsuki Takaya). I should probably be embarrassed about what I do to them, but my shame dial seems to be broken.

…………

One Great Big Important Note: Spoilers for Inu-Yasha and Fruits Basket abound (although I managed to avoid the big Akito spoiler). You have been warned.


And One Lesser Note:
This one-shot is a follow-up to another one-shot of mine, Sympathy for the Devil. It stands on its own, so you don't have to read the other – but you might want to do so anyway in order to understand Sesshomaru and Naraku's background. Besides, it'll make Black Lavender so happy…

And yes, the title came from another Rolling Stones song. Feel free to hum along if you know the melody.

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Sesshomaru had thought of the wind sorceress many times over the long years; in fact, it was fair to say that she had never truly been out of his memories. He supposed it was to be expected, considering her impact on his life. Kagura had not only intrigued him, she had challenged him, dared him to serve a higher purpose than his own selfish desires.

She was also a reminder of what he could not provide. Sesshomaru was many things to many beings, but he would not – could not – be Kagura's savior. Time had taken the sting from this knowledge, but it had never quite erased the discomfort the youkai felt when the soft breeze brushed against his back.

He didn't recall exactly when he first noticed the absence of the Wind. Kagura had continued to travel with him even after her death, touching his face and hair with gentle tendrils of air and comforting him when all seemed to be lost. He had grown used to her presence – so familiar with it, in fact, that eventually he took her company for granted. The Wind was always there, so he no longer paid attention to her.

Then one day, she was gone. Sesshomaru still felt the shifting air currents around him, but the Wind, his Wind, was not with him. It was not the first time the youkai experienced a loss, but it served to intensify his loneliness. It seemed his path was destined to remain a solitary one.

The years had passed, and the youkai had learned to accept his fate. He was lonely at times, but he usually managed to find a companion of sorts, often in the oddest of places. The fact that his relationships were generally brief and almost always one-sided did not bother him greatly, for what other options were available to a creature whose life spanned the centuries?

And so it was that he found himself standing in a crowded garden, socializing with a bunch of humans who had no clue as to his identity. They knew him as Sesshomaru Taisho, a powerful oil magnate who ruled his business empire with an iron fist, a man with wealth and success and power. With the exception of a single individual, not one of them knew who – or what – he truly was.

That individual was now speaking to him, whispering quietly so human ears could not detect the sound. "Not a bad afternoon for mixing business with pleasure, eh Sesshomaru?" the hanyou murmured. "To think you wanted to skip this event..."

"I fail to see the entertainment value in watching your sycophants sing your praises," Sesshomaru replied, turning to his companion with a bored expression. "In fact, I fail to see why my presence at this gathering is necessary at all. Why did you bring me along, Hanyou?"

"I wanted you to see this for yourself," the hanyou answered. He gave a slight nod in the direction of a small group. "The Sohma family has some…peculiarities. That's one of them over there; his name is Kyo. Notice anything strange about him, Sesshomaru?"

The youkai allowed his gaze to rest upon an orange-haired youth. It was hard to say what drew his attention first – the boy's belligerent attitude, so reminiscent of Inu-Yasha, or the way the young man was yelling at the top of his lungs at the girl clinging tightly to his back. "He seems to be having a bit of trouble," Sesshomaru remarked.

"With the girl? Oh, he's always having a problem with that one. That's Kagura, and she's a Sohma as well," the hanyou informed Sesshomaru. "Pay no attention to what they're doing – I want you to take a good look at the aura surrounding them."

Ignoring the sudden twinge he felt at hearing the girl's name, Sesshomaru studied the pair. "Something is amiss," the youkai concluded after a moment of contemplation. "The two of them are human, but the aura around them says otherwise. The girl is a Boar, and the boy is most definitely a Cat."

"It's the Sohma curse," the hanyou said in an excited whisper. "I heard the rumors and had to check it out for myself. The entire clan is under a zodiac curse, and the head of this family is a twisted little sadist who manipulates and abuses them on a regular basis."

"Which interests you greatly, no doubt," Sesshomaru said dryly, suddenly understanding the hanyou's reasons for making the Sohma family's acquaintance. The hanyou wanted power, and an influential family with a curse was a tempting acquisition.

No wonder things had been so quiet lately. His main business rival and primary source of entertainment had changed a great deal since the days when he'd gone by the name 'Naraku,' but some parts of the hanyou's personality hadn't altered a bit. The thirst for absolute power hadn't disappeared; the hanyou had merely redirected his megalomania to the business world.

Sesshomaru gave an internal sigh at the thought of having to find a way to thwart the scheming hanyou yet again, but he could not deny the shiver of anticipation that ran through his blood. This constant game of one-upmanship with the hanyou made him feel so alive, calling to his inner beast with the promise of a hunt.

"I'm going to locate our host," the hanyou was telling him. "Will you join me, or does the current scenery provide entertainment enough?"

"I believe I'll stay and watch," Sesshomaru answered, his eyes still on the scene before him. He found the arguing couple to be strangely fascinating. The two Sohmas seemed to care nothing for the attention they were attracting.

The orange-haired boy was still yelling at the girl. "Dammit, Kagura! Get away from me!"

"But Kyo, you promised! You said we could go out on a date, so we're going to go out and have fun if I have to break every bone in your body!" The girl was repeatedly smacking the boy upside the head with her fist as she yelled. "You're so insensitive to a woman's tender feelings!"

Sesshomaru wished the boy would stop screaming her name. 'Kagura' was a fairly common moniker, but the idea of that particular name being attached to someone who was so obviously Not-Kagura left the youkai feeling annoyed. Someone named Kagura should carry herself with an air of elegance, not crash about like a wild pig.

Before he had time to contemplate the situation any further, Sesshomaru found himself knocked to the ground. An instinctive snarl of rage rose in his throat, and he opened his mouth to berate the person who had barreled straight into him. After taking a second look at his attacker, however, the cutting words died in his throat.

The young lady lying on top of him was astonishingly beautiful, something even a creature as well-traveled as Sesshomaru acknowledged. Her long hair hung to her waist in dark glossy locks that seemed to flow around her curved, lithe form. Soft, sad eyes and a pert little nose rested above a sweet pair of lips, and her skin was clear and flawless. The abstract part of Sesshomaru's brain catalogued all of this, along with the fact that her aura showed her to be a Horse, but the conscious part of the youkai was preoccupied with another thought entirely.

She was groping him.

"You're…you're not a woman! But I hugged you when I ran into you and nothing is happening, but…" she was babbling, still lying on top of his fallen form. One of her hands was verifying his maleness, rubbing along his front side. Her other hand was tracing his face, prodding and pulling as if to ensure that he was, indeed, real.

Recovering from his initial shock, the regal youkai rose to his feet, depositing the young woman into an undignified heap on the ground as he did so. "Know your place, woman," Sesshomaru said imperiously. "You were not given permission to touch my body."

His pompous tone was wasted, for she acted as if he hadn't spoken. "What are you? You're not a girl," the beauty stated, as if this were a great discovery.

"Yes, you've established this fact," Sesshomaru said dryly, "in a very thorough manner, I might add." He gave her an icy glare, one he'd spent centuries perfecting.

"Isuzu! What are you doing, insulting our guest in such a manner?" a woman's scandalized voice sounded from behind them. "And Kagura! Kyo! The two of you stop that arguing this minute, or I'll have the pair of you thrown from the gardens! Do you hear me?"

The fighting ceased, and Kagura and Kyo had the grace to look ashamed. The girl named Isuzu merely twirled a lock of hair between her fingers and continued to stare at Sesshomaru. "I'm sorry," Isuzu apologized before bowing to the youkai. "Please forgive me for running into you like that."

Isuzu didn't apologize for feeling him up, Sesshomaru noted wryly before turning to the newest arrival.

Upon taking a good look at the newcomer, Sesshomaru suddenly felt as if he'd been knocked back to the ground a second time. Standing before him was a stately-looking, gray-haired woman who wore her advanced years with dignity and pride. Her figure was trim, her shoulders unbent, her face graced with the lines of a life well-spent. Unlike the others, she was undeniably human – and she was the Kagura he'd known so long ago.

The Wind, his Wind, curved her lips in a smile that Sesshomaru remembered from the past, but there was no accompanying recognition in her now-human brown eyes. "Forgive us for our poor hospitality, Sesshomaru Taisho," she said smoothly, tucking a stray lock of her smartly-styled short gray hair behind her ear as she spoke. "My namesake," she pointed to the younger Kagura, "seems to have forgotten her surroundings, and Isuzu here has completely lost all sense of decorum."

Somehow, Sesshomaru managed to find his voice. "It is of no importance," he assured her. "You know my name, yet I do not believe we have had the pleasure of an introduction?"

Kagura raised the glass of wine she was holding in mock salute. "It would be strange indeed if I didn't recognize the face of such a prominent businessman," she said archly. "I am Kagura Sohma, and I believe you have already made the acquaintance of Isuzu, Kyo, and my granddaughter, Kagura. Run along now, all of you," she ordered the three. "I think you've caused enough chaos."

Kyo and the younger Kagura departed, but Isuzu stayed put, gazing at Sesshomaru. "What are you?" she whispered again, not realizing that the youkai could hear her. "You can't be real…"

At this point, they were joined by a handsome man possessing the aura of the Dog. "Rin, Yuki has been searching for you," the man addressed Isuzu. "Find him so he'll quit bothering me, won't you?"

This day was taking on a nightmarish quality as far as names were concerned, Sesshomaru thought bitterly. First Kagura, now Rin? Ordinary names, the both of them, but when accompanied by the reincarnated presence of his Kagura, it was almost too much. And just as the younger Kagura was Not-Kagura, this Rin was most definitely Not-Rin. "I thought your name was Isuzu," he said, unable to keep from voicing his thoughts aloud. Would he find a reincarnated version of his Rin here as well?

Isuzu shrugged, somehow managing to look pretty even while scowling. "Some of them call me Rin," she explained to Sesshomaru. "It's a nickname. Yuki's with Haru, isn't he?" Isuzu asked, turning to the newcomer. "Come with me, please Shigure?"

"She's such a beautiful girl, isn't she?" Kagura asked Sesshomaru as he watched Isuzu and Shigure melt into the crowd of guests. "All of the Sohmas are pretty, but Isuzu is so lovely people can't help but stare at her."

Her light comment caused a faint blush to color Sesshomaru's cheeks. He was embarrassed to have been caught ogling the young lady. "Indeed, she is lovely," Sesshomaru admitted, "as are the other women of the Sohma family." He nodded gallantly in Kagura's direction.

"Nice save," Kagura laughed. "You flatter this old lady, but I'm well aware that my youth has long since departed. And I'm only a Sohma by marriage," she added, "so I have no claim to this family's beauty."

"Have I met your husband?" Sesshomaru asked, honing in on Kagura's last statement. He'd been introduced to so many members of the Sohma clan today that he was no longer sure who was connected to whom. To further complicate the matter, several of the Sohma cousins seemed to be intermarried.

"I wouldn't know the answer to that," Kagura said, a sad look briefly clouding her face. "My husband died many years ago. I doubt the two of you ever crossed paths."

The pain in her eyes was the pain of loss, not regret, Sesshomaru realized. "You miss him terribly," he said gently, stating the obvious. "Forgive me for causing you sorrow by mentioning the subject."

She smiled, a tender, faraway look on her face. "I do miss him, and it's sweet of you to notice," Kagura admitted. "But we had a very good life together, and I have two children and five grandchildren to comfort me in my old age. Now, enough of this sad conversation," she continued, raising her empty glass. "Why don't you help this weary grandmother find something to drink, other than this fruity garbage the Sohma family tries to pass off as refreshment?"

No matter her human form, she was most definitely his Wind. "Playing the part of a sweet old grandmother doesn't suit you," Sesshomaru admonished her. "Confess to being a sharp-tongued matriarch with biting wit, and I'll consider helping you in your quest for a decent drink."

She gave him a playful slap as she tucked her arm in his. "You've got yourself a deal," she said primly. "My husband always claimed I could flay a shark with the side of my tongue when I chose to do so. I do believe that's the reason your business rival over there," she pointed to a far-off corner where the hanyou was conversing with Akito Sohma, "offered to hire me as his receptionist. He said I'd fit right in with his corporate culture."

"You should consider accepting his offer," Sesshomaru said evenly, although he was seething at the news. He'd wondered why the hanyou was so insistent upon dragging him here, especially when it meant revealing the knowledge of the Sohma curse. The creature formerly known as Naraku was purposely trying to provoke him…

"No thanks, I can't stand him," Kagura replied. She frowned. "I really don't know why – there's just something about him that makes my skin crawl."

……

"Shigure?" Isuzu asked hesitantly as her cousin guided her through the crowd.

"Yes, Rin?"

"That…creature…Sesshomaru Taisho? What is he?"

Shigure Sohma looked at his cousin, puzzled. "What are you talking about, Rin?"

She studied him, searching for something that would tell her whether he was genuinely ignorant, or just pretending to be. With Shigure, one was never certain – Isuzu suspected the man was hiding all kinds of plots behind his careless manner. "He's very handsome," Isuzu finally answered, unwilling to share any information Shigure didn't already possess. "I just wondered if you knew more about him."

Her cousin placed a hand on her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Stay away from him," Shigure warned her. "He can't give you what you want, and if you pull him into our affairs, you'll bring Akito's wrath down on your head."

"Why can't he help?" Isuzu asked. "He's powerful, Shigure; I can feel it!"

"Sesshomaru Taisho isn't the solution to our problems, Rin. Forget you ever met him," Shigure urged.

"Whatever," Isuzu sighed. Her shoulders slumped. Privately, she reflected that Sesshomaru Taisho was the sort of creature one never forgot.

……

The night air was clear and cool, so the youkai and the hanyou opted to travel home on foot. Although neither would admit to such a weakness, the modern methods of transportation made the both of them claustrophobic. "So tell me," the hanyou smirked as he unlatched the gate leading into his own garden, "was the evening a productive one? I saw you speaking to that sweet little old grandmother, what was her –"

The rest of the hanyou's sentence was interrupted. The youkai's current human disguise masked a very sharp set of claws, and these talons had descended upon the hanyou's neck as he spoke. With a clean strike, the hanyou's head was severed from his body.

"Really, Sesshomaru – was that necessary?" the hanyou complained as his head rolled down the garden path.

"Just a small matter I neglected to take care of a few centuries ago," Sesshomaru replied calmly. He shook the gore from his claws and took a deep breath, feeling relaxed. Bloodshed was always therapeutic.

……

"Do you ever wonder," Isuzu asked her cousin Kagura as the two of them were preparing to retire for the night, "what it would be like to hug a member of the opposite sex without transforming into your zodiac form?"

"All the time," Kagura said, her voice muffled as she pulled her shirt over her head. "Who doesn't? C'mon, look at us! We're hopeless!" She peeked out at Isuzu from beneath her shirt, giving a wary look. "You're not up to something, are you?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Isuzu said, feigning innocence.

"Fine, don't tell me," her cousin snorted. "But watch your step. I'd hate to see Akito put you in the hospital again."

"I don't care if Akito comes after me," Isuzu reminded her sullenly.

……

"You realize," the hanyou pointed out, "that none of my incarnations survived that last battle, Sesshomaru. Kagura simply would have died later, rather than sooner. And it's not like she was happy being alive. You should be thanking me for allowing you to meet her reincarnation."

"If Kagura was unhappy, it was because you were threatening to crush her heart at every turn," Sesshomaru said. "Also, I'd have appreciated the introduction a lot more if it had been made a little closer to the beginning of her current life." He poured a large glass of brandy from the decanter sitting on the shelf of the hanyou's study. "Drink?" he asked the hanyou.

"How generous of you to offer me brandy from my own bottle," the hanyou said sarcastically, rubbing his freshly-reattached throat, "but I'm afraid I'll have to decline. My windpipes are a little sore at the moment. Your poison's a bit diluted these days – is the mighty Sesshomaru losing his touch?"

"No, I merely controlled the amount of the acid in order to keep you healthy," Sesshomaru informed him loftily. "We have a game to play, Hanyou. Had you forgotten?" The youkai gestured to the shoji board sitting on a side table.

The hanyou sat down and began to lay out the pieces. "Truthfully, Sesshomaru, I figured you wouldn't want to play after such an eventful evening. I should have realized – the next world war could break out, and you'd still want to match wits over shoji. Tell me, what is your obsession with this game?"

"It's not the shoji, it's the circumstances," Sesshomaru admitted, a slight line creasing his brow as he contemplated his opening strategy. "You and I play this game and pretend the world hasn't passed us by, Hanyou. Are we any different than the two old men at the corner market?"

"I don't suppose we are," the hanyou agreed. He made his first move, an obvious trap that Sesshomaru was sure to catch. After a few minutes of silence, he spoke. "I couldn't help but notice that the Sohma girl was most interested in you. She seemed to enjoy your mutual collision."

"She copped a feel and wasn't the least bit apologetic about it," Sesshomaru said, countering the hanyou's move. "Young women these days are quite forward. Had it not occurred in such a public location, I might have reciprocated the attention."

The hanyou began to work his pieces into an elaborate snare. He often beat the youkai at this game, simply because he had such a love for deep strategy. Sesshomaru tended to be more direct, choosing moves that promised a quick death if one wasn't paying attention.

"Tempting as that lovely piece of flesh is – and Isuzu Sohma is very tempting – I'd stay far away from any entanglements with the Sohma clan," the hanyou advised. "Akito operates at a level that reminds me of the Marquis de Sade."

"Hn, no wonder you like the little despot so much," the youkai grunted as he concentrated on his next move. "Petty tyrants such as Akito fail to strike terror in my heart, Hanyou. The head of the Sohma clan has no power to hurt me."

"Oh, you won't be the one Akito hurts," the hanyou said.

……

Several weeks had passed, and Sesshomaru had decided the time was right to make some discreet inquiries. His first move had been to contact Kagura, telling himself that she was the most logical choice. Who better to tell him of the inner workings of the Sohma clan? He refused to admit – out loud, at any rate – that he might have other reasons for wanting to see her. Kagura had her own life now, a happy life. She had moved on, and the Wind was no longer his own.

"Nice trysting place," Kagura drawled from her spot near the front window of Sesshomaru's home. She was looking out at the thick forest. "So secluded – it's like we're the only two beings on the planet. Do you bring your lovers here, or is this where you stash the bodies of your business rivals?"

"Who says they are not one and the same? Actually, it's far from a lover's nest," Sesshomaru said as he joined her at the window. "This place offers what many other locations do not – absolute privacy. May I offer you a drink?"

"A private location and alcohol? You must want information about the Sohma curse," Kagura guessed. She seated herself in a nearby chair and began to rummage through her large handbag. "I'll take that drink, but put it on the rocks," she announced as she pulled out an ornate fan. "It's hot as the blazes outside."

It took great effort on Sesshomaru's part to keep his hand from shaking as he gave her the drink. He had often wondered if he were capable of feeling sentiment, for that emotion seemed to rest exclusively within the human domain. As he looked at the queenly figure sitting in his chair, brown eyes snapping with amusement as she fanned herself, the youkai discovered that he did, indeed, possess this odd feeling. No matter the odd circumstances, it felt so right to have the Wind back in his life.

"See something that interests you?" Kagura asked, noticing the way his gaze was resting upon her.

"As a matter of fact, I do," Sesshomaru said as he seated himself across from her. "Tell me how a woman of your intellect has managed to get tangled up with the Sohma clan. The current head of the family is reputedly cruel, but I've heard other rumors that tell me this situation is nothing new."

"Oh no, it's been going on for as long as I can remember," Kagura agreed. "The Sohmas have always been ruled with an iron fist. I suppose it can be argued that it's necessary, given the need to hide the curse from the world." She leaned forward and touched Sesshomaru's knee. "First tell me something – why does a youkai care what happens to a bunch of humans?"

"You see my true form?" Sesshomaru asked. He wasn't too surprised, but she'd given no prior indication of such knowledge. "You share this information freely, considering the ability to spot a youkai could constitute a health hazard."

"A health hazard for whom, the human or the youkai?" Kagura smirked. "Do what you will, Sesshomaru Taisho. At my age, I'd welcome death. It would mean I could finally get some rest."

She leaned back in her chair and toyed with the tassels on her fan. "I was very young – maybe three years old? – when I first noticed that the woman running the nearby flower cart wasn't human. I discovered that when I looked at her in a certain way, I could see her kitsune features. Thankfully, I had enough sense of self-preservation to keep this observation to myself."

"And how many youkai have you spotted since that time?" Sesshomaru asked, curious. He had seen so few magical creatures in the last century – most had died or gone underground. One of the reasons he had sought the hanyou's company was to avoid feeling as if he were the last one standing.

"I've seen just a handful since that time. That is, until the other night at the garden reception," Kagura added. "I find it interesting enough that two business rivals keep such close company, but when you add in the fact that one of you is a youkai and the other is a hanyou, well, it becomes too intriguing to resist."

"Stay clear of the hanyou," Sesshomaru cautioned. "He loves to manipulate."

"And you?" Kagura prompted.

"I love to stop him at every turn."

"Ah, an eternal shoji match," Kagura cooed. "How delightfully entertaining – may I watch, or is this an invitation-only contest?"

His Wind was brimming with mischief, and Sesshomaru couldn't help but feel elated. "Just take care that you don't become one of the pieces," he said.

"Oh, I'm not entirely defenseless," Kagura said with a short laugh. "I'm the daughter of a shrine family, Sesshomaru. Kindly note the ofuda I placed on your chair before you sat down."

Sesshomaru shifted, hearing a crinkle of paper. "This thing?" he sneered as he plucked it from the cushion. "You haven't much spiritual power if this is the best you can do, Kagura."

"Really?" Her face split into a wicked grin as she snapped her fan closed. "Try moving your body now, Sesshomaru."

The moment her fan was shut, Sesshomaru felt his entire body go numb. Try as he might, he couldn't move. Cursing, he realized that the spell on the ofuda used delayed-activation, and he had stupidly walked into her trap. "That's good," he gasped, shaking the ofuda from his fingers as soon as Kagura reopened her fan.

"One does not dance with danger without first learning some form of self-defense," Kagura said lightly, tapping her fan against her lacquered nails. "So now that we've gone through the preliminaries, can we get to the matter at hand? Why does a youkai care about the Sohma curse?"

"The youkai cares because the hanyou cares," Sesshomaru answered reluctantly. "The hanyou has taken more than a passing interest in Akito Sohma. I don't necessarily find this to be a bad thing, just something I might need to keep under a close watch."

Kagura remained silent, appearing to be lost in thought. Sesshomaru waited patiently, knowing she was deciding how much information to give him. Like his Wind of old, this Kagura wouldn't give anything away without getting something in return for her efforts.

Finally, she spoke. "I suppose the Sohma curse isn't the worst thing in the world, but it certainly can make life difficult," Kagura said. "It simply means this – those who live under this curse become creatures of the zodiac when hugged by a member of the opposite sex. There are exceptions to this rule, however. A hug received from someone who also bears the curse will have no effect."

"That would explain the amount of intermarriage within the Sohma family," Sesshomaru said thoughtfully.

"Yes, and it also explains my granddaughter Kagura's otherwise inexplicable attraction for Kyo," Kagura sighed. "How I wish I could dissuade her. I've already lost one of my loved ones to the Cat; I'd hate to lose another. My husband," she clarified when Sesshomaru raised a questioning brow. "The last Cat killed him in a fit of insanity. Even the kindest of the Sohmas can be unstable when in zodiac form, and the Cat's true form is something terrible to behold."

Sesshomaru felt a tug of pain somewhere in the vicinity of his heart. Her sorrow over her dead husband was such a solid, real thing. Had he ever loved anyone this much? "I'm surprised you continued to stay with the family," the youkai commented.

"Don't you get it?" Kagura said, bitterness evident in her tone. "Once you're in the Sohma family, you don't leave unless they give you permission. And even if they do agree, you'll get your memories erased. Thanks, but no thanks. Not all of my memories are happy, but I treasure them regardless."

……

Enough time had passed since the evening of the garden party that Isuzu finally deemed it safe to make inquiries regarding Sesshomaru Taisho. She had to be careful; if word of her interest reached Akito's ears, there would be severe repercussions. Isuzu didn't mind the thought of Akito coming after her so much as she hated the thought of having someone else she cared about get hurt.

Her cousin Kagura was relatively safe from Akito's wrath, simply because Kagura's grandmother wouldn't put up with any obvious abuse. This was one of the reasons Isuzu continued to stay with Kagura's family, even after Akito had threatened their well-being. But Grandmother Kagura could only do so much…

No point in worrying about it any more than she already did, Isuzu decided. She'd sent a cryptic message to Sesshomaru Taisho via a business letter under a false name. She knew he'd trace it to her; he was too well-informed not to do so. The question was whether or not he'd actually be interested enough to respond. He'd be curious, but she doubted mere curiosity was sufficient to attract his attention.

There existed the possibility that her body alone interested Sesshomaru Taisho. Isuzu wasn't vain, but she knew she possessed a rare beauty. The male population had been showing interest in her body for years, and Sesshomaru Taisho was definitely male. He had a youthful face, but his eyes spoke of years of experience. Her body hummed at the thought of being in the arms of such a mature, worldly lover. He'd make the encounter worth it; she was certain.

Her cousin sat down next to her on the front step, interrupting her lustful thoughts. "Haru asked about you today. Why do you keep avoiding him?" Kagura wanted to know. "He's really worried about you; won't you at least talk to him?"

"I dumped him, Kagura; get that through your head," Isuzu snarled, mentally damning Haru Sohma to hell. The guy just didn't know when to quit – it was over between them, couldn't he see that? "Tell the Cow to mind his own business."

Kagura looked hurt. "You don't have to be so mean about, Isuzu. Is it such a crime that people care?"

"We're Sohmas," Isuzu muttered, folding her arms across her knees and burying her head. "We don't get to love anybody. Go away, Kagura; I don't feel like talking right now."

Her cousin left, kicking dirt up as she stomped off. Isuzu tried to tell herself it didn't matter, that it was better if everyone hated her. Especially Haru. If he hated her, maybe Akito would leave him alone.

……

Sesshomaru melted the letter in his hand with a flick of his poison-tipped claws. He knew who had sent it; Isuzu's scent still covered the envelope. The faint traces of her perfume hung in the air, stirring something primitive and hungry within him.

He tried to force the thought of her from his mind. It was bad enough that her hauntingly lovely features had started to plague his dreams at night, but he was damned if he was going to spend the daytime lusting after her as well. He was a centuries-old youkai, he reminded himself sternly, not some untried youth sniffing after the first female who paid him any attention.

Maybe that was the problem, a lack of attention. He hadn't had a steady sexual partner in ages, deeming himself too busy for romantic misadventures. One-night stands were far better; they satisfied an urge and left no room for arguments or misunderstandings. Besides, the lack of available youkai meant that any regular relationship would have to be with a human, and humans – he paused, swallowing back the memories – humans grew old and died, leaving you more alone than ever.

……

He met with Isuzu anyway, in spite of his misgivings. It wasn't a wild, passionate affair – their meetings ran more along the lines of innocent walks across the grounds of his private estate. Sesshomaru took great care not to be seen in public with her, knowing Akito would not hesitate to attack the young woman.

"What are you?" she asked him one day. They were sitting on a fallen log at the edge of a huge pasture, Isuzu catching her breath after galloping across the fields. She was an anomaly among the Sohmas, for she possessed the ability to change between her zodiac Horse and her human form at will. The wide open spaces of Sesshomaru's estate called to her zodiac nature, and she often ran freely about the grounds. "If you were a normal man," she continued, "I would change form when I hug you."

Sesshomaru had been expecting this question for some time, but he was still uncertain as to whether he should tell her the truth. The possibility existed that Isuzu was being used by Akito to gather information about him. He followed this train of thought for a few minutes before coming to another conclusion – the hanyou had probably already shared this information with Akito, so there was no point in hiding it from Isuzu.

"I am youkai," he said to Isuzu. "I am a creature of magic; your curse is not affected by my touch."

"That explains it," she nodded. "I figured it had to be something like that. Are there others like you?"

"Very few," Sesshomaru told her. He tilted his head back, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his face. He'd missed the outdoors, having spent too many days cooped up inside of his office during the past months.

"What do you look like? Will you show me?" Isuzu begged.

Experienced as he was, Sesshomaru found he was not immune to the desire to show off. He allowed his human disguise to drop, bringing forth his demonic features. Black hair faded to silver, brown eyes turned to molten gold. Maroon stripes graced his cheekbones, and the crescent moon appeared on his forehead. Eyeteeth lengthened to fangs, giving him a feral, dangerous appearance.

"You're beautiful," Isuzu gasped. She ran the tip of her finger along his cheek, tracing the stripes. Sesshomaru closed his eyes in pleasure, permitting her to continue her delicate exploration of his features. The girl set his senses afire, her sweet scent and luscious curves calling to his baser instincts.

"Mind the claws," he told her when she began to inspect his hands. It was too late; one of the sharp talons had already nicked the pad of her thumb. A crimson droplet bubbled to the top, and he flicked his tongue out to catch it.

"This is not your true form, is it?" Isuzu whispered. She was staring in fascination at his eyes, which Sesshomaru knew must be tinged with red. Her close proximity combined with her freshly-spilled blood was affecting his inner beast, and he felt his jaw beginning to lengthen.

With a loud roar, Sesshomaru allowed his beast to surface. He felt his limbs shifting, his shape changing into that of a giant dog. Growling, he towered over the young woman, baring his huge fangs in her direction.

Whether it was from panic or sheer astonishment, Isuzu changed form. The Horse met the stare of the mighty canine head on, her soft, liquid eyes locking with his own ruby orbs. Slowly, she put a foreleg in front of her and touched her head to it, bowing before the beast.

Her submissive posture calmed him immediately, and Sesshomaru felt his form changing back to its more familiar shape. When his heart no longer pounded so heavily within his ribcage, he placed a clawed hand upon the mane of the Horse. "You have no need to bow before me," he spoke in her ear, watching as it twitched in response.

She remained in her zodiac form for the rest of the afternoon. Sesshomaru stayed out there in the pasture with her, content to lie in the grass and watch her wander about the place. He would have enjoyed himself thoroughly had it not been for the nagging doubt inside of him, reminding him that this sort of peace could not possibly last. Isuzu wanted something from him, and it would not be long before she made her request.

……

"She worries me, that one," Kagura sighed, fanning herself slowly. The room was stifling; her daughter hated to have the windows open. It didn't help that the stove was covered with several cooking pots, all bubbling away merrily.

"Isuzu worries us as well, Mother," her daughter replied as she absentmindedly stirred her boiling soup stock. "She's getting so thin – Young Kagura told me she refuses to eat in front of anyone these days. Such anger," she shook her head. "Mother, do you think it's safe for Isuzu to keep living with my brother? What if Akito –"

"Akito won't lay a hand on your brother, nor will any harm come to my granddaughter," Kagura stated firmly, her lips set in a thin line. "I just wish I could make the same guarantee for Isuzu."

"She needs a strong protector," sighed her daughter. She set down her spoon and pulled up a chair across from Kagura. "It would be wonderful if Isuzu had someone who would defend her to the death. Maybe a tall, handsome, romantic stranger?"

"Oh, she needs a hero, all right," Kagura snorted, amused by her daughter's daydreaming. The woman was a married mother of toddlers, for heaven's sake. "But she needs to search a little closer to home. The Cow is obviously in love with her; I don't know why she pushed him away."

"Perhaps she's frightened, Mother." Her daughter stopped speaking and sniffed the air. "Oh, no!" she wailed, jumping up to the stove. "My soup stock!"

"Don't look to me for help," Kagura protested, waving her fan in order to clear the smoke wafting through the air. "I never could cook. Your father, bless his soul, always said my talents lay in other departments."

……

They were in his study, poring over old manuscripts. Isuzu was fascinated with the workings of magic, constantly searching for a way to break the Sohma curse. Sesshomaru was fascinated with Isuzu, therefore he allowed her to paw through his rare documents.

"Here's something about a spell to ward off water kappa infestations," Isuzu announced, pulling out a tattered scroll. "It's so hard to read this old style of writing! What do you think, Sesshomaru?"

"I think I should have paid more attention to my library," Sesshomaru answered, setting aside the sheaf of papers in his hand. He detested bringing work home from the office. "I had no idea I was collecting articles on pest control."

"You collect other things as well," Isuzu reminded him. She rapped her knuckles against a glass case. "That's a neat-looking fan in there. Don't let Grandmother Kagura know about it; she'll try to con you out of it. She's obsessed with fans; you should see her collection!"

The girl had no idea how right she was, Sesshomaru thought with amusement. The fan had once belonged to his Wind; she would most certainly want to have it back. It was almost a shame she'd never be able to hold it again – youkai weapons were not meant to be touched by humans.

Isuzu had ceased talking, settling instead for climbing onto his lap. "You're so pretty," she murmured, pressing her warm mouth against Sesshomaru's exposed neck as she unfastened the buttons of his shirt. She placed a series of light kisses along his jaw and traced his collarbone with feathery touches.

Sesshomaru was no stranger to the touch of a female, nor was he ignorant of the art of seduction. He was also experienced enough to recognize that something other than ordinary lust was driving this particular encounter. She wanted something from him – he had known this from the start – and now it seemed she was about to try using sex as a means to get it.

The rational part of him argued that he should put an end to her game right now. Isuzu's beauty set his blood aflame, but she was outrageously young and, if the rumors were true, still in love with someone else. The wisest course of action would be to remove her hands from his body and send her packing. He didn't need her or her Sohma-family entanglements.

Deft fingers sent her blouse to join his shirt on the floor, and all rational thoughts left Sesshomaru's mind. The weight of his centuries lay heavy on his shoulders, and he was tired of making wise decisions. He'd take what Isuzu had to offer, Sesshomaru told himself as he reached a hand up to cup her soft curves, and to hell with the consequences.

He stood up and scooped her into his embrace, intent on moving this activity to the bedroom, when his eyes spotted the glass case containing Kagura's fan. Resting so silently on a bed of velvet, the dark weapon shimmered with something Sesshomaru could not define. There was a hint of promise in there, and more than a little accusation. Sanity returned to him with a rush, and he placed Isuzu back on her feet. "You'd better leave," he said thickly, handing over her blouse as he removed her arms from around his neck. "I don't believe that this is what either of us truly wants."

"But I need you!" Isuzu cried.

"You need me for something other than a bedmate," Sesshomaru ground out.

She didn't bother to deny it. "Okay, so maybe I do! I want your help - you're the only one who's strong enough to take on Akito! Whatever it is you want in return, I'll get it for you!"

"Don't make a promise you cannot possibly fulfill," Sesshomaru said harshly, struggling to get his breathing back under control. The sight of her bare skin was driving him crazy. "You haven't the power to give me what I want."

She was sobbing openly now, mopping at the tears with her neglected blouse. "I can't take this any longer," she wept. "Everything I love, Akito takes away!"

"Then fight," the youkai told her. He removed her crumpled blouse from her fingers and began to dress her. "This scar," he traced the line on her shoulder, "did Akito give this to you?"

"Yes," Isuzu whimpered, flinching away from him. "Don't you see? This is why I need you to free me! Release me!" she begged.

It was a grand cosmic joke, the way her words echoed those of a wind sorceress from centuries past. Sesshomaru had done many things in his life that could be considered bad, but he didn't think any of his actions were evil enough to deserve this sort of karma. Once again, a woman was asking him to save her, and once again, he would not – could not – help.

"If I destroy Akito, what then?" he demanded fiercely. "Who will save you from me? Will you not be exchanging one tyrant for another who is even more powerful?"

She didn't understand, just as his Wind had not understood him, either. This time, though, he was determined to make the woman before him see the problem. "I am not a kind, harmless soul, Isuzu," Sesshomaru said, gripping her shoulder tightly. "I am a youkai. This scar that Akito gave to you, those beatings? I can make them seem like child's play. I can make you beg for death, just to end your misery. Don't ask me to save you, when I can bring something so much worse into your life."

Isuzu had stopped crying by now, and was hiccupping quietly. "Then what can I do?" she asked with a sniffle. "I can't give up; I can't!"

It was both heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time to see her determination to continue the battle. Sesshomaru released her shoulder and wound a silky lock of hair around his hand. "Beautiful Isuzu," he murmured, "let me tell you of a lesson I learned a long time ago: It is a magnificent thing to have power, to know that all must bow before you – but that power is insignificant when compared to the combined might of the weak."

"But – "

"I have seen one of the most powerful, dangerous creatures in existence brought down by a handful of lesser beings," Sesshomaru said, recalling the war against Naraku. "Time and time again, this has been the case. The united power of the weak would be great enough to win the battle, and in the end, it would be for the best. Look to your allies for salvation, Isuzu, not a self-serving youkai."

"I have no allies," Isuzu said with a soft cry, but Sesshomaru could tell she was finally listening. "No one will help me break the curse, and no one will stand up to Akito. They're all too scared."

"You might be surprised at the courage of those who surround you," Sesshomaru said. Unwilling to deny himself the treat, he gently kissed her pretty mouth. She tasted as good as she looked, and it was with great reluctance that he directed her toward the door. "You have more friends that you think, Isuzu Sohma; you just need to allow them to help you. Now leave, before my good intentions fly out the window. A woman as lovely as you is more temptation than any male should have to bear."

……

"She was too young for you, anyway," Kagura scoffed after the youkai had relayed the latest turn of events. The two of them were playing cards, and she was beating him soundly. Sesshomaru strongly suspected she was cheating.

"Considering how old I am, every woman is too young for me," Sesshomaru reminded her as he tossed his cards down. "Enough of this, my ego can't take the losses. Where did you learn to play cards, anyway – Monte Carlo or Vegas?"

"I am a woman of many talents," Kagura said as she returned the deck to its container. "After all, I had to find some outlet for my mischief. The legal system frowns upon petty shoplifting, and Mother Nature has seen to it that I currently have no lovers to occupy my time."

"Oh, so getting old means no more sexual adventures?" Sesshomaru asked, amused. "No wonder I'm having so much bad luck in that department. I suppose I should give up the notion entirely."

"Whether or not old age means an end to the bedroom antics is for me to know and you to find out," Kagura said archly. "I'll carry no tales to your ears, Sesshomaru. A proper lady doesn't speak of such matters."

He'd succeeded in making her blush, Sesshomaru noticed. Leaning back in his chair, he studied the woman before him. "Kagura," he asked gently, allowing the warmth to creep into his tone, "tell me – are you happy?"

Her face lost its jaded expression. Sesshomaru knew he had startled her, but he was genuinely interested in her answer. He wondered if she'd answer the question with honesty.

"What a strange question," Kagura said at last, swallowing. "Am I happy? I suppose I am…"

"You are bound to a family that is ruled by a tyrant," Sesshomaru pointed out. "The Sohmas will never let you leave. I'm surprised that you're not the one begging for freedom."

"Oh, but I don't need freedom," Kagura told him. When he snorted in derision, she hastened to explain. "We all have chains, Sesshomaru. As long as we care about something – anything! – we aren't free. Every action we take has a consequence, and some of them are quite painful."

She took a sip of her drink before continuing. "But I chose my chains, and isn't that the very act of freedom? I'm the one who decided to marry into that family, even knowing there was something amiss. I chose to take the chance on loving a Sohma, and to have his children even when I knew there was a risk that one of my children or grandchildren would bear the family curse."

He blinked, amazed at her outlook. So freedom was relative, but it meant having a choice. Granted, her choices in this incarnation were more attractive than the ones she'd been given as Naraku's offspring. Liberty or death was her previous option; this time it was liberty or her memories. Given the same choice, he wondered if he would hold his memories as dearly as she did.

Bored with his silence, Kagura had taken to inspecting his study. She was currently looking at the display case containing her fan. She had lifted the glass panel and was now reaching her hand inside.

He should have locked the case. Sesshomaru raced to Kagura's side, not wanting to see her mortally wounded from his carelessness. "Don't touch that," Sesshomaru ordered sharply, snatching her hand away from the case. "That's a youkai weapon; human hands cannot touch it without injury."

She stopped reaching for the fan, but didn't bother to remove her hand from his grasp. "The amount of jaki coming from this thing is incredible," Kagura breathed. "This fan – why do I feel such a connection to it, Sesshomaru?"

"You're imagining things," Sesshomaru lied, not wanting to tell her the truth. "That fan belonged to a powerful wind youkai." Silently, he begged her not to question him further.

Kagura took a step closer to him, covering the hand that held hers with her other soft palm. "No, I believe that fan was mine, Sesshomaru, and I'll appreciate you not denying it. I may not remember that lifetime, but I never forget a fan." She looked back at the display case. "If that's my weapon, then I was that youkai. I guess I should be shocked or something, but somehow…it all just seems to make sense."

She was silent for a moment, obviously waiting for him to say something. When he didn't, she cleared her throat. "So…are you going to tell me what happened?" Kagura prompted.

He didn't want to talk about it, but he knew she wouldn't let the matter drop. "You were destroyed," Sesshomaru said, unable to look her in the eyes. He couldn't permit her to see the defeat reflected within the pools of gold. "I – I was unable to save you."

"Oh." He felt her hand clench. "You…were there with me?"

The youkai nodded.

"That is a comforting thing to hear, Sesshomaru. I'm glad I didn't die alone." As she spoke, she traced the stripes on his wrist with her long fingernail. "I have to assume that my soul was reincarnated as a human, for I'm certainly not a wind youkai now, am I?"

"That would appear to be so," Sesshomaru said. Kagura's touch was slowly soothing the ache inside of him. Whether it stemmed from their past association or from his absolute trust in her, he couldn't say.

"You know," she sighed, giving his hand a final pat before releasing it, "all of my life, I've felt this desire to do good things. Well, maybe not good things," she amended, "but…things that made a difference. It was like I had some great and terrible misdeed for which I needed to atone. Instead of setting out to change the world, though, I married and raised a family. I haven't done anything to make a difference. Now that I have a better idea of what I used to be," she looked askance at the fan, "I find it to be somewhat depressing."

"Did you not tell me that your family brought you joy in your old age?" Sesshomaru asked, wanting to offer some measure of comfort. "Raising a family is a worthy endeavor, Kagura. Perhaps you have made a difference to the world, but are still too close to see it clearly. One of your descendents could go on to do great things."

"You almost sound like a parent, talking like that," Kagura gave a short laugh. "Have you any children of your own, Sesshomaru?"

There was a time, Sesshomaru realized, when he would have denied the question. "Yes," he admitted. "Her name was Rin." He turned to stare out the window so Kagura wouldn't see the moisture that had inexplicably formed at the back of his eyes. He was youkai; he did not weep.

"Oh," Kagura blinked. "No wonder you never called Isuzu by her nickname. What happened to your Rin?"

His gut twitched, a raw, painful part of him rebelling at the mention of her name. He'd managed to not think about her for so many years…"She was human," Sesshomaru answered, his voice clipped with remembered regret. "Humans do not have the privilege of long lives. They grow old quickly, and then they leave you."

Her arms wrapped around him from behind, and he felt her cheek press against his back. "Just as I left you," Kagura said wistfully. "I'm sorry, Sesshomaru."

"And soon enough, you will leave me again," Sesshomaru said, his head bowed. "I cannot stop the passage of time, Kagura. You will die, and once again there will be nothing I can do to prevent it."

"Maybe," her voice was muffled against his back. "But I found you once – I will find you again. Would that please you, Sesshomaru?"

Her words, so lovingly spoken, released the dam of feeling within him. Strange, that it had taken him so many centuries to realize that he was capable of caring at all, let alone caring so very much. No matter the time or place, she was still his Wind.

Turning back to her, he embraced her. "That would please me greatly, Kagura," he said, resting his head atop of her own. "Just as it pleases me to have you with me here and now."

……

The youkai still found the lovely young lady in his thoughts from time to time, but he discovered his feelings now ran to the avuncular. He couldn't help but wonder how Isuzu was faring, and he hoped she wasn't suffering unduly at Akito's hands. It was for her own good that he had refused to rescue her, but this knowledge didn't make him feel any better about the entire affair.

He considered the option of denial. He'd done this before, this tucking away of painful memories, and he was quite good at pretending things didn't happen. He discarded this notion quickly, knowing Kagura would never allow it. His Wind took an unholy delight in making him accept his emotions, declaring his stoicism to be unhealthy.

Still, his thoughts touched upon Isuzu's welfare, so it delighted him to no end to hear her voice one beautiful spring day. Being who he was, of course, he hid his joy. He settled instead for relaxing his facial muscles into something less than habitual boredom.

"Um, hello." Her beautiful face peeked inside his office doorway.

Sesshomaru raised a brow. "I don't believe you have an appointment, Miss Sohma. Would you care to tell me how you got past my secretary?"

"That toady little man? Haru threatened to castrate him with a hot spoon if he didn't let us through," Isuzu answered casually, draping her slender curves across his doorframe. "I hope we're not bothering you too much. I just wanted to stop by your office and thank you personally."

"You owe me nothing, including your gratitude." Sesshomaru rose from his chair. He could hear a young man telling his private secretary just what he could do with his stapler. "I presume the angry creature currently harassing my secretary is none other than Haru?"

"Er, yes. I've moved in with him." Isuzu squared her shoulders, her jaw noticeably tightening. "We're going to live our lives as we please, regardless of how Akito feels about it."

"You'll fight together, then," Sesshomaru said with satisfaction. "Good girl. I'm sure Grandmother Kagura will be pleased to hear it." He reached a finger out to remove a piece of her now-shortened hair from her eyes. "Has it been difficult?" he asked quietly.

Her face tightened. "You have absolutely no idea just how hard it's been," she answered, fatigue suddenly evident in the slump of her posture. "Akito…" Isuzu shook her head. "No, I'm not going to tell you about it. Just know that it was bad. But as awful as it was, I have Haru back in my life because of it. That's enough to make it worth it."

She drew herself from off the doorframe. "Goodbye, Sesshomaru Taisho. Even though I know you don't want my gratitude, I'm still thanking you." Standing on tiptoe, she brought her lips to his in a soft kiss.

"Tell me something," Isuzu said after their lips parted, "could there ever have been something between us? Maybe if I was a little older?"

The youkai graced her with a rare smile. "As much as I might have wished otherwise, Isuzu, the answer is 'no'. Any relationship between the two of us would have been hollow, for I am not him," he nodded his head in the direction of the hallway, where Haru could still be heard yelling.

"And I am not her," Isuzu finished for him, acknowledging the picture of Kagura sitting on his desk. "I'm not going to pretend to understand this right now, but I hope the two of you are happy. Farewell, Lord of the Dogs."

And after another brief press of her lips, she was gone.

……

"Your move, Hanyou."

The hanyou studied the shoji board in disbelief. "Either you're trying a new gambit, Sesshomaru, or your mind just isn't on the game. Do you find my company that boring?"

The youkai shook his head in an effort to clear his thoughts. "Pardon my rude manner, Hanyou. My thoughts are in the past."

"The recent past, judging by that lipstick smudge on your face. No, over toward the corner, by your lower lip," the hanyou corrected as Sesshomaru made an attempt to wipe away the tell-tale mark.

"Is it gone?" Sesshomaru asked, wishing there was a mirror in the house. The hanyou refused to own one, a leftover grudge from the days of Kanna, no doubt.

"Yeah, you got it," the hanyou said, the glint in his eye telling Sesshomaru that he was lying. "You old dog," the hanyou continued with a smirk, "no wonder you've been acting so tired lately."

"Is that Akito Sohma's phone number I see on your speed dial?" Sesshomaru asked, knowing the question would shut the hanyou's mouth.

The comment had the desired effect, and the hanyou returned his attention to the game. "Sesshomaru," he asked after a few minutes of play, "what do you suppose will become of the two of us? We're going to die at some point, aren't we?"

Sesshomaru gave the matter some thought. "I'm sure we will," he eventually answered. "We age slowly, but we do age. I feel immeasurably older than I did five hundred years ago."

"As do I," the hanyou agreed. He moved his piece into another snare. "Do you suppose we'll be reincarnated as humans, like Kagura?"

"Maybe that's the true object of all of this," Sesshomaru said slowly. "Reincarnation is supposed to involve some sort of progression, is it not? Perhaps becoming human is the next step."

The hanyou gaped at him in shock. "Human? You're telling me that becoming human is some form of cosmic ascension?" He glared suspiciously at Sesshomaru. "How much have you had to drink this evening?"

"If the idea is so impossible, Hanyou, then answer me this: where are all of the youkai? We see fewer of them as the years go by, and I've not heard of a youkai birth in over two centuries. The human population, however, increases by the hour."

"I – no, that's just ridiculous," the hanyou spluttered. "Listen, Sesshomaru – you deal with humans all of the time, but I know them. My heart is human, and let me tell you, humanity is not a higher step. Human hearts lie, they cheat, they commit all kinds of foul deeds! I have immense power in this world because it is run by humans! They–"

"They feel," Sesshomaru interrupted, "which is something I am struggling to learn, while they are born knowing how to do it." Seeing the distress on the hanyou's face, the youkai decided not to continue. "Never mind my ramblings, Hanyou. I must be tired, if I am discussing metaphysics at this late hour. Let us continue this game at another time; I'm calling it a night."

The hanyou sullenly escorted him to the door. "Your precious human hearts led the world into the atomic age, Sesshomaru," was the hanyou's parting shot. "And don't forget - human hearts put Hitler into power."

"Human hearts also stopped his troops at the beaches of Normandy," Sesshomaru countered, only to have the door slammed in his face.

His rival was understandably upset, Sesshomaru reasoned. After all, the hanyou had spent a good chunk of his life trying to rid himself of his human heart, only to meet with repeated failure. Still, the creature once known as Naraku would have to accept it eventually – human hearts would save all of them in the end.

What a strange realization…he had not been able to save his Kagura, or even his Rin for that matter, yet both of their hearts had most certainly saved his own. His footsteps lighter, Sesshomaru made his way toward his house. A soft wind was blowing at his back, but another Wind, his Wind, would be waiting at home to greet him. And in this lifetime, she had a heart.

- End -

Final A/N: No beta job on this one, so all mistakes are mine. I can't take credit for the Sess/Rin pairing, either – the blame for that rests squarely on the shoulders of Resmiranda.