A/N – Thank you to all who have supported and reviewed this story.

Disclaimer – I don't own Inuyasha, any of the supporting characters, settings or situations. No profit was made in the writing of this fic.


Later, much later, his white robes bloodied and his claws dripping acid, Sesshoumaru executed the last of his rebellious vassals and regained his iron grip on the West. There was no formal ritual or ceremony of acknowledgment, but only brutal conquest in the old, old style – he had some vague notion that his father would not have approved.

In truth, it was not all that he had dreamed it would be.

Dissatisfied, he flicked the last of his poison from his claws, kicked the piled corpses of his enemies out of the way, and turned back towards Inuyasha's human village.

The night wind shifted.

High up in the branches of Goshinboku, Inuyasha's nose twitched, the familiar scents of the drowsing village momentarily overlain by the instinctive, unmistakable smell of kin. He'd known that scent in the cradle, had associated it with safety, once, and then with fear and hatred. Now he greeted the prospect of his brother's arrival with a combination of irritation, resentment, and a very healthy dose of respect.

After months of vicious fighting, Sesshoumaru had finally finished slaughtering his enemies.

The girl would be happy to see him, at least. She'd been quiet and withdrawn since he'd left her here in the village, under Inuyasha's protection, her usual chatter and energy subdued. But she had never doubted, not even for an instant, that her beloved Sesshoumaru-sama would return –

Inuyasha wouldn't have believed it, if he hadn't seen the way Sesshoumaru held her, his nose buried in her hair, after the darkness had dispersed and the long nightmare had finally ended. She had clutched him just as tightly, her small arms wound tightly around his neck, her breath gasping as she fought not to cry.

"On watch, little brother?" There was a rustle of leaves, a slight dip in the branch on which Inuyasha was sprawled, and then Sesshoumaru was right there, in front of him, a white beacon perfectly at ease perched so high above the ground.

"Always," Inuyasha retorted. He waited for the old, familiar resentment at that taunting little brother, but felt nothing – he had somehow become accustomed, these past few months, to the thought of Sesshoumaru as his elder brother.

Even if he was a first class bastard.

"There were some fugitives who thought they could find revenge on you here." He pretended not to notice Sesshoumaru's sudden stillness. "I quickly disabused them. But after that, nothing more – you've been very thorough in your purge."

"I had reason to be thorough," Sesshoumaru said grimly. His eyes were fixed on the village, focused and intent.

"Huh." Inuyasha wondered which way he should interpret that. Sesshoumaru's very intensity gave him the answer. "You've come back for her, then?"

Narrowed, dangerous eyes flicked his way. But before Sesshoumaru could challenge him, the wind shifted once again, bringing the girl's scent with it. She was heading towards the forest, towards her Sesshoumaru-sama, as fast as her small legs could carry her.

A brief dip, the slightest rustle, and Inuyasha was alone once more on his perch.

She woke to a sense of giddy excitement, her heart lifting in anticipation. She knew, with absolute certainty, that the day she had longed for had finally arrived – Sesshoumaru-sama had returned for her, and it was time to leave.

Her whole body trembling, she snuck out of the house, her bare feet padding soundlessly on the wooden boards and tatami mats, slipping silently through the shadows of the village houses. The moon was high and bright in the sky, filling the night with a ghostly silver light – child of wild paths and hidden meadows, she made her way confidently into the forest, absolutely certain of Sesshoumaru-sama's protective presence enfolding and surrounding her.

She found him in the forest, standing on the banks of a small, ice-cold stream. She knew when he acknowledged her presence – his head tilted, his long, silver-white hair falling forward over his white and crimson over-robe. He turned, just a little, to indicate that she was welcome to approach.

"Rin knew you would come, Sesshoumaru-sama," she said softly, padding up beside him with complete confidence. "The bad men said that you would not bother – but Rin knew."

His calm, indifferent golden eyes turned to hers, and his clawed, delicate hand came to rest gently in her hair. Sesshoumaru-sama's claws were razor-sharp and poisonous, but she was not afraid. She remembered how he had held her tightly, that terrible day, on the edge of the cliff; his heart beating more swiftly than she had ever felt it before.

"Hush, Rin, stop crying. It's all over now."

And it was.

He did not answer her in words; he rarely did. Instead, he knelt down in front of her, careless of his robes pooling around him, and picked her up with his remaining arm. She leaned into him, completely trusting, and allowed him to take her away from the human world forever.