She could see it in his eyes, the animal, crueller, steeped in more violence and death than the men in the alley could ever have imagined. But it was leashed, tightly restrained by training, by discipline, by hard-won patience and experience.

And, she saw, with a sense of warm, innocent recognition, by a deep, boundless well of concern for her –

Do as you wish, Rin.

She held out her hand.

In the morning, he was gone.

She stifled a sense of disappointment resumed her normal routine, as if she had never allowed a predator into her life. But sometimes she could feel a chill run down her spine, or the hair on her neck prickling with ancient awareness, and she knew that he was out there somewhere, watching her.

Three weeks later, he returned without a word of explanation; she came home to find him sprawled full length across her bed, sleeping deeply, as if he sensed no danger in her small, enclosed world. When she climbed in beside him, seated propped against the cushions, he woke for a moment, and shifted to lay his head in her lap –

The maiden and the unicorn, she thought fleetingly, uneasy with the connotations of that particular image. This is power – to soften and enchant such a wild spirit…

But there were no hunters, waiting in the shadows to spring out and slay the captured beast. And she had no desire to cage him, or use his power for her own benefit.

She let him go, content in the belief that he would return.