Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha.

A/N: Written for lanajasmine.

A Girl Named Rin

The early morning sun shone exuberantly on the Higurashi residence, but by no means was Sota Higurashi having a bright start to his day. He ruffled through the shrubs outside the family shrine, desperately calling out Buyo's name for the third time. The flabby feline was nowhere to be found.

Biting his lower lip, Sota silently cursed himself for not being more careful when he'd opened the door that morning. He'd stepped on Buyo's tail, causing a flash of calico fur to dart outside with a screeching yowl. Kagome would be so upset if she found out her cat had run away—and on her 15th birthday no less! If Sota didn't find Buyo, what was he going to tell her? "Uh, happy birthday, sis. By the way, I lost your cat"?

But suddenly a low, excited mew came from the shrine! If Sota hurried, maybe Kagome would never have to find out! Running to the shrine entrance, there he discovered Buyo pawing at a little black spider on the ground. The spider slipped through the cat's claws and started scuttling down the shrine steps. Buyo leapt up to chase after it.

"Oh no you don't!" Sota cried, scooping up a wiggling, protesting Buyo into his arms. "That was close." A second later and Buyo would have eluded him down the stairs. Sota didn't want to admit it, but that old shrine gave him the creeps. It was dark and dusty, and worst of all it housed the Bone-Eater's Well, which, like everything else at the shrine, had a foreboding legend of some sort attached to it. The well, lurking in the darkness of the shrine and sealed tightly shut, reminded Sota of a tomb. He couldn't bear the thought of approaching it. But now there was no need to worry.

Smiling to himself, he breathed a sigh of relief. All he had to do was slip back inside the house and Kagome would never know he'd almost lost her beloved Buyo.

Suddenly a shadow fell across his back.

"What are you doing out here?" a voice came abruptly from behind him.

Sota winced. He was so busted.

"You know you're not supposed to play in the shrine," Kagome admonished him.

Sota turned an apologetic face to her, knowing he'd have to fess up. "I wasn't, sis. It's just that Buyo got outside but I caught him before he went down there."

"Well, that's good." Kagome grinned and patted her little brother on the shoulder. "Otherwise you'd have come crying to me to get him out for you, you big scaredy-cat."

"Would not!" Sota insisted indignantly.

Kagome let out a lighthearted laugh. "All right. You get Buyo back inside. I gotta go or I'm gonna be late for school!"

As she started to leave, Sota, still clutching Buyo in his arms, watched her thoughtfully. "Hey sis!" he called.

Kagome glanced back at him. "Yeah?"

Rubbing his shoe in the dirt, Sota shrugged and gave her a sheepish smile. "Happy birthday."

And with a cheerful nod, Kagome went to school and spent the rest of the day like any other typical teenage girl.

Unbeknownst to her, at the bottom of the shrine beneath the shadows and the dust, the Bone-Eater's Well, still sealed closed, creaked in protest.

On the other side of the well, 500 years away, a cold wind blew through the swaying branches of a towering tree. Spellbound to its trunk, a boy with an arrow pierced through his heart remained in his enchanted rest. Darkness fell over his unmoving face and his long white hair tossed about mournfully in the passing breeze as leaves rustled like death around him.

--

Every year Kaede visited him. There was no set date, no real reason. Suddenly she would just find herself in his forest staring up at the Sacred tree, hardly aware that her feet had led her there at all. Perhaps she was searching for a sense of closure that she would never find.

In springtime the cherry blossoms would caress his face, and Kaede marveled at how he could look so unlike the villain she knew him to be.

At fall when the orange leaves would scratch his cheeks and stain his hair like blood, she would think of her fallen sister and all the pain he had caused them.

For ten more seasons Kaede went on like this, until one winter when the wind made her bones ache and she felt as cold and stiff as the frost caught in his downcast eyelashes. "Inuyasha," she murmured, knowing her time was close. "I fear this is the last time you shall ever have company again."

But wise old Kaede, for once, was wrong.

--

Spring came, and on this particular night the sky overlooking Inuyasha's forest bore no stars. The trees, stiff as corpses in the still air, were disturbed by the clumsy movements of a frantic, skinny girl tearing her way past them, her steps in rhythm with the throbbing in her head. She clutched her chest, feeling she might pass out, but continued running like a frightened rabbit with a hungry fox on its heels through the forest. It was pitch black and she hardly knew where she was going, if she had any destination at all. The only direction she was focused on was away—away from the shouts and anger and blood behind her.

She had no idea how long she'd been running, but it felt like hours. Still, she pressed on. She wouldn't stop until her legs gave out. But although she'd long left any sight of the village behind her, she couldn't outrun the frenzied voices that echoed in her memory.

"—Sir, another demon has attacked the village!—"

"—That's the second time this month—"

"—We were able to stop him, but—"

"—He was after the girl for sure—"

Two of the peasants had decided to take matters into their own hands. She was boiling some water for gruel when they burst into the decrepit shack that constituted her home.

"Oi, Rin, you little bitch!" the first one greeted her, yanking her up off the ground by the hair while the second one punched her across the face.

She spat blood, but never screamed or cried out in protest or pain.

"Haven't we been good to you?" the first one said, slamming her down and kicking her in the gut. "For seven years we been taking care of you! You was just a kid of no use to anyone when bandits killed your family!"

"But we let you stay in this village," the second one added, "And gave you food to eat and clothes to wear." A measly provision of rice that would hardly feed a dog rested in the corner next to a crudely made spear. The entire threadbare dwelling contained only one change of clothes—the ragged old kimono she was wearing. And now that was being tarnished with her own blood.

"For all the trouble you've caused," the first one sneered, "The bandits shoulda done you in, too. You're bad luck is what you are. There's always some demon or 'other that's drawn to you. And who has to take care of it? Who's the ones risking their lives to protect this village? Us!"

The second one snarled and licked his lips. "So me and my friend here decided the charity's over. We're gonna do what we shoulda done a long time ago. No one will miss you."

"And since you're the silent type…" the first one added with a crooked grin. "No one will hear you scream."

As the peasant reached for her, Rin took her one shot at escape. She grabbed the pot of boiling water and threw it in his face! While he wailed and clutched at his eyes, yelling, "You bitch! You bitch! You burned me!" and his friend stared in shock, she scrambled to the corner and snatched up her shabby but sharpened spear.

"You're dead!" the other peasant yelled, but as he made for her, she held up the weapon and he ran into its pointed edge. He fell still to the ground, the spear stuck inside his chest, blood bursting from the wound, but now the one who had been burned was coming to his senses.

Fire was in his eyes as he wrestled Rin to the floor, choking her. Her arms flailed wildly, trying to push him away, but he was too strong. Suddenly her hand grasped something hard in the dirt. The handle of the metal pot! With all her remaining strength she smashed its base against her attacker's head. When he collapsed in the dirt, blood pooled from his skull. He didn't get up again. Rin didn't know if he was dead or merely unconscious, but she wasn't sticking around to find out.

With no time to think much beyond the urge to flee, she snatched up her bloodstained spear, slung it across her back and ran for her life. At any moment the villagers could discover the bodies and come after her.

Now, as she was running through the trees in the darkness, it was their hands she felt when branches scratched at her face and tugged on her clothes, their grating voices she heard as the leaves whizzed by her ears.

Her heart was bursting out of her chest and her vision began to fade. She could feel herself slipping, stumbling. Keep going, she told herself inwardly. Just keep going. Twigs and debris bit at her bare feet but she kept running further. A clearing came into view close up ahead.

And when she broke through the trees and into the open, free air, she tripped over a giant root that jutted up half-uncovered from the ground. As her head hit the earth, everything went black. The last image she saw was that of an enormous tree so tall and wide that it dwarfed all others. If she had stayed awake a second longer, she would have realized that imprisoned to the base of the tree was a boy with an arrow sticking out of his heart.

-

It was already late morning by the time Rin opened her eyes. Or rather, opened her one good eye. The left one was swollen shut, but that wasn't the only souvenir leftover from the previous day. Her lip was busted and hardened with dried blood, and there was a bump on her head, which throbbed violently. Otherwise, she was in one piece and had escaped with her life.

She got to her feet slowly and the world swam before her. She reached out a wobbly hand toward the tree beside her—and felt cloth beneath her fingertips. Startled, she tried to focus her limited vision. All she saw was a reddish blob at first, but as her head cleared and the ground stopped spinning, she came to the startling realization that her palm was resting on the chest of a red hakata worn by a boy who appeared to be fast asleep.

Her hand flew back and she felt her cheeks go hot, embarrassed to have touched a stranger so. But the boy hadn't even woken up at her touch. She gawked at him silently. What an odd sight. Upon closer inspection, Rin ascertained that he wasn't breathing. And yet, he looked too peaceful to be dead. Weirder still, he had white hair, but he couldn't have been much older than her from the looks of him. Perhaps strangest of all was the arrow embedded almost innocuously in his chest.

But what gained Rin's utmost attention were the unusual ears sticking out of the top of the boy's head. They were upright, triangular, and covered in white fur, reminding her of the ears of a dog. Could they be real?

Suddenly the overwhelming urge to touch them took a hold of Rin. This really was quite forward of her, but she didn't see any harm in it. This fellow was deep asleep after all. He'd never know.

Standing as close to him as possible so that her eyes were almost level with his, she reached out with tentative hands as though about to rub his ears. But then she stopped short, thinking the better of it. Instead, she grabbed onto them and gave them a good, hard yank.

That's when the seemingly dead boy let out a whelp and his eyes flew open.

For a few agonizing seconds he stared daggers into her eyes. By the time he spat out "Kikyo!" like an accusation, Rin had stumbled to the ground in surprise. This boy was alive!

"Wait a second," he said, squinting suspiciously and giving the air a sniff. "You smell like Kikyo, but… Look at you."

The scrawny, bug-eyed girl peering up at him by his feet couldn't be Kikyo, who always carried an air of authority and grace. This girl, with her disheveled appearance and glaring injuries, possessed neither quality.

"Where's the Shikon jewel?" he demanded. "Where's Kikyo!"

Rin just looked at him and shook her head unhelpfully while he barraged her with questions, growing angrier by the minute.

"What's the matter!" he finally shouted. "Can't you talk!"

Rin cocked her head, and for the first time since the tree-bound windbag had woken up, he was at a loss for words.

"Oh," he mumbled at last, "Guess you're mute."

A soft wind blew through the Sacred tree then, and the branches shook as though in agreement. The boy broke the silence with a snort. "Well, this is great. The only person around and she's completely useless."

He lowered his head and growled. "Go on, wench, get out of here. You may not be Kikyo, but you sure as hell smell like her, and I can't stand it."

Rin considered him a moment. Judging by his appearance, he had to be some type of demon. And his attitude was atrocious. But even so… Could she really just leave him there, hanging helplessly to a tree?

"What, are you still here?" he snapped when she approached him. He raised his head, ready to spew out an insult, but something about the look in her eyes stymied him. He watched in wonder as the girl he'd written off as an imbecile reached over with quiet determination and, as simply as can be, pulled the arrow out of his chest.

In her hand the arrow vanished in a burst of pinkish dust, and the secret bonds that had held him captive were broken.

He erupted off of the Sacred Tree in a wave of light, laughing victoriously. Now he could go find Kikyo and claim the Shikon jewel once and for all. He would be a half-demon no more!

Rin stumbled backward as the boy dashed off into the forest in a blur of red. She frowned, wondering why he had left in such a hurry. But no sooner had he disappeared through the trees than she heard the callous shouts of men's voices behind her, and her heart leapt into her throat.

"What the hell have you done!"

"She released Inuyasha upon us!"

"Witch!"

"Kill her!"

A barrage of arrows flew past Rin's head. She turned and saw the village guardsmen, on their daily patrol, yelling and affixing new arrows to their bows.

Rin reached for the spear on her back uselessly. They were out of striking range, and besides, she was in no condition for a fight. Nor could she have any chance of outrunning them in her weakened state. She knew she was finished.

The head guard knew it, too. He pulled back his bow and released an arrow straight toward her head.

Suddenly there was a flash of red and Rin's arm felt like it was being pulled out of its socket. As she was dragged into the air, the speeding arrow flew past her head harmlessly.

Rin looked up and saw that her savior was none other than the same disagreeable creature that she had freed from the tree. Inuyasha, as the guards had called him, speeded her away through the cover of the forest.

When they were a safe distance from the guards, he dumped her unceremoniously onto the ground. Rin stared up in silent wonder at the creature who had saved her life. Inuyasha…

"Don't get the wrong idea," he grunted. "Just making sure we're even. You freed me, I saved you. Now I don't owe you anything." He turned back toward the direction they had come from. "You're on your own now, kid. Go home. I have some unfinished business to take care of," he said with a red gleam in his eyes.

Then, he bounded off toward the village of Edo where Kikyo lived.

Rin stared after him, breathless, until he was out of sight. Go home, he'd said, but there was no home for her to go to. She sighed, as the surrounding trees seemed to close in around her.

--

The sun rose over the horizon and the growing daylight beckoned Inuyasha's eyes open. He yawned, stretched, and jumped down from the tree he'd been sleeping in—thankfully not the Sacred tree. He never wanted to see that wretched piece of bark again. He'd put a good amount of distance between it and himself for that reason.

It felt good to get a full night's sleep. He'd been up all night the day before, it being the night of the new moon when he turned human and had to keep watch against enemies who might take advantage of his situation. Those were always the worst times for him, frightened, alone—vulnerable. It was then more than ever that he wished with all his might to be a full demon so that he would never have to suffer that fear again.

Now, as he wandered through the forest, giving the air an occasional sniff for water, his thoughts strayed back to the same news that had occupied his mind for the past three weeks. After that odd girl who smelled like Kikyo had freed him, he'd wasted no time going after the Shikon jewel once more.

But what he discovered was troubling. According to the quivering peasants he threatened for information, he'd been stuck to that damn tree for roughly 60 years! Kikyo had long since died, taking the Shikon jewel with her.

'That bitch…' he cursed inwardly, ignoring the slight gnawing feeling at the back of his heart whenever he thought of Kikyo dead. She got what she deserved, he reminded himself. And any time a hint of doubt clouded his mind, wondering why Kikyo hadn't simply used the Shikon jewel to save herself, he brushed it away with a brash "Feh!"

Another sniff alerted him to the presence of water and distracted his thoughts from Kikyo. From the smell of it, there was a lake up ahead nearby.

Here the undergrowth of the forest grew thick, and a tangle of tall bushes blocked the lake from view. Inuyasha was about to burst through them when the sound of splashing made him stop short.

Crouching down and peering through a hole in the thicket, he saw a figure standing knee deep in the water. It was a woman… The very same woman who had rescued him from his prison! And—Inuyasha realized with a gulp—she was very, very naked.

He felt his face going red but even then he couldn't pull his eyes away. But soon something else caught his attention. A low snicker and the rustling of leaves were coming from several meters beside him. There, sprawled out on top of the bushes was the same ragged piece of cloth the woman had been wearing on the day he met her. And now it was being pulled away into the undergrowth by unseen hands!

There were no villages around for miles, of that Inuyasha was sure. Without her clothes, the woman would have no choice but to wander through the forest naked. She might even run into him again! And he would surely die of embarrassment if that happened.

"Hey!" Inuyasha yelled, going after the thief, not thinking long enough to realize he had just given himself away.

As soon as the commotion broke out, the woman submersed herself in the water so deep that only her wide, panicked eyes remained visible, mortified, as she watched the proceedings.

Inuyasha tore through the thicket like an ogre, rending branches and leaves apart, following the sound of childish giggles. "Come back here, you little creep!"

"Who are ya calling a creep?" a young, naughty-sounding voice taunted. "I saw you peeping too!"

"I WAS NOT PEEPING!" Inuyasha dove into the brush, his claws almost grasping the little bastard.

Suddenly a giant toy top sprung out from the bushes toward Inuyasha!

"What the hell!" he shouted, swiping at the illusion while the troublemaker took the opportunity to escape.

"Nyah-nyah nyah-nyah-nyah!" the creature gloated, sticking his tongue out.

But at that moment his tail happened to poke out freely from the bushes, allowing Inuyasha to dart in and snatch him up like a wriggling fish.

"Gotcha, you little pervert!" he cried while the thief struggled madly. Out in the open, Inuyasha saw that he was nothing but a pre-adolescent demon. A fox demon, to be precise—in Inuyasha's experience, the most annoying type of demon.

He held the squirming brat up in midair, the incriminating evidence dangling from its grasp. With his free hand, Inuyasha snatched the kimono away from him.

"Lemme go, you pathetic half-demon!" the fox demon snapped. "I was just having some fun with her."

Inuyasha promptly bopped him on the head. "Who're you calling 'pathetic,' squirt?"

Suddenly a deep, booming voice rang through the forest. "Shippo! Breakfast time!"

Instantly the little fox demon stopped fidgeting, all interest in the game lost. "Coming, Pa!" he yelled. With a smile on his face, he disappeared from Inuyasha's hands in a puff of smoke!

Or at least, Inuyasha thought he had disappeared until he noticed a rock with a big bushy fox tail sticking out of it running away. "Feh, whatever." It wasn't his style to beat up on kids anyway.

He fiddled with the kimono in his hands, suddenly realizing he'd have to deliver it back there—to her. Palms sweating, eyes plastered to his feet, he shuffled his way to the shallow end of the lake where the girl was crouching nose-deep in water.

Not making eye contact, he handed her clothes to her. "Here," his voice squeaked, sounding strangely high-pitched. He felt a hand reach out and grab them, and he turned away, suddenly extremely interested in the clouds, while she got dressed.

A light tap on his shoulder almost made him jump, but the hand stayed there. He darted a cautious glance back and saw the girl, now fully clothed, staring appreciatively at him. She was saying thank you, he realized.

How different she looked in the few weeks since he last saw her! She was still scrawny, to be sure, but now she was cleaned up. Her wounds appeared healed; her eye was no longer bruised shut, and he realized now just how beautiful she looked as she gazed at him.

He shrugged her hand away, face burning, and hardened his demeanor. "I thought I told you to go home, idiot. What the hell are you doing alone out here where anyone can sneak up on you?"

He didn't know why he was asking her questions when he knew she couldn't talk. But the look on her face said it all. She didn't have a home.

"You shouldn't stay out here. Find yourself a village. I'm sure someone will take you in."

At the mention of the word village, the girl shook her head vigorously. Inuyasha was surprised. This girl didn't want to live among her own kind?

Well, whatever it was, it wasn't his problem. He shrugged and started walking away.

It wasn't long before he heard her footsteps behind him. He ignored them and kept going, past the brush and into the forest now, figuring she'd head in another direction. But the same pat-pat-pat came from behind him. He turned around.

"Listen, lady. I don't know if you get this, but I'm not a nice guy. I know I helped you out and all, but I'm a half-demon," he snarled, baring his teeth for emphasis. "I'm vicious, ruthless, and deadly. I'm not someone you want to hang around."

Satisfied that the matter was settled, he began strutting away again. No way that wench would tag around him now.

The silence that followed seemed to confirm that. But suddenly that little shuffling pat-pat-pat resumed.

Inuyasha swung around, growing angrier when he saw the innocent, unperturbed way she stared back at him. "What, you don't believe me? Fine. Wanna know how I got sealed to that tree?"

The girl perked up then.

"I was stealing the Shikon jewel so that I could become a full demon. You know what the Shikon jewel is?" From the blank look on her face, he'd wager 'no'. He began to tell her of the Shikon jewel, of its legend and power, and her eyes grew wide with wonder.

"Anyway," he went on, "I stole the Shikon jewel and… this priestess shot me to that tree. That was 60 years ago. And now she's dead and the jewel's gone, and I'm just going to have to find some other way to become a full demon."

He lunged at her face, trying to be as intimidating as possible. "So that's where I'm headed," he growled, "Off to become the most terrifying monster the world has ever seen! You think you'll want my company then?"

The girl stared back at him, awestruck. No doubt she was scared shitless. Inuyasha smirked to himself and stalked off, feeling quite smug.

The smile fell from his face when, not a few moments later, he heard the now-familiar pat-pat-pat of the girl behind him. Man, this bitch just did not like to give up.

"Feh," he finally muttered. "Suit yourself."

-

Inuyasha wasn't exactly sure why he let her do it. He easily could have lost her simply by running off. She'd never be able to catch up with him. Several times he decided he would just dash away, leaving her in the dust, but his feet never seemed to cooperate. Instead, it was as though they deliberately slowed their pace just so she could keep up with him.

The girl had never told him her name so he'd grown accustomed to calling her, "You."

"Hey, you!" He turned around to her one day.

She looked up at him sweetly.

"Listen," he growled, "I can't have you following me around like this anymore!"

She stared at him blankly for a few seconds, and then lowered her head with a dejected nod.

"You'll have to get on my back."

The girl looked up, shocked, confused.

Inuyasha shrugged. "If you're gonna hang around, then I'm not slowing myself down for you." He motioned for her to get on his back. "Come on, hurry up. I'll carry you."

The girl burst into smiles and happily obliged.

-

This girl was lucky Inuyasha'd found her, he decided. He never before met anyone in his life so prone to demon attacks! It was as though they were drawn to her.

They were always low-grade demons, pathetic little bastards he could easily "Sankon Tessou" into bits, but still too deadly for the girl to ward off by herself.

Not that she didn't try. Now Inuyasha understood why she carried that spear on her back. She actually killed a few demons on her own that way, but with the frequency of the attacks it wouldn't have been long before she got unlucky.

For some reason, he never questioned why demons were always after her. Each time he saved her he would make a big show of griping about how she was more trouble than she was worth. But inwardly, Inuyasha felt a small sense of satisfaction, of meaning, being able to protect someone.

And the girl seemed to realize that Inuyasha was just being childish and didn't really mind coming to her rescue. She shrugged off his comments good-naturedly.

-

One day, after she had been traveling with Inuyasha for about a month, Rin noticed that he was acting strangely. He kept looking up at the sky as though something important had changed and his disposition was shorter than usual. All day long he seemed to be in a hurry for no good reason.

He also seemed—for the first time since Rin had met him—nervous. Something was going on, and he wasn't telling her about it.

Toward evening, it got stranger. Inuyasha had been running—it seemed to Rin like he was trying to find the most secluded place possible—carrying Rin on his back, when finally he stopped and set her down at the base of a tree.

"I'm tired," he announced. "You stay here and don't get into any trouble. I'm going to sleep." And without another word he bounded off into the distance, within hearing range if Rin called for help, but too obscured by trees for her to make him out clearly.

This was odd. It wasn't even sundown yet, and he was tired? And usually Inuyasha slept nearby Rin up in a tree. Why did he need such distance tonight?

The enigma kept Rin up all night. What was Inuyasha hiding from her? She had to know.

After several hours, Rin got up. Inuyasha had to be asleep by now. She headed in the direction he'd gone. Fortunately the moon was full and bright, shining through the trees, allowing Rin to see her way.

Inuyasha must have heard her coming because as soon as she got close she saw the ends of his hakata making its way up through a tree. His face and hair were obscured by branches. "What are you doing?" he hissed, trying to keep his voice low. "Go away!"

But Rin wasn't going to let up until he came down and was honest with her. Apparently he was trying to be quiet. So Rin decided to make as much noise as she could. She started pounding her fists with all her might against the bark.

"Hey! Stop that!"

When that didn't work, she took the spear off her back and swatted the blunt end through the tree branches until they shook and rustled.

"All right, all right! Just cut that out!" Inuyasha jumped down and landed at her feet. "I don't want anyone to find me."

Rin's spear fell from her hands in shock. The Inuyasha standing before her was… well, different. His long white hair had turned black and his ears were…

Rin put her fingers through the top of his hair, searching for his ears, while he stood there uncomfortably. When she found them, they were at the side of his head—and human! There was only one thing to do.

"Yowch!" Inuyasha cried as Rin gave his ears a good, hard yank. "Would you stop that!"

She released him, satisfied that they were indeed real, but cocked her head at him.

"Yeah," he muttered. "I'm human." He pointed up to the sky. "It happens every night on the new moon. I…" he mumbled into his chest. "I didn't want you to see. But I guess you would've found out sooner or—"

Suddenly a loud noise cut him off. There was a shrill, squawking voice off in the distance. Inuyasha listened intently. "Oh no…" he whispered, and motioned to Rin to keep still and quiet.

The voice was getting louder, coming closer. "Drat that despicable half-demon brother of yours! How dare he disappear like that when he could finally be of some use! Now that he's free, you can use him to find your father's treasure!"

Another voice, one that was deep and smooth as silk—and cold—could be heard now. "Inuyasha should enjoy his freedom while he still can. When I find him… he's going to wish he was still dead."

Inuyasha gritted his teeth, staring uselessly at his clawless hands. This was the worst scenario imaginable. The voices were heading in his direction. Any minute now Sesshomaru would discover him in his vulnerable state, and it would be all over. There was no avoiding it for him. But maybe Sesshomaru wouldn't bother with a human girl. Maybe the girl could still get away!

"Run!" he mouthed, urging her on.

Rin stared at him seriously. She knew what was going on. These men meant to hurt Inuyasha, and as a human there was nothing he could do. With a meaningful look in her eyes, she gave him a solemn nod. Then, before Inuyasha had time to react, she shoved him down behind some bushes and dashed off straight in the direction of the voices!

No! Inuyasha screamed silently. You idiot! The crazy bitch didn't even take her spear with her! What the hell was she trying to do?

Rin stumbled upon the tiny green man first, and did the first thing that came to mind: She snatched the two-headed staff he was carrying out of his hands and made a run for it!

"Hey!" he shrieked. "Come back here, you worthless human!" And he chased after Rin on his squat, bumbling toad legs.

The other man, a tall, white, otherworldly creature, merely watched the proceedings in silent amusement.

Inuyasha stared in horror from the cover of the bushes, completely shell-shocked. The girl was actually providing an ingenious distraction for him. She was outrunning the toad demon easily, and Sesshomaru seemed to think it was beneath him to deal with her himself. Maybe she could pull it off after all!

Unfortunately, Rin chose that moment to accidentally trip and come crashing to the forest floor. The toad demon caught up with her then, triumphantly grabbing his staff back away from her. He huffed and puffed with bravado and brandished the staff at her. "May I dispose of this impudent wench, Lord Sesshomaru?" he asked the figure in white.

Inuyasha tensed. There was no way he was going to let some stupid girl fight his battles and die for him! But just as he was about to jump in and try saving her—even though it would surely cost him his life—Sesshomaru stepped toward his servant and the girl with a callous smirk on his face.

"The only one who should be disposed of, Jaken, is you if you can't even defend yourself against a half-starved human girl."

Jaken gulped and lurched, throwing himself at Sesshomaru's feet, begging forgiveness.

Sesshomaru merely plodded over him and continued on his way. "She'll die soon anyway."

"Wait for me, Lord Sesshomaru!" Jaken cried and stumbled after him.

Inuyasha breathed a sigh of relief. That girl probably didn't realize how lucky she was.

Unfortunately the sigh rustled the bushes he was hiding in and instantly Sesshomaru stopped.

Jaken, too, noticed the disturbance. "Lord Sesshomaru, I think I heard something—"

"Quiet, worm." Sesshomaru frowned, squinting his eyes and sniffing the air.

Inuyasha held his breath.

Finally, Sesshomaru snorted. "It's just another human. Probably some cowardly companion of hers. Let's go. These lowly rodents aren't worth my time."

When all sight and sound of Sesshomaru and Jaken disappeared, Inuyasha leapt out of the bushes and grabbed Rin by the shoulders. "How could you be so stupid! Do you have any idea who you were dealing with? You could have gotten killed!"

Rin looked at him dumbfounded. She had just saved his life and he was yelling at her?

But Inuyasha wouldn't stop. "Do you understand now? This is why I have to become a full demon. You've only had small-fry demons coming after you. But me… With enemies like Sesshomaru around, I can't afford to be weak like this!"

He glared at her angrily. "How am I supposed to protect you!"

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Inuyasha grew quiet. He hadn't meant to say that. Rin was gazing at him, her jaw slightly opened. He shrugged, turning away from her and sat down gruffly against the bark of a tree, arms folded.

He didn't look at her, but could feel her sitting down next to him. Suddenly, her head was on his shoulder. He breathed out, and reached for her hand. She stayed awake with him as they watched the sun rise together.

-

It became a tradition with them. Every night on the new moon, Rin would stay up with Inuyasha as he waited for the relief of sunrise, holding hands. He never asked her to do it, and she never made a deal about it. They simply were.

And somehow, the worst nights of his life didn't seem quite as bad anymore. He was still terrified, but now he didn't have to go through it alone. But after that encounter with Sesshomaru, he always lived in worry. In his heart, he knew it was only a matter of time before another vulnerable night would put the girl at risk.

-

One such night when Rin stayed up with Inuyasha, he noticed she was smiling. It was almost sunrise and she must have been exhausted.

"Hey, what are you so happy about?"

Rin just shrugged, her grin widening. Inuyasha shook his head. "Feh, idiot." But he smiled too.

Suddenly they could hear a woman's agonized voice moaning not far off in the distance. "The jewel! The Shikon jewel! It's close by! I need the Shikon jewel!"

Inuyasha couldn't make out her words, but he grimaced at the inhuman sound of the voice. "A demon." He motioned to Rin. "Stay down." They were hidden quite carefully in a thicket. As long as they didn't make a sound, the demon wouldn't find them."

Suddenly the demon, a long, floating centipede with a body the size of a tree trunk, and the upper half of a woman, lunged through the bushes toward Rin! "Give me the Shikon jewel!"

Inuyasha pushed Rin out of danger, shouting for her to run and blocking Mistress Centipede from her.

"Out of my way!" Mistress Centipede wailed, knocking him over. "Nothing will stop me from getting the Shikon jewel!"

Inuyasha grunted. "I don't know what you're yammering about, you dumb bitch. The Shikon jewel disappeared years ago!"

Rin grabbed her spear, ready to defend herself but not knowing what to make of Mistress Centipede's demands.

While Rin stabbed at her, Inuyasha picked himself up. 'Damn! If only I was a half-demon right now I could take this small-fry piece of shit out no problem!'

Mistress Centipede lunged for Rin and received the point of Rin's spear in her shoulder. Screeching something unholy, she tore the spear out and smashed it apart with her monstrous teeth.

Inuyasha dove in, grabbing the demon's tail and punching her with all the strength in his human body. He knew he couldn't defeat her like this; his only aim was to hold her off long enough for the sun to rise and his half-demon powers to return.

Mistress Centipede turned her torso back to Inuyasha. In a flash, she darted toward him and bit into his arm, flinging him off her body like an ant. Inuyasha went down, screaming, the pain blinding him.

Rin's eyes went wide and she rushed toward Inuyasha's side.

"Fool!" Mistress Centipede howled.

Inuyasha watched in horror as Mistress Centipede tore a clawed hand into Rin's chest. Rin gasped, collapsing, and with one strike Mistress Centipede shredded Rin's abdomen with her teeth.

"No!" Inuyasha yelled, tearing his fists into the dirt.

A small, glowing white orb fell out of Rin's side. Inuyasha's heart skipped a beat.

Mistress Centipede shrieked triumphantly! "It's mine! The Shikon jewel is mine!"

Suddenly Inuyasha felt his nails growing in the soil. His claws! The sun was up!

Mistress Centipede darted out a long, serpentine tongue, ready to slurp up the jewel. She didn't even notice a white-haired, half-demon Inuyasha jumping up behind her and tearing her body to bits with one blow.

The debris of flesh from Mistress Centipede's body didn't even finish raining down around him before Inuyasha reached Rin's side. When he saw her up close, he cursed. The wound in her chest was spewing blood, and the side where Mistress Centipede had bitten her was a mangled mess.

Inuyasha tore off his shirt and tried to stop the blood with it. Rin's eyes fluttered and her breath came in short little gasps. Her hands were shaking.

Biting his lip, Inuyasha tried to calm her down. "Don't worry. You're going to be fine," he lied.

Rin nodded vaguely, staring up at him, even now a smile gracing her lips. Her hand clasped something in the dirt and suddenly her eyes focused. Without looking, she knew what it was. She felt its power. She had in her grip the Shikon jewel, the legendary talisman that could make its bearer's greatest wish come true.

Struggling, she lifted her arm, pushing Inuyasha's hands away from pressing on her wound. Before he could protest, she took his hand in hers and when she let go the Shikon jewel was resting in his palm.

Open-mouthed, he choked, staring at the precious gem that he hadn't seen in 60 years. The same, shimmering orb that had witnessed the day that Kikyo sealed him to the Sacred tree.

Kikyo, he suddenly thought, staring at Rin. It was Kikyo's eyes, Kikyo's heart, Kikyo's soul that resided in Rin. The Shikon jewel had been reborn in her.

"You're… giving it to me? But you could… use it to…"

Rin's eyes sparkled even as they were fading, closing. He knew what she wanted: She wanted him to use it to make him happy.

What would make him happy… He thought of the isolation he'd suffered his whole life. Of never belonging. Of living between worlds.

He thought of the fear he endured. The enemies he faced. The battles he had yet to face in the future.

He thought of the unbearable weakness. The jealousy of those stronger than him. The pain.

He cringed, closing his eyes. "I will use the Shikon jewel to fulfill my greatest desire."

His face set grim, he held Rin in his arms, feeling her hands go slack against his back. "I'm sorry…"

Then, he wished upon the jewel, and it was the truest wish from the depths of his heart that he ever had. The Shikon jewel dissolved into nothingness against his palm.

Inuyasha held Rin's still body tight, wondering at his cheeks, which had grown cold and wet. The transformation that he had dreamed of was complete.

He felt limp fingers growing firm against his back, and a heart beating strong against him. Rin opened her eyes and saw Inuyasha, eyes shut, crying. Lightly she took her hand and brushed it against his cheeks.

"Inu… yasha…"

He opened his eyes at the hoarse whisper and gazed at Rin. She coughed and tried again, this time her voice stronger. "Inuyasha."

All her wounds were gone. He couldn't believe it.

"You can talk!"

She nodded slowly.

There were so many questions he wanted to ask her, so many mysteries he wanted explained. But for some reason he had turned speechless.

Finally, he ventured, "Your name. Tell me your name."

The girl smiled. "…Rin."

Inuyasha looked thoughtful for a minute. "Rin." Then, he stood up.

"Inuyasha," Rin murmured. "Why did… you save me?"

Inuyasha bent down and helped her to her feet, and took her hand in his.

"Because," he whispered. "You saved me."

THE END