What Fathers Do

Sesshomaru had entered the tomb, amber eyes gleaming as they hadn't in literally centuries. There it was. The fabled blade said to possess the power to slay a hundred demons in a single stroke. Tetsusaiga.

And there he was as well. That bothersome half-breed, InuYasha, defiling the sword with his touch. Being able to wield his fathers fang, it was more than Sesshomaru could stand.

Taking his true shape, Sesshomaru leapt into the air, his left paw extended to dispatch that cur for good. Suddenly, InuYasha shouted, "Now!" and rose to meet his brother's charge.

Tendons shredded, bones crunched, sinews snapped, all left a searing trail of pain and blood while InuYasha flew up using Tetsusaiga to cleave through Sesshomarus paw and foreleg. Only the assault didn't stop there.

"Let's keep going an see if y' really do got a heart!"

The blade continued slicing through the daiyokai's ribcage and homing in on his-

"Nrgh!" Biting his own lip, Sesshomaru forced himself awake. The metallic taste of real blood brought him back to his senses. Drenched in a cold sweat, Sesshomaru panted feverishly.

Stop it, he thought. Slowly he reconstructed his composure.

"Nothing more than a dream," he muttered to himself. The phantom pain that occasionally plagued the remains of his left arm argued otherwise. "Curse that vile half-breed," growled Sesshomaru, trying to massage the throbbing.

He attempted to place his mind elsewhere.

Why, Father? was the first thought in his head. Followed by, Why did you give InuYasha the Tetsusaiga? Why did you die for that halfling? Sacrifice your life for a creature that would never amount to be anything close to your equal? Why did you do it?

The ache was only getting worse.

"I need a walk." Sesshomaru stood up. He turned to his pet. "Au-Un?"

The dragon roused its twin heads from sleep.

"Watch Rin and Jaken. I'll be back in the morning."

As Sesshomaru strode off, Au-Un obediently kept one head turned toward its wards and the other facing off into the brush for signs of impending danger.

Of course, after an hour or so, playing "guard-dragon," with only the crickets for company, could become quite tedious. To amuse itself, the head that was guarding Rin and Jaken assessed the affect time had taken on the two since the girl had joined their group nine years ago.

Jaken, naturally, didn't look any different since yokai were not bound by the same rules of time as humans. Rin, however, had grown rapidly in what Au-Un considered such a short period.

The once young girl, now young woman, had tied her hair back into a more sensible fashion, the locks gathered near the ends with a red ribbon, and wore walking sandals. Her latest kimono, a navy blue one embroidered with crimson flowers and a matching sash, didnt hide the fact that her featured had went from a childish roundness to an elongated, more mature frame of indentions and curves; Au-Un figured she would be seeking a mate soon.

The beast-of-burden wondered if Rin would be staying with them much longer. One head shifted to the sky, but the stars remained silent.

SNAP!

Sesshomaru deliberately crunched a fallen branch under the heel of his boot. It wasn't hard to guess who was on his mind.

All for someone you didn't even know. What was that cur to you, Father?

"Lord Sesshomaru!"

The dog-demon took his time turning around. This scent was vaguely familiar.

"Lord Sesshomaru! How I"ve searched!" A weasel-demon slid to Sesshomaru's feet, bowing three times as he did so.

"Koitachi? What brings you here after so many years?"

"Its - its," the small yokai was still trying to catch his breath. The fact that Sesshomaru was now moving on didn't help as he had to scuttle to keep up.

Koitachi cleared his throat. "Its the western territories, sire. Hitokiri, he's rumored to have begun campaigning to make them his own."

The daiyokai weighted Koitachi with one of his heaviest stares as if to imply that the news was far too trivial for his concern.

Apparently, Koitachi didnt think so. "Hitokiri? The son of Ryukotsusei? The last demon your father-"

"I know who Hitokiri is." One problem to the next, Sesshomaru mentally groaned. "In what district is he?"

"Just south of Musashi's domain, my lord." Koitachi nervously glanced to his sides. "Would my lord like me to accompany him?"

"If I choose to pursue him, I can do it on my own."

"Oh. Good." The weasel-demon started loping toward the bushes.

"Where are you going?"

"Northeast." Before Sesshomaru could stop him, Koitachi vanished into the thicket.

Sesshomaru really did groan now. This had been a long night.

oOo

"Lord Sesshomaruuu, where are we going?" Rin rhythmically swung her legs over Au-Un's back as they started their journey the next morning.

"I have business in the southwest," came the clipped answer.

Rin heaved a dramatic sigh. Sesshomaru, it seemed, was always on the move. He never settled anywhere and it was because of all this incessant travel that Rin loathed the fact how she had no friends outside her makeshift family. Especially no human friends She sighed again.

Sesshomaru rolled his eyes. Did Rin have to do that? Honestly, it seemed as the years passed she became less cordial and more surly. There were times she even mustered the gall to ask him if she could take Au-Un out for an extended ride, and when Sesshomaru questioned her reasons she just said "because" as if it were the answer for everything! Then she looked at him with an expression as though he were a fool for asking! He never remembered her being so impudent as a child.

"Give that here, Rin! Its not a toy!" Jaken was futilely leaping to retrieve his staff as Rin swung it over his head, just out of reach.

"Rin," Sesshomaru warned.

"Aw, but I'm bored!"

"Return it." The growl in the Western Lord's voice became deeper.

"Okaaay." Rin rolled her eyes skyward and let the Head Staff slip out of her hand to drop with a thunk on Jaken's head.

It was Sesshomaru's turn to sigh.

oOo

"Stay within this area," Sesshomaru instructed as he started picking up Hitokiri's scent. Perhaps only twenty miles off.

"When will you be back, m'lord?" Jaken piped.

"Soon." Then the great demon assumed his energy form and flew off.

Jaken heard the trees behind him rustling and he turned. "Now where do you think you're going?"

"There was a village back there." Rin continued forging a path through the bramble.

"Lord Sesshomaru said to stay in the area!"

"Well, he doesn't dictate my life! Besides, the village is only a short ways off, thats in the area!"

"Why you brazen - Awk!" Jaken was cut off as branch whipped after Rin let go.

I need some human interaction! Rin thought to herself.

When the adolescent arrived in the village, she had to suppress a gasp. There were so many people, all bustling together. While some women tended to the rice fields and gardens, there were men working alongside them plowing the earth and mending rooftops. These people had a sense of community that warmed Rin's heart.

CLANG! The spell of sentimentality which bound her was broken with yet another CLANG!

The ringing seemed to be coming from a shed modestly distanced from the rest of the village. Rin approached it to investigate. What greeted her was a flurry of bright orange sparks. She took a quick leap back as one singed her hand. This was a blacksmith's forge.

"Oh, watch yourself there," called the blacksmith as he hammered again on what Rin saw to be a blade. "One moment, please, and I'll be right with you."

Curious, Rin waited for the smith to set down his work.

"Now, then," he said as he turned and wiped his face on a cloth. "May I help you?"

You can start by getting me a glass of water, Rin thought.

The young man that greeted her was the most handsome male creature she had ever seen. His squarely set jaw had a boyish quality to it that only added charm. Additionally, the rich, softness of his brown eyes complimented his cropped, jet-black hair. He was muscular, but not brutishly so; his firm arms gave a promise great strength.

"Uh, Miss?"

"Oh, sorry!" Rin blushed for gawking. Her mind scrambled a rare moment searching for conversation. "I'm Rin...uh, I just walked into town and wondered what that noise was."

"Well, my name is Reisuke. As you can see, I'm a swordsmith." He held up a finished product to display his craftsmanship. The beautiful curvature of the blade alone would have impressed Rin, but the crooked smile Reisuke sent with it practically melted the girl into her zori.

His attractiveness wasn't a cold, flawless beauty (like certain other beings Rin knew), it was a warm, imperfect one. It was very…human.

"Okay, well, nice meeting you, Reisuke," Rin stammered. Sue it wasn't the bellows making her hot, she moved to go. "S-sorry if I disturbed your work."

"Oh, you didn't interrupt me at all," assured Reisuke. "Actually, I was just going to take a break." He took her hand in his as they stepped out the smithy together. "Rin, was it?"

She was merely capable of nodding her assent at the moment. The swordsmith's calloused hands somehow managed a tenderness.

"Come along then; I'll show you around. I'm sure you'll like it here!" Reisuke flashed another toothy grin.

I'm sure I will.

"'Lord Sesshomaru, I told her not to go.' 'Lord Sesshomaru, it wasn't my fault.' 'Lord Sesshomaru, please don't kill me!'" Jaken rehearsed what he planned on saying when his master arrived and so far only the last line sounded believable. "Oh, where is that little miscreant?!" He was pacing in front of a campfire, the moon already rising, when Rin finally showed up.

"Where in all the worlds were you?!"

"I was out."

"Out? Do you know what Lord Sesshomaru would do to me if any harm came upon you?!"

"Well, I'm fine, aren't I?" Rin sat down in a huff next to a tree. She wasn't going to let Jaken spoil her good mood.

The toad-demon grumbled and joined his ward. After a while he spoke up again; in hushed tones, though, and staring into the fire. "Rin, do you remember when you said you wanted to be with Lord Sesshomaru forever?"

"That was a long time ago, but yeah, I remember. What of it?"

"Do you still want it that way?"

Rin opened her mouth to answer, then stopped, contemplating. When she did respond, she looked away. "I was a child when I said that, Master Jaken. Things," she thought of Reisuke, "change. I don't always need yours or Lord Sesshomaru's care anymore, I can be independent now." Rin could have sworn she heard Jaken wince. "Master Jaken, I…well…we'll see." She curled on her side and drifted into a troubled sleep.

Jaken stood awake to gaze at the stars. What's happened? Please come back soon, Lord Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru didn't return the next day, or the succeeding one after. While Jaken continued his nervous pacing and nail-biting, Rin proceeded to visit Reisuke's village and, of course, Reisuke.

He would animatedly talk about the unit and tranquility of his world. Yes, there was the occasional demon to contend with, but that seemed to be rare in these parts.

Rin always felt comfortable in his presence, it seemed his never held any scorn and he was always smiling. She could grow used to such an environment.

Until one, the smith asked Rin if she would like to stay with him. Forever.

"Well, Reisuke," Rin stalled, not sure where her loyalties lay anymore, "let me think about it."

"All right, but tell me soon." Then he gave that cursed sweet, understanding nod.

What am I going to do?

Had she noticed the strange glowing eyes watching her form the brush, Rin would have realized she had a bigger predicament on her hands.

oOo

"Curse that Koitachi," Sesshomaru snarled to himself. His excursions had proved fruitless. Hitokiri's scent had dissipated in the past few days the daiyokai had been searching for him. Furthermore, Sesshomaru had not seen any signs of conquest; no reddened ground, screaming humans, or armies of demons ravaging the land.

"Ridiculous." Leave it to a weasel to exaggerate. For this wild goose chase, he made a note to kill Koitachi. Slowly.

Suddenly, the winds shifted. Sesshomaru's nose twitched as it caught the scent of scales, musk, and demonic aura; coming form the direction where he had left Rin.

It was foolish to think that this demon should want anything to do with a mortal woman, that he would try to harm her if he didn't know she had any affiliation with the Western Lord, but, nonetheless, Sesshomaru hurried.

The leaves of the forest floor were hardly disturbed as he sped through, leaving only an afterimage behind. No sooner was he within a couple miles of the campgrounds, Sesshomaru's nose crackled again, and he stopped moving altogether. Hitokiri was here.

Sesshomaru whirled in the direction where he heard the weeds rustle, readying his talons.

"So finally we meet," a voice growled from the trees, "Lord Sesshomaru."

Leisurely, almost melodramatically as far as Sesshomaru was concerned, Ryukotsusei's son emerged form the shadows. The dog-demon was slightly surprised that Hitokiri could take a human guise, albeit the tussled, blond mane that started on his head to trail down his spine, red tinted eyes, and, from what experience told Sesshomaru, claws underneath the flowing sleeves of his kimono.

The daiyokai nodded curtly. "What do you want with my lands?"

"You don't look as I had expected," Hitokiri ignored the question.

"And you don't smell like you father." Which doesn't say much for your mother, Sesshomaru mentally added. "Now, why are you trespassing?"

"You do realize, my father, the great Ryukotsusei should have never lost that battle to yours? That the Western Lands should have been ours?"

Sesshomaru didn't need to work at making himself appear bored and apathetic.

"But I could overlook most of what has transpired," continued Hitokiri as he cat-stepped forward, "for a price."

Hitokiri's claw lashed out at the last syllable; not that Sesshomaru didn't see it coming, he easily evaded it.

"So your target is my life?" The dog-demon's talons glowed a menacing green, but their owner maintained his blank mask as he stepped back. "Tch. Three hundred, maybe three fifty? You aren't much, Hitokiri." Sesshomaru himself was pushing well over seven hundred on the age scale, but this was the spawn of Ryukotsusei; Sesshomaru was tugging at the tail of the beast for assurance. "A little dragon like you doesn't have the experience to defeat me."

"Oh? No one said I had to kill you to get your lands. You'd be broken-up enough if any harm were to befall that mortal girl you drag around." Hitokiri smiled when he saw Sesshomaru's eyes narrow. "And she seems to have grown quite attached to that nearby human village while you were away. I don't think she'll mind leaving you protection for a more comfortable living environment; or as comfortable as it will be under my reign. Human settlements are so easy to conquer, don't you agree, Lord Sesshomaru?"

"If you endanger Rin, I will kill you." Sesshomaru left the statement bland of emotion. Just a cold fact of nature.

Hitokiri found it amusing. "This girl means that much to you?" he smirked.

"No." A growl trickled out of the mononoke. "You mean that little."

His light-whip cracked just an inch from the other demon's throat. Hitokiri was already in flight.

"Enjoy your remaining time as the Western Lord!" he called from somewhere in the sky.

Sesshomaru fought the urge to chase after his opponent. It could lead to a trap. Priorities first, he had to check on Rin.

oOo

The pale moon had reached its apex by the time Rin returned to the campsite.

"Oh, Lord Sesshomaru!" she exclaimed, obviously startled by his sudden appearance. "Uh, where have you been?"

"That should be my question for you." Sesshomaru's words were icicles. "What were you doing in that neighboring village, Rin?"

Rin noticed Jaken had made himself scarce. A wise choice. "I…uh…"

The dog-demon's nose detected the scent of another human, raising the hairs on his neck. "You've been in the company of a male, haven't you?"

"And what of it? I like the people there and I like Reisuke!"

Sesshomaru was shocked. Rin had never talked back to him so defiantly before.

Rin continued, "I'm no longer a child, Lord Sesshomaru! I can make my own decisions!"

Still he kept his voice level, "Then you are saying…"

"Yes, I want my own freedom. I want to live in that village."

Sesshomaru remembered Hitokiri's threat. "I cannot allow that, Rin."

Before she could retort, someone stepped into the clearing. It was Reisuke, and he seemed to have a gift in his hands.

"Rin, I wanted to give this to…" his voiced trailed off when he found the daiyokai suddenly looming over him.

"Are you Reisuke?"

"Uh, yes sir. May I ask who you are?"

"Don't hurt him, Lord Sesshomaru!" cried Rin.

Unease slithered down Reisuke's spine. This nobleman clearly wasn't human; Reisuke had yet to meet a mortal with pointed ears, amber eyes, and exotic birthmarks.

Nevertheless, he plucked up his courage. If Rin could address him unafraid, why couldn't he? "Ah, Lord Sesshomaru," Reisuke deeply bowed, "although Rin never mentioned you, I am most honored that we have finally met."

Sesshomaru had half a mind to run his claws through this bold mortal. Yet, maybe it was the earnestness of his eyes or the sincerity of his smile, so much like Rin's, that made the demon just passively nod.

When he drew breath to speak, however, a disturbing swirl of yoki heated his back. Reisuke's startled expression confirmed his thoughts.

Sesshomaru didn't waste time with words and lashed out his whip.

"Quite tense, aren't we?" Hitokiri stood unscathed. Curse it, he was fast. "Have you come to a decision, Lord Sesshomaru? Your lands now," the yokai swiftly grabbed Rin by the wrist, "or later?"

Rin gasped. He had been several yards away only a second ago.

"Release her." Sesshomaru brandished his gleaming talons.

Hitokiri eyed his main target. "Or you'll wha-?"

The treasured blade Reisuke had been working on the day he met Rin, interrupted Hitokiri in mid-sentence as its master flung it out to pierce the demon's throat.

Sesshomaru knew it wouldn't be a killing wound, but that one moment of surprise was all he needed.

Hitokiri found himself briefly airborne for a few seconds unit was able to slam into the ground and kick Sesshomaru off.

"Really, Lord Sesshomaru," he began, pulling out the blade, "these humans, why protect them? Why miss them? Why love them?"

"Why don't you mind your own business?" The daiyokai took a swipe at his adversary, trying to keep him away from Rin and Reisuke.

Striking the air next to Sesshomaru's ear, Hitokiri gave an infuriating laugh. "Defending a human and his half-breed child; isn't that how your father died?"

"Silence!" Sesshomaru felt the fire rush into his eyes and his features shift.

Hitokiri gasped as he felt his opponent's claws connect with his abdomen. He attempted to distance himself, but Sesshomaru had scented blood now. Ryukotsusei's son was driven to his last option; transformation.

The inu-yokai backed away as Hitokiri was surrounded in a violent storm of demonic aura. He was going to be enormous.

"Reisuke!" Sesshomaru barked over his shoulder.

"Yes, Lord Sesshomaru?"

"Take care of Rin."

"Lord Sesshomaru!" Rin was choking on sobs as Reisuke started tugging her along. "I – I…"

"You will live well." Before he was engulfed in his own yoki, Sesshomaru torqued his facial muscles in a manner most alien to him, but for once appropriate for his emotions. He smiled.

"Now, GO!" His lips formed a rigid line once more.

Reisuke and Rin quickly fled to the village. Only Rin's tears fell back.

Taking on his true form, Sesshomaru steadied on three legs and sunk his fangs into the gashes on the great dragon's belly. His mind, however, drifted elsewhere.

Freeing a little foundling from the grip of death with a sword I never wanted.

Hitokiri roared and fired a blast of yoki.

She was kept safe, grew, and matured…under my care.

More of Sesshomaru's miasma was drooled into the open wound.

I shall protect her once more.

The great dog was able to rip out a now acid-eaten heart, but not before one more bellow wracked Hitokiri's body and he had clamped his jaws down on Sesshomaru.

The little village just south of Musashi's domain was all abuzz with the news of two horrible demons fighting each other to the death on the outskirts of town.

"Rin," Reisuke said as he gently placed a hand on her shoulder. "I think you better not."

She was already halfway out the threshold. "But, Lord Sesshomaru…"

"Would have wanted you to stay here and not go poking around some dead demons' remains. He wouldn't want you to feel guilty." The honesty of his rich brown eyes reassured her.

Rin moved on.

oOo

Pain jolted through Sesshomaru's body.

Pain?

He was alive.

Staggering to his feet, the demon shoved his way out of Hitokiri's still jaws.

Reverse transformation at the last minute to avoid being crushed. Unorthodox, but it was successful.

Blinking into the morning light, Sesshomaru felt his headache worsen when a shrill voice called out to him.

Jaken was leading Au-Un along by the reins.

"Oh, m'lord!" The toad-demon started fussing over him. "You're injured and bleeding and –"

"Let's go, Jaken." Sesshomaru slid onto Au-Un's back.

"Wait, where's Rin?" asked Jaken as he held on to his master's fur.

Au-Un took off and Sesshomaru told him.

"After all that trouble you went through?! Why, Lord Sesshomaru? Why did you do that? What did that girl ever mean to you?" Suddenly, Jaken slapped his claws over his mouth, afraid he had spoken out of place.

Instead, his liege did something very strange. He smiled.

"Ah, m'lord?"

"Because," Sesshomaru said, answering both Jaken and himself, "that's what fathers do."

oOo

Author's note: Yes, I know it's pushing the limits on Sesshomaru's ghostly good side, but I continue think it's an interesting conundrum. I mean, I'm sure it's difficult for a lot of parents to accept their child's growing want for independence (some of us are still trying to convince them we won't wreck the car, eh, Dad?) and that must be quite trying on someone who's used to being the alpha dog, like Sesshomaru (or my dad). Nonetheless, I also wanted to analyze some of the confusion Sesshomaru feels about his father's final decision and how that compares to his own (subtle) paternal nature. I hope I was able to properly convey in my story. Thank you for reading.