Disclaimer: I am but a humble artist, and do not own Sesshoumaru or anything else from the Inuyasha series.

Summary: It started as a whim. He never intended it to happen. Lord Sesshoumaru muses on the disruption to his life brought about by the presence of a particular human child, and comes to some reluctant conclusions.

A Moment's Whim

It started as a whim.

No, if he was honest with himself, it started before that. Bemusement — that was how it really started. Bemusement at the skittish, dishevelled human child who came across a wounded taiyoukai and clumsily tried to help him. When he first laid eyes on her, he bared his fangs and snarled at the possible threat, eyes still glowing in the aftermath of his battle with his hanyou half-brother. The warning was ineffective. She was frightened of him, but not nearly as frightened as she ought to be. So it was bemusement that led him to bear her increasingly bold visits, to speak with less cruelty than he might otherwise be inclined, to resist the urge to drive her away. Several times she brought useless human food to him, in spite of the sharp edge of hunger that permeated her scent like a second skin, and he wondered why.

Curiosity came next, when she appeared with her most pitiful offering yet, reeking of pain and distress. Her face was swollen and bruised, and one of her blunt, human fangs was missing. Idle curiosity, he told himself, and certainly not any kind of concern, was what caused him to ask the question, to inquire about her, to show even the slightest interest in a human's pathetic life. He amended himself immediately, of course, clarified that he did not care if she answered, that curiosity was his only motivation. And he could only feel bewilderment at the ugly, painful, sincere smile he received.

It was a moment's whim that led him to revive the lifeless, bloodied figure lying broken on the forest floor. A test, he'd called it, of Tenseiga's powers, but that explanation had not entered his head until after he realized he had already drawn the sword with the intention to use it. He'd blamed it on the sword itself, initially, as though it had some power over him that had caused him to sweep it across the still, fragile form. That didn't explain why he had lifted her in his arm, bracing the small body against his knee as he crouched, and watched with bated breath as life returned to her. It didn't explain the strange thrill he felt at the sound of her heart starting to beat, at the feel of warmth returning to her skin, or why he felt transfixed by her gaze when she opened her eyes.

If granting her life was done on a whim, allowing her to follow him was utterly inexplicable. He had tried to rationalize it after the fact — he was feeling magnanimous, or he wasn't yet healed enough to care to drive her off, or he still harboured some curiosity about her. But in truth, he really hadn't given it a lot of thought, beyond wondering why she would want to follow him. He had not extended any word or sign of invitation, unless walking at a pace she could keep up with could be misconstrued as an invitation. He had not been particularly kind to her. So why did she wish to follow him?

Tenseiga had healed her bodily injuries, but it was still several days before he first heard her voice. The "yes, Lord Sesshoumaru" rang out as she darted off into the woods to forage at his direction, which surprised him more than he liked to admit. When she returned, he eyed her carefully, studying her, really looking at her for the first time since he had revived her. She was in desperate need of a bath and her hair was a tangled mess. Her kimono was covered in rips and stains, and still stank of blood.

The offensive smell, he told himself, was what led to the acquisition of the new kimono.

"Bathe before you wear it," he stated. "You smell."

That didn't explain the comb.

Her face lit up as it always did when he addressed her, as though he had told her she could have the moon and stars.

And from the moment she began to speak again, she began to chatter incessantly every waking hour. Her name was Rin, she was 8, she had a loose tooth, and she liked flowers very much. Why were there so many stars, why was the grass green, where are we going? Last night I dreamed I could fly in the air like Lord Sesshoumaru… how does Lord Sesshoumaru fly if my Lord doesn't have wings? What's that fluffy thing on my Lord's shoulder? Is it a tail? Oh. If Lord Sesshoumaru is a Dog Demon, shouldn't my Lord have a tail? When she had nothing to say, she'd sing instead, her high, reedy voice carrying throughout the area. Sesshoumaru, who was used to spending long periods of time passing silently through his territory, found that his days had become a great deal louder.

And yet she was an obedient child. If he told her to be quiet, the silence was as absolute as a human could manage. When he told her not to move, she would quite literally take him at his word. This did not mean she was not inconvenient, however. He had never had any interest in humans before, but he quickly learned that this one needed to pass several hours each day asleep, needed to eat and drink at least once every day (preferably more), made frequent stops to relieve herself, and was highly susceptible to injury and the elements.

Jaken was not pleased. This was easy to see, for he voiced his opinion constantly. Arguing with him was actually the cause of a large portion of the girl's chattering. Sesshoumaru was certainly not about to stoop to explaining himself to his retainer. He could scarcely explain it to himself. And it wasn't long before Jaken, too, developed an inordinate amount of tolerance for the child, even if it was masked by scolding and surliness.

He had wondered how the child would take to Ah-Un, and vice versa. The two-headed dragon, though firmly a plant-eater, was rather more intimidating in appearance than Jaken, and not accustomed to children. However, within two minutes of meeting, the girl was perched on the dragon's back, scratching the scales on the two heads and giggling while Ah-Un growled contentedly. She rode on Ah-Un's back when she tired of walking, slept there when they had not stopped for the night, and even dangled by her arms from the two necks, her feet waving in the air in front of Ah-Un's chest. Ah-Un tolerated all this mauling with complete serenity.

Everything made her happy. Pride over catching fish or finding berries — that he could understand. Her resourcefulness was certainly an asset, and it was natural for the child to be pleased with her abilities. But she was equally delighted by sunshine, rainbows, and fields of flowers. If a flock of birds suddenly erupted from the grass, she smiled. If she caught a glimpse of a deer (a rare occurrence, considering the amount of noise she made), she was in awe. If the wind blew hard on a warm day, she spread her arms and leaned against it, laughing as it held her up, the little kimono billowing like a sail. He'd once seen her spin in circles with her arms outstretched until she'd fallen over, giggling. This process repeated several times. She wasn't giggling when she threw up in the grass a few moments later, but within twenty minutes she was entirely back to normal, flicking acorns at Jaken from atop Ah-Un's back. She took such joy in everything.

Her attitude towards him was something else that baffled him. Not that he was unaccustomed to respect, but her regard was something else. A different kind of esteem that bordered on impudence, as contrary as the two words might be. It was too familiar. Others were polite and distant in their deference to him, while Rin was openly awestruck. Every action he took, every utterance from his lips, was treated with the highest adoration. As much as this Sesshoumaru deserved such acclaim, having a human child extol his virtues while he was busy defending her could make any taiyoukai feel slightly self-conscious.

And she trusted him. In fact, she trusted with such unwavering faith that it put all others to shame. And trust was needed, because despite his vigilance, she always ended up in situations that placed her in jeopardy. And it was always left to him to extract her. He always did. Part of it was pride. Any threat to her was a direct affront to him, and letting that succeed and go unpunished was not acceptable to him. Part of it was possessiveness. He had restored her life; therefore, it belonged to him. He would suffer no one to touch her.

But pride and possessiveness did not explain the single-mindedness with which he found himself fighting when he should retreat, dashing through forests, climbing mountains, and throwing himself off cliffs. The sound of her scream could bring him from a standstill to her side before he even had time to think, let alone realize he had broken into a run. Nothing could explain the constant, acute awareness of her fragility and vulnerability. There was no reasoning the flood of adrenaline, the elevated pulse, or the icy cold clenching in his chest and red-hot rage behind his eyes at the prospect of any threat to her. Finally he was forced to admit that he saved her time and again simply because it was inconceivable to him to do otherwise.

"Have you someone to protect?"

It seemed so long ago that he had scoffed at his father's question.

"I, Sesshoumaru, have no need of such."

And he had utterly believed his own words. What did the great Inu no Taishou know that this Sesshoumaru did not? Two centuries later, as he fought So'unga alongside his hanyou brother, he answered the question again.

"I, Sesshoumaru, have no one to protect!"

The words had sounded empty to his ears, inane and meaningless. He could well imagine his father's quiet, infuriating, all-knowing laugh. He couldn't even lie to himself.

He should have driven her off long ago. In the beginning, he had even idly entertained the notion of leaving her behind, or sending her away. She made him weak, vulnerable. She was a flaw for his enemies to exploit. She indulged in foolish, childish, human pursuits, produced endless trouble, and caused him to alter the habits of centuries. And yet, in spite of all the pains she brought him, he found that he could no more forsake her than chew off his remaining arm.

If his father could see him now, he would laugh himself sick.

Him, this Sesshoumaru, rendered utterly helpless by a human child.