Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha, nor do I make any profits from the publication of this story.


She hears the laboured breathing and his attempts to hide it. In her mind she can almost see him through the heavy wooden door, lying on his back, his form outlined by the richly woven sheets and quilts on his bed. She is afraid for him. He never seems to feel pain, so to hear him so exhausted makes her heart clench with anxiety. She remembers their first meeting (over a decade and a half past); then, when his body had been completely broken, he hadn't made a sound.

She knows not what to do, but decides that indecision is the worst choice, so she braves her fear and opens the door.

He doesn't stir; doesn't acknowledge her in the least. The raspy breathing is even more pronounced now that she is near him and her heart clenches painfully.


He doesn't answer, instead long-drawn uneven breaths fill the room with sound. Another step in his direction, then another.

From this angle she can clearly see the sheen of sweat covering his brow.

She finds it odd that he would be feverish – he hadn't had one when she'd first encountered him, those many years past, and he'd looked considerably worse then.

"Sesshomaru-sama...What happened?"

The words tremble on his lips but he doesn't know how to say them.

He has never learned how to be vulnerable – even at the very moment he wishes she would go away and leave him to his misery.

He knows not how to say he hurts and even less how to ask for comfort, and the pain is strong, so strong.

She has never been one to be reserved and her lord's obvious affliction only spurs her heart – in an instant she is there with him, on his bed.

His eyes widen in surprise but she cannot see them; cautiously and ever so softly she touches the smooth fabric of his night gown. He does not react. The scent of fear hits him, and to his surprise he feels touched that she would worry for him so.

With careful movements she brings out a handkerchief and wipes his brow. The gentle breeze caused by her movements dulls the pain a little bit.

He turns eyes on her and she doesn't shirk from his gaze. He chuckles inwardly. His Rin has spunk – she always has had.

By now it feels every particle of his body is on fire and trying to separate from the rest of him. He cringes cursing his 'healing' abilities.

He doesn't remember ever feeling so weak, and part of him resents the fact that there is a witness to his pitiful state.

Rin continues to wipe his brow, then stands up and brings him the cup of water placed on his table. He doesn't know how she understood he was thirsty, but he is glad of it. Further pondering allows him to realise he is too weak to even stand up.

Thirst claws at his throat.

Without hesitation Rin dips her fingers in the water and brushes them gently across his lips.

He cannot believe how grateful he is – the other side of him is screaming at the indignity of it all. She repeats the actions a few more times until he turns his head slightly – she understands his thirst is sated. Her eyes do not leave his face, and if it wasn't for the fever he thinks he would be blushing – again a side of him strongly argues this but he knows it to be so.

"Sesshomaru-sama will be alright..."

He supposes it's meant to be a statement but it comes out more as a question. Gathering up strength he nods painfully. He doesn't like the tears he sees in her eyes. It is unusual, uncommon, unnatural even for someone to be crying for him. His frayed emotions make him even more irritable.

Rin resumes the wiping of his brow, but to his great shame he finds the pain affects him in other, unfortunate, ways also. He has the inane need to not feel alone – which to him is utterly ridiculous because great demons do not ever feel alone – yet he cannot help it.

Again she seems to read his mind and her actions cease, her arm coming instead to drape across him comfortably.

She raises herself up and places his head on her lap. He can see her blush – he is not sure if it's their proximity or another reason, but he feels something akin to gladness.

He stares unseeingly, too stubborn to admit that he has the perfect opportunity to focus on Rin's face. Her small hands tangle slightly in his hair and begin combing through it. The sense of peace and warmth threatens to swallow even the waves of pain and he comes to the conclusion that he is afraid to let them. Pain he understands, he can deal with; peace and warmth and that 'something else', which has been present in Rin's eyes as of late, are still mysteries to him and Sesshomaru does not like that which he does not know.

She sees his features twist in pain again and it pulls at her heart. Her hand caresses the side of his face then moves down to find his hand. He needs to know he is not alone.

Something pokes at her stomach...something which shouldn't be there, and on closer analysis she can see that under the thin silk of his night gown sleeve the lump she is accustomed with is bigger, much bigger. She cannot stop her curiosity and she prods it gently. It is nearly wrist length. She gapes, understanding finally the cause of her lord's ailment.

With utmost care she lifts the sleeve and, indeed, she can see the bone poking through the skin – his arm is growing back, bone first. She shudders trying to imagine the amount of pain he must be withstanding.

His chest rises and falls faster with each breath, his breathing becomes shallower and she can see he is having problems staying conscious. The pain is about to overcome him when the feel of a small hand links him back with reality. The intensity is reduced. He opens his eyes: Rin's hand is on his wrist and she is crying.

He wonders as to the reason, but finds himself to be too tired to ponder. Her tears bathe his cheek, his hair, his lips. She is in every sense a rejuvenating rain to him, but something is not right. Her tears fall faster and her body starts shaking with sobs.

A part of him screams that it is not normal – after all Rin has never cried in all their time together. It is eery. With the pain subsiding his eyes focus on something he had not noticed before – a glowing thread is between Rin and himself. He begins following it with his eyes; it does not come from outside; it seems to have no source. The glow must be stronger at the origin, he reasons with himself, and tries to find it. It is closer than he expects: Rin's hand and his wrist are intricately connected by this thread.

He looks up at Rin. She smiles – her face is unnaturally pallid, almost the same shade as his own face, and her body is wracked by sobs but she smiles. All he can see is that smile even as she faints on the pillows. The pain is almost gone and he curses suddenly understanding why this is. In a swift move he pulls his arm brusquely and sees the thread loosen. He does not want to leave Rin, but her breathing, though still slightly laboured, tells him she will be alright. He moves away from her not wanting to cause her any more pain. He is still dazed by the revelation that she would bind her soul to him. He has heard that in certain cases mated demons could share the pain so as to protect the other but never paid it heed, and Rin was neither a demoness nor his mate.

In that moment he understands why his brother chose to be sealed rather than kill, and his awkward glances towards the strangely-dressed priestess shine with the same pure emotion he has just seen demonstrated.

His mouth dries and his heart pounds erratically: Rin is in love with him.

With a chaste kiss to her hair he disappears in the dark night. The pain returns but not to the same extent and with only two fingers left to be regenerated he feels somewhat relieved. Rin's actions befuddle him still. Her attempt to protect him, to take care of him, stirs frozen emotion in recesses of the heart he had thought long gone.

He knows of his own affections for Rin, but still reels at the extent of her love for him. There are many conflicting voices in his mind, but one speaks clearer than the rest:

She alone is worthy of being our partner in life.

He tries to argue but comes to the conclusion he cannot perceive the concept of a Rin-less life anyway. He sighs. The Great Lord of the West is enamoured with a mortal. He is sure his father must be laughing somewhere above the clouds, but he finds he does not care.

The soil below him is wet and cold, and he finds himself yearning for Rin and her warmth but he cannot hurt her. He chuckles thinking how she laid claim to him first. The pain is a dull roar in the back of his head, and as he drifts to sleeps his dreams are with his puzzling ward.

A/N: This is AU, but hopefully not too bad. I would love to hear your opinions on the matter. :)