Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha.
He wakes at the sun's beckoning; to his relief he finds the pain has completely subsided. He stares disdainfully at the source; he knows he will not gain full use of his hand for a few good days, but is resigned to the fact. Indeed, he has other subjects to concentrate on – one in particular. He is certain Rin is not aware of the extent of her actions, and he is almost as certain that they were not intended. Rin would not see her own killers suffer, he knows it well, how much less could she stand seeing her protector in such a state?
A sneer. He remembers his state of powerlessness the previous night. Had the witness been any one other than Rin they would not have lived. His heart lurches.
When had his father learned of his son's fate? Had he actually known his son would follow in his footsteps in more ways than one?
The irony of falling in love with someone from the very group he had refused from the beginning to have anything to do with is not lost on him. A dry chuckle escapes his lips.
He takes to walking in the gardens. The recent good weather has done wonders in sprucing the place up – he can hear the plum and cherry blossoms popping into existence, the delicate swish of petals opening, the almost tangible pressure of the wind one the leaves and the flowers.
He cannot remember how long it has been since he has last done this – he is not sure if he ever has.
Thoughts tangle teasing him with poisonous jabs and for once he lets them run their full course. Concentrating on the sounds of life alone, he lets them guide him to the pond. He has not seen this pond since he was a mere pup – even then in a desperate search for his father. Seeing it again he remembers the reasons for wanting the world, for wanting power. His reflection does not lie: he is still a mere pup searching, hoping, wishing to make his father proud at any cost. He wants to look away but is transfixed by the truth. He has known it all along, yet it has taken him the better part of five centuries to acknowledge it. He wants what he has always wanted – someone. Now he finally understands his father's sorrow at his thoughtless words, the worry that had changed his scent upon hearing his eldest desired power alone, that he would do most anything to get it, and he is ashamed, so ashamed.
His eyes search the water desperately wanting to find a piece of him that is not usurped by his greed, a shard of him that would make his father proud. He cannot find any.
In his desperation he slides to his knees before the floating apparition . He does not want to be – does not want to believe he is – this empty shell devoid of any redeeming features, this child unworthy of his father's love.
He cannot bear to disappoint another, and especially not Rin, so his mind tells him to do something so cowardly he wants to blush in indignation at the mere thought of it.
He must flee now! His feet are not responding.
"Sesshomaru-sama!!!" The squeal of delight that follows almost makes him smile. Resigned to his fate he awaits for Rin to confirm that which his reflection showed him. He bows his head, in preparation for the cold sword of truth that will cut him.
"I was so worried! Are you alright, Sesshomaru-sama?! Sesshomaru-sama?!!!"
He wants to smile at the delightful way she worries about him. He cannot. In her flurry of temor, worry and gladness she grasps the hand he has regained running her thumb over to ensure it is, indeed, alright; then, with a content sigh, she jumps into his arms.
"Sesshomaru-sama!!!!" Her voice is muffled by his kimono but the sentiment is conveyed clearly. Her relief washes over him.
"Oh...Sesshomaru-sama! You're alright! I'm so glad you're...you're okay." Her arms tighten around him once more before a sharp intake of breath brings her back to reality.
With a squeak she is at an arm's length, kneeling properly and bowing her head.
He finds he rather likes the soft blush that stains her face. He continues to ponder her image, trying to encase it in his memory for all time. She is fleeting, like the flowers she so loves, and he knows he will lose her; whether of his doing, her doing, or life, he knows she will leave him.
The repressed emotion of abandonment wreaks havoc on his already weakened body and he finds himself trembling. His name breaks on her lips even as her arms come to steady him again. She asks no questions, only helps him up, trying to make sure he is alright. He wonders if she sees the failure he is, if she is disgusted beneath that porcelain mien, if she loathes him as he had loathed humans before meeting her, and whether sometime in the past decade and a half her admiration for him has been voided by the empty whole that is his barren heart.
He finds he does not have the strength to ask.
Events from the past night flit around his foggy mind like moths; he remembers kind eyes, warm hands comforting him, delicate fingers helping sate his thirst and warmth...a warmth he is not sure he has ever experienced until the previous night – a warmth that had spread deliciously through his body making him feel safe, reaching into every crevice of his rotting heart and turning it into something living. A warmth that made him feel safe.
Suddenly he knows what he is meant to say:
"Thank you." His voice is weak but he finds the words are not as hard as he had thought them to be.
She turns shining eyes on him.
"Of course, Sesshomaru-sama! I haven't done much, though." She lowers her head in a gesture of apology. "I apologise for invading Sesshomaru-sama's room and private space!" She murmurs.
He shakes his head, then raises her face gently.
"Thank you!" He states clearly, almost regally, as is his natural manner of talking.
Her smile is incredible; it fills him with sensations altogether so foreign to him, all the while making him content.
"I'm very happy Sesshomaru-sama is alright!" Her face falls instantly though. "Sesshomaru-sama is still hurting..." It is a statement, perhaps a question, he is not sure.
He shakes his head.
"This Sesshomaru is perfectly healthy." He does not know why, but he feels the need to convince her. "Look!" He stretches out the new arm. Rin looks but continues to worry her lip between her teeth, then lowering her voice:
"Sesshomaru-sama hurts...here..." She presses her hand on her own heart so child-like in gesture, yet the accuracy of it stuns him. "Rin doesn't want Sesshomaru-sama to hurt. If it is Rin's fault, she apologises and wishes to make amends."
He stares in undisguised amazement and the heavy load he has been burdened with comes crashing down on him. With raw need he sweeps her into his arms. She is the comfort, the beacon, the thread that ties the tapestry of his life into one full picture. She is that which he has craved and never allowed himself to touch. She is what he has always needed, even when he hadn't known it. It was her, had been her, all along.
"Rin..." Reality washing over him puts strain in his voice.
"Forgive this Sesshomaru..."
Her eyes widen.
"What for?! Sesshomaru-sama has not done anything...wrong...and...this Rin does not understand..."
He smiles bitterly.
"This Sesshomaru took unfair advantage of your kindness last night and now, acts for which I apologise."
"Why? How?! Sesshomaru-sama didn't do anything wrong. He just hurt! Rin wanted to make it go away...and she couldn't...and Sesshomaru-sama did what he always does and left in order to deal with things on his own, and Rin should be the one apologising, she should! She should!"
"Rin, are you aware of what you did last night?" He asks with genuine curiosity.
"I...interfered..." That she would sound so ashamed of her own kindness reflects on his past attitude to it and he feels even less adequate. He must clarify.
"You took my pain."
"You...took my pain, shared it, protected me from it...you claimed me as your partner in spirit."
Panic etches onto her features.
"Rin is sorry...she didn't know..."
"You do not know how you did it?"
She shakes her head miserably.
"I just...wanted Sesshomaru-sama to stop hurting."
"Your wish was granted. You do not realize what you have done..."
"Rin is sorry."
"Let me finish." Though strained his voice is not unkind. "You do not realize you risked your life to save this Sesshomaru. The amount of pain a demon can withstand is many, many a-time more than that of a mere human...yet even so..."
She continues to stare at him, afraid in her belief she has wronged him.
"I was past my limit Rin, you saved my life. For that, this Sesshomaru is thankful."
"B-but...I...I bound Sesshomaru-sama...to...to myself...a mere human...it's not right..."
"You still do not understand, Rin...Last night...I could have lost you..."
The barrage of emotions he has kept in check so tightly crumbles.
"I could have lost you."
His head is hung, in a most un-Sesshomaru-esque gesture.
"Rin is...grateful...so grateful for Sesshomaru-sama's kind words...but a great demon should never be tied to a weak human..."
He raises impossibly sad eyes to her.
"And what if it is the demon's desire?"
Rin smiles sweetly in reply.
"The demon is free to do as he chooses, but a mere mortal's no matter what her reasons, no matter what..." She stops abruptly and it makes his heart almost stop.
She colours prettily and hides behind her long hair.
"Rin...? Was there an ulterior reason to your actions?"
He needs to know! Needs to know! His heart burns painfully in his chest. He needs...
His eyes beckon her to continue.
"Yes, there was, and it is most unfair to Sesshomaru-sama. Such a pleb should not restrain him...never... no matter what her feelings on the matter."
He cannot believe it just yet. Her scent exudes so much candour, so much emotion, it is impossible for him to not know what she is feeling, but he wants to be sure – wants to hear...
"Rin is sorry."
His hand reaches out to caress the side of her face ever so gently.
"Will you speak of those feelings...Rin?"
She colours again and he thinks he will never tire of her innocent reactions.
"If Sesshomaru-sama wills it..."
The blush spreads its petals further across her face.
"Rin...Rin...wants to always be with Sesshomaru-sama...and...and she always wants Sesshomaru-sama to be content and happy and blessed."
"It is an honourable sentiment."
She shakes her head.
"It makes Rin horrible; sick with jealousy, or greed, I cannot discern which. All I know I...want Sesshomaru-sama...exclusively. Never to look at another." She raises her eyes to him again. "Sesshomaru-sama has Rin's life, because he saved it...but...he has always had Rin's heart." Her eyes glistened sadly. "It is not fair for someone like Sesshomaru-sama to be tied to...to...someone controlled by such...base feelings...so low-ranked..."
The angry burn in his heart melts into warmth; his arms draw Rin to him of their own volition.
"Rin...is more of a queen as she is than any human or demoness of noble blood this Sesshomaru has ever encountered."
In his own mind he marvels at how much his silence has affected her. In his own turmoil he had forgotten humans need words, gestures, contact – much more so than demons.
"Rin need not worry. This Sesshomaru is content...very much so." His hand lowers to play with hers. "The thread that ties us will not be broken."
He can hear her panic.
"It is too strong, forged of deep, honest emotion. The love of a human is truly a miraculous thing."
The changes in her pulse tell him of her confusion.
"The reason why I did not reject your claim on me was not due to the pain...this Sesshomaru...he wanted...wanted Rin...to choose him."
He has never been so vulnerable before a female – somehow he feels bare despite the kimono.
Tears spill over the brim of Rin's eyes.
"She has...she has..."
He is utterly amazed at the relief those words entail and has to admit part of him continued to be fearful or Rin's potential rejection.
His heart flutters – it actually flutters. Slowly, carefully his lips search out Rin's.
She is more than that impossibly wonderful warmth, she is nurturing rain, she is mother and lover, she is soul mate, she is his heart.
When at last they part, his arms yearn to hold her closer still, but it is not the time. Embracing her even more tightly he gazes over her shoulder at the water. His father smiles back.
Author's Notes: Thank you ever so much to all those of you who have so kindly taken time to review! I love feedback! Many many thanks to: wildmage89, Spirit's Whisper, LitoxShorty, AnimesFireBaby, tankbbg, Alexandra, Meiun Tenshi, hushedthoughts, InuyashasEmoCupcakeToTheMax, and ArizonaBay