Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha series or any of the characters.
Summary: Rin runs afoul of an angry villager while she is foraging for food. Sesshoumaru finds human concepts of child discipline utterly barbaric. One Shot.
As always, AN and translations of Japanese words are at the bottom.
Spare the Rod
Rin's tummy was growling again.
"Sesshoumaru-sama? May Rin go and look for something to eat?"
Sesshoumaru-sama didn't reply, but he stopped walking. That meant yes.
"Do you want me to go with you?" Kohaku-kun asked her. He tended to worry a lot.
"That's okay. Rin won't be long," she assured him, and took off into the bushes to forage. Rin hardly ever worried. She knew that if there were any bandits or youkai or wolves in the area, Sesshoumaru-sama would not have stopped here to let her look for food.
She had only walked for perhaps ten minutes when the woods ended again, revealing a small village surrounded by fields. Just by chance, she'd arrived at a long, narrow vegetable patch on the edge of the village. A few huts stood between the garden and the center of the village, partially shielding the area from view. Perfect! She could sneak over to snatch a few vegetables and be gone before anyone saw her.
Rin hurried forward, looking for the nicest, ripest vegetables. She'd just take a few, just enough to share with Kohaku-kun and Jaken-sama (Sesshoumaru-sama wouldn't want any, and Ah-Un preferred leaves and grass). So long as she didn't pick them all in one spot, why, no one would ever notice they were gone! There were so many, after all.
Rin had already pulled up four different vegetables and was just hopping over a row to pluck a few more when a horrible pain went through her back as though it was breaking. Rin staggered, nearly falling.
"Little thief! I'll teach you to steal from our village's fields!"
Rin turned to face her attacker, dropping the vegetables as she flung out her hands to try to shield herself. A man with an angry face stood over her, his arm raised. In his hand was the handle from a rake or a hoe, and Rin's eyes went wide as he started to swing it down again. She tried to scramble away, but the blow landed across the back of her shoulders, and she fell, cutting her knee on a sharp rock. It stung horribly as the blood welled up. Before she could get up to run, the man struck her again.
"Aw, come on, you don't gotta beat her that hard," called a voice from a distance, but no one came to stop the man from beating her again.
"It's a wonder she doesn't cry out," remarked another voice, closer but quieter. "Strange little thing."
Suddenly, Rin was back in her village, the same thing all over again, without end. No one cared. No one would help her. There was only the hunger and the beatings and cold nights and cruel hands and harsh voices. That was all there would ever be. Travelling with Sesshoumaru-sama seemed like a distant, pleasant dream, or something that had happened to somebody else. Rin was alone. Rin was always alone.
The moment the wind shifted, bringing with it faint traces of the scent of Rin's blood, Sesshoumaru's attention changed from relaxed attentiveness to needle-sharp concentration. Ignoring the startled remarks from Kohaku and Jaken, he sped through the trees, easily following Rin's scent. She'd travelled in nearly a straight line right towards the nearby village.
Clearing the trees, it took him a mere second to perceive the situation. An adult human male was just delivering a harsh blow across Rin's back with a stick. As the man raised his hand to repeat the assault, Sesshoumaru felt such a fury that it unnerved him with its intensity. He was between the man and Rin before the next blow could fall.
Sesshoumaru tore the sturdy wooden rod from the man's hand before the man's arm had even finished its upward arc. The human blinked stupidly at the sudden figure before him, his slow brain trying to catch up. Disgusted, Sesshoumaru felt an overwhelming urge to kill him immediately. But a rather more vicious side of him wanted to make the man hurt.
It was a tough piece of wood, and even in Sesshoumaru's hand it remained solid when he swung it down on the human's shoulder, dropping the wretched creature to his hands and knees. The next blow fell on the hollow of his back, wringing a pained cry from the mortal that sounded delicious to Sesshoumaru's ears. Three more strikes rained upon the man's back, each punctuated by a wail of agony, until finally the rod splintered against the man's shoulders, unable to withstand the force with which Sesshoumaru had wielded it.
Discarding the broken stick, Sesshoumaru seized the cringing mortal by the throat and hoisted him into the air. He wanted to see the terror in this piece of filth's eyes as he crushed his neck.
Never before in Sesshoumaru's life had anything stayed his hand once he had decided to deal a finishing blow. That he hesitated now, when the crime he sought vengeance for was so offensive, was unthinkable. That it was a child's voice that made him pause… this was completely inexplicable.
One of the village brats screamed this, and Sesshoumaru glanced towards the crowd that had formed at a distance, quickly spotting the weeping child that struggled against its mother's restraint. Other children were nearby, horrified, terrified, and they all seemed to have Rin's eyes.
Sesshoumaru turned his glare back on the mortal who was struggling to breathe in his grasp. "Disgusting worm," he hissed venomously, feeling thwarted for reasons he could not comprehend. "Do you brutalize your own children the same way?"
He threw the human from him, a great distance through the air, and felt petty satisfaction at the sound of a bone breaking and the man's cry of pain.
"Be grateful to your brats," he declared darkly. "They are the only reason this Sesshoumaru has not slaughtered you."
He turned away. There were more important matters to attend to; that, in itself, was unusual, for not so long ago he would have considered nothing more important than vengeance. But his viewpoint had changed of late. Indeed, he'd recently found himself re-evaluating his stance on a surprising number of subjects.
Rin still cowered in the dirt, surrounded by the scattered plants that she had evidently dropped. Suppressing his rage in favour of maintaining his wits, he scooped her up in his single arm and strode into the trees.
Once out of sight of the village, Sesshoumaru paused to examine his ward. Rin was curled up tightly, making it cumbersome to carry her one-handed. She made no acknowledgement of his presence.
"Rin," he called her name quietly. No response. "You are safe now, Rin."
She reacted this time, but not to speak or look at him. Instead, she uncurled slightly and twisted in his grip, clutching the edge of his armour with both hands and hiding her face in his mokomoko. She began to tremble violently, but did not cry out or weep. Sesshoumaru tried to shift his grip on her, concerned that his awkward hold might be causing her pain, but doing so only caused her to grasp his breastplate more desperately, her little knuckles turning white. Sesshoumaru settled for cushioning the small girl with his mokomoko as well as he could. Though technically separate from his body in this form, the mokomoko absorbed and obeyed his youki, making it possible for him to control its movements. While clumsy, it was possible to use it as an additional limb, something he generally only did in battle. Apparently, the technique worked equally well to loosely coil the trailing end over and around the child in his arm.
Moving forward again, Sesshoumaru quickly returned to the spot where Kohaku, Jaken, and Ah-Un waited. He ignored the questions aimed his way and sat down under a large tree, his attention still firmly on the quaking little girl. Rin still clung to him, showing no signs that she had plans to do anything else. Hardly any of her was visible, curled as she was into the voluminous white fur of the mokomoko. He wished she would let go so he could pry her off and check her injuries, but she clung with determined and surprising strength, and he was loath to press her for fear of injuring her.
Jaken's shrill voice was getting on his nerves. Kohaku asked fewer questions, and his voice was far more tolerable, but when combined with Jaken's, the noise was grating.
"Silence!" he commanded forcefully, and blessed quiet filled the clearing.
Rin shifted slightly when he spoke, and then stilled. He called her name again, but she did not respond. Her shaking, at least, seemed less severe. However, her continued silence made him uneasy. He remembered her muteness when he had first met her, apparently brought on by the trauma of seeing her family slain, and no doubt aggravated by the harsh treatment of the villagers she had lived among. Had the violence committed against her caused some sort of regression? Had she perhaps been struck in the head? He examined what was visible of her head, and sampled her scent. She smelled like one big bruise, and slightly of blood, but her head seemed free of injury.
"Rin," he called again quietly. "Will you not speak?"
She only burrowed deeper into the mokomoko and went still again. At least she seemed aware of where she was and in whose arm she was currently held. Although Sesshoumaru was growing increasingly concerned the longer Rin remained like this and the longer her injuries went untreated, it seemed there was nothing he could do but wait her out.
The boy's eyes left Rin's nearly hidden form and darted up to meet Sesshoumaru's gaze. "Sesshoumaru-sama?"
"Is it customary for humans to beat children?" Sesshoumaru asked him.
Kohaku seemed surprised and a little confused by the question, but he answered it readily enough. "Well, sometimes. My father caned me a few times when I was really bad -- I mean, like doing something really stupid and dangerous — but even then he didn't beat me very hard. Just two or three smacks on the bottom or across the back of my legs. Usually, he'd just make me run laps around the village or practice twice as long with my kusari-gama when I was bad." He stalled here for a minute, as if searching his memory. "Uh, I got cuffed in the mouth occasionally for being rude or swearing. But not really hard."
Sesshoumaru considered this. "This Sesshoumaru would then infer that it is not typical to use a stout rod to deal a child a series of blows that would fell an adult male."
Kohaku's face went pale, and he stared at what little of Rin was visible. He shook his head in silent confirmation of Sesshoumaru's statement.
To Sesshoumaru's mild surprise, Kohaku left the spot where he'd been sitting and approached, seating himself within arms reach. This was quite unusual behaviour, as the wary boy usually kept his distance from Sesshoumaru. Kohaku's eyes were fixed on Rin, and he seemed too worried to notice his uncharacteristic actions.
"Is that what happened to her?" he asked. He seemed appalled at the very thought. He looked up again, meeting Sesshoumaru's eyes once more. He looked very young and vulnerable as he asked the question that had been plaguing Sesshoumaru's mind. "But why? How could someone…?"
Kohaku trailed off, looking at Rin again. Rin had stopped trembling, but she had not stirred at all throughout the duration of their conversation.
"There's a poultice I can make," Kohaku said suddenly. "It's good for bruises. It's not the best one, but it's the quickest because the herbs can all be used fresh, and it doesn't take much work to prepare them. I can probably find them nearby."
Sesshoumaru approved of this plan. "What else do you require?"
"Uh, just a small cooking pot of boiling water," Kohaku answered.
"Go and find your herbs," Sesshoumaru directed the boy. "Jaken will make a fire and heat water."
"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama," Kohaku replied quickly, and turned to leave.
"You would be wise to avoid the human village to the east," Sesshoumaru suddenly added; though why he thought it necessary to warn the boy, he wasn't sure.
Kohaku stared at him for a second in surprise. Then he nodded and hurried off into the trees. Jaken was not far behind, seeking dry wood for a fire.
This left Sesshoumaru alone with Rin and Ah-Un. Sesshoumaru started unwrapping his mokomoko from around Rin, determined to discover the extent of her injuries. He could not fully extricate her, however, because apparently she'd detached one little hand from his armour long enough to grasp the silky fur, holding it to herself. He needed her to let go.
"Rin," he called. No answer. "Open your eyes, Rin," he ordered firmly.
By some miracle, the sternness in his voice accomplished what no amount of soft words could do. Rin stirred and uncurled a little, and opened her eyes.
"Look at me, Rin," he directed, keeping his tone calm and firm, though not harsh.
Rin hesitated, but then she uncurled a little more and looked up until her eyes found Sesshoumaru's face. Her eyes seemed too big for her face, and had a haunted look in them that reminded him uncomfortably of the beaten and half-starved little waif she had been when he'd first met her. He had thought that look was gone for good.
"You are safe, Rin," he assured her. "No misfortune will befall you whilst I am here."
Rin stared at him searchingly, as though trying to ascertain whether he spoke the truth or not. Her lower lip quivered briefly, before she bit it to stop the trembling.
"You must release my mokomoko and stand, Rin," he directed her. "I wish to see your wounds."
Rin seemed to shrink away from this suggestion, so he tried a different tactic. "Your kosode is dirty, Rin," he said. "If you wish to be permitted to remain in this Sesshoumaru's lap, you must change into your other kosode. Jaken will wash this one when he returns."
The child seemed to weigh this in her mind for a minute, her usually expressive dark eyes unreadable. Then, finally, her grasp on the fur loosened, and she climbed slowly to her feet, moving gingerly.
Sesshoumaru called Ah-Un over, and from the dragon's saddlebag he retrieved Rin's spare kosode, an identical garment cut from the same cloth as the one she normally wore. Although she was still not talking, Rin was cooperative in removing the soiled kosode to replace it with the clean one. Sesshoumaru made her turn in a full circle to examine her injuries. The bruises on her body were rapidly darkening, and they seemed mostly concentrated on her back and shoulders, and on her arms where she had tried to defend herself.
Satisfied that she was in no immediate danger from her injuries, Sesshoumaru gave Rin the clean kosode, and then helped her into it when he noticed how stiff her movements were. Tying her obi nearly defeated both of them, since Rin could not easily reach behind her back and Sesshoumaru had only one hand, but he had become somewhat less clumsy at tying his own clothing one-handed since his brother had cut off his arm, so together they managed to get the job done.
Sesshoumaru released the hidden catch on his armour and set it aside before sitting again. If he was going to allow the child back into his lap, they both might as well be comfortable. He resumed his position seated on the ground, and Rin quickly scrambled into the circular nest of his crossed legs. He ignored the discomfort as she shifted around, unknowingly prodding him with bony heels and elbows and accidentally trapping a few strands of his hair beneath her small hands. Finally, she settled, sitting sideways against his thigh with her knees drawn up, while her bare feet rested against his other leg. He would have dirty footprints on his hakama. He found that he didn't care much; far worse things had stained his clothing in the past than a few smudges of soil.
Rin pressed her face back into his mokomoko again, her hands clutching the front of his hitoe as she leaned her small weight against his chest. He held her, because it seemed to comfort her. He found his mood was still swinging widely between rage and… something else that he was far less familiar or comfortable with. Something softer. Even now, he still longed to go back to that village and eviscerate the puny mortal who had dared harm what was his. Why had he spared him? Why had those brats disturbed him so? He should have killed the man. But somehow, Rin's welfare was far more important. He didn't understand the feeling. He had an almost obsessive desire to protect Rin, to make sure she was all right, to make it all better.
The smell of Rin's blood was still playing havoc with his instincts, and he eyed the small cut on her raised knee. It was not right that Rin should be in pain. Without thought or hesitation, he bent his head and licked the wound a few times, trying to clean it.
It was an automatic reaction, an instinct of the most basic sort. He should never have done that. He should not have let her into his lap either. He shouldn't have cared to comfort her. He shouldn't care whether she lived or died. He shouldn't have been so alarmed when his mother had loosed the hell hound on Rin. He shouldn't have been upset when Rin died in the darkness of Hell. He shouldn't have been so relieved when his mother had used the Meidou-seki to revive her. He shouldn't have felt anything when Naraku had taken Rin, or when the evil hanyou had tried to make Kohaku kill her. He should never have let Rin travel with him. He should never have saved her with Tenseiga in the first place.
Which road was it that was said to be paved with good intentions?
He tried to picture his life if he had never saved Rin from the wolves, and he failed miserably. He had lived for centuries without her presence, and yet somehow she had become central to his very existence in the few short months he had known her.
"Will you speak, Rin?" he asked her, to distract himself from his thoughts. "I would hear you speak again."
What was there to say? Rin hurt all over, and Sesshoumaru-sama was holding her so safe and comfortable, and she was quite content to just continue to sit quietly. Sesshoumaru-sama would make everything better.
"Why was that wretch beating you, Rin?" Sesshoumaru-sama asked her. She blinked at him, trying to decide whether she wanted to answer. Then he said, "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
Rin remembered when he had said that to her before, and to her surprise, a little smile tried to take over her face. Then, as if that had unfrozen something, the corners of her mouth turned downwards just as quickly, and she felt the prickling of tears welling in her eyes. She tried with all her might not to let them fall.
"Rin stole food," she answered finally, almost inaudibly, and then the tears did start to fall. She took a deep, shaky breath and held it for a moment, trying not to cry. Her back ached as her ribs stretched with the air in her lungs, and the tears fell harder. She leaned forward and hid her face against Sesshoumaru-sama's hitoe. "Rin was bad," she added in a muffled whisper.
"No, Rin," Sesshoumaru-sama's voice rumbled through his chest beneath her cheek. "You were not to blame. There is no excuse for his mistreatment of you, no matter your actions."
Rin had never had anybody to tell her she didn't deserve to be hurt. The people in her old village had always made sure she knew what a naughty little girl she was, and that she deserved to be punished. She wouldn't have believed Sesshoumaru-sama, if not for the fact that it was Sesshoumaru-sama who said it.
"Rin didn't shout or cry," she added, feeling as though this was something he ought to know, even though she wasn't sure if she was proud of this fact or not. "Not even once."
"I know. I would have heard you if you had done so."
Rin wrestled with the growing tightness in her chest and her throat. It was becoming unbearable. She tried to concentrate on something else. Anything else. Like the fact that Sesshoumaru-sama was letting her stay in his lap. Or the fact that he was referring to himself as "I" instead of his usual "this Sesshoumaru". Or how he'd licked her hurt knee like a big doggy. It had tickled, but it felt better too. Maybe if she just kept thinking about those things, the horrible pressure in her chest would eventually go away. She tried to concentrate as hard as she could, drawing another stuttered breath.
"You are all right now, Rin," said Sesshoumaru-sama, maybe because he had felt how shaky her breath was.
He was trying to make her feel better, but it just made it harder for her to keep from crying. She kept her face pressed against his silk hitoe, eyes closed tightly to try to prevent any more tears. It wasn't working.
"Rin was so afraid," she finally admitted in a whisper, and gave up the battle, letting the sobs force their way out of her.
Sesshoumaru-sama did not try to stop her or make her leave his lap. He didn't even seem to mind that she was crying all over him. In fact, she felt his arm tighten briefly around her shoulders, careful to avoid her bruises, before his hand came up to rest on her head. It felt soothing as his fingers smoothed her tangled hair.
She didn't cry very long. How could she when Sesshoumaru-sama was so kind and gentle towards her? After a little while, she lifted her head and scrubbed her eyes with the back of her wrist, sniffling loudly. Sesshoumaru-sama handed her a handkerchief instead, and Rin looked around the clearing as she blew her stuffy nose.
Jaken-sama had returned and built a fire sometime while Rin was crying. She watched for a while as the little cooking pot of water which he'd placed over the flames started to steam and bubble. Jaken-sama was pretending not to notice that anything was amiss, which Rin felt grateful for. The idea of having people make a fuss over her when she was hurt made her want to cry again. She didn't want to cry anymore.
Kohaku-kun came out of the bushes then, holding a bundle of herbs. Rin watched him as he quickly mashed them on a flat rock. He felt her watching him, and gave her one of his quick, slightly uncertain little smiles, before turning back to his work. When he was done, he dropped the crushed plants into Jaken-sama's cooking pot and waited.
It didn't take long for the herbs to be ready, and Kohaku-kun drained the water and let the mixture cool a bit before he brought it over.
"I'm going to put this on your back, alright Rin-chan? It'll make you feel better."
"Okay," she replied quietly, feeling tired from all the crying. She shrugged out of the top of her kosode, and wondered why Kohaku-kun's face turned pink.
Kohaku-kun's expression soon turned sad and angry as he looked at her back. He didn't say anything, though, and started to put the sticky plant mixture onto all the sore spots. It smelled a bit funny, and Rin looked up in time to catch Sesshoumaru-sama wrinkling his nose before his expression smoothed itself out to its normal appearance. Rin would have laughed if she felt less sore and tired. Instead, she settled for a smile. Sesshoumaru-sama noticed and raised an eyebrow at her, but said nothing.
"Hold your arms out," Kohaku-kun told her, putting down the pot. "I'm going to put some bandages on you so that the poultice doesn't get all over your kosode."
Rin obediently put her arms out and let Kohaku loosely wind bandages around her. It felt funny to be all wrapped up like that.
"Thank you, Kohaku-kun," she told him as he was tucking in the ends of the bandage. "Rin feels better."
Kohaku-kun just blushed again. "I'm just glad you're okay, Rin-chan," he said, ducking his head shyly.
Sesshoumaru watched closely as Kohaku tended his ward's injuries, and decided that it appeared that the boy knew what he was doing. His actions did not seem to be causing Rin any undue pain, at any rate, and he worked quickly and efficiently. Soon, Rin was able to pull her kosode back up over the bandages that held the poultice in place, and Sesshoumaru sent Jaken away to wash the girl's other kosode. Kohaku stored the rest of the unused poultice for later.
The boy had blushed quite a bit when Rin had bared her torso, despite the fact that she was still a child with no sense of modesty and nothing to hide. Sesshoumaru considered, not for the first time, that Kohaku's regard for Rin might not be entirely platonic. He sensed nothing offensive or untoward about the boy's affection, however, so it did not disturb him.
"I'm going to go see if I can catch anything to eat," Kohaku announced. "You must still be hungry, huh Rin-chan?"
Rin nodded her head quietly, and watched as Kohaku walked off into the bushes. She shifted around on Sesshoumaru's lap, and he thought she was about to restore their normal boundaries. Instead, she simply rearranged herself into a more comfortable position in his lap and settled against his chest again.
"Is this alright, Sesshoumaru-sama, if Rin stays here?" she asked in a small, timid voice.
This encroachment upon his personal space was not something he had often permitted in the past. He suddenly wondered why he hadn't.
"Yes," he replied. "Do as you please, Rin."
This seemed to be all she needed to hear, and with a soft sigh, she relaxed completely in his arm. There was something so inherently trusting about the gesture that it both startled and pleased him.
Rin must be protected at all costs. If something were to happen to her, there would be no Tenseiga-gifted reprieve this time. Nor would his mother deign to resurrect the girl again. No, Rin must be kept safe. Clearly, his protection so far had been insufficient, if she could so easily be injured. But he would remedy that. No longer would he allow Rin to steal food from humans, though he had never discouraged her from doing so before. To his mind, Rin's own kind should naturally share what they had with an orphaned child. Apparently, they were more selfish than he'd thought; therefore, taking food from human villages would no longer be permitted. If she could not find enough to eat in the woods, he would hunt as often as required.
It was odd that this had become his greatest concern. Rin's safety had even surpassed his revenge against Naraku in importance to him.
It was indeed a slippery slope. Had his father's fascination with humans begun so imperceptibly as well? This was why humans were dangerous. To deal with them, one risked knowing them; in knowing them, one risked respecting them; and by respecting them, one risked loving them. Wasn't that the question he had put to his brother? Why protect them? Why miss them? Why love them? In his arrogance, he had never imagined that such a thing could happen to him.
Rin had changed him so gradually that all the incremental steps along this path had escaped his notice. One foot after the other, he had ventured so far into unknown territory that going back was unthinkable. He'd walked into this with his eyes wide open, and somehow he had still been blind to the truth. It was ridiculous, laughable, foolish, and hypocritical of him. He realized full well that he was treating this human child as though she was his own pup. The damning part of it was that he liked it. He liked that she was his Rin. His human pup. All his, and no one else's.
So be it.
He'd never thought of himself as particularly paternal, but falsehood was beneath one of his stature, and that included lying to himself. Now that he'd recognized the situation, he was not about to deny it. Even if it meant calling down the wrath of every human and youkai throughout the lands, he would acknowledge the truth. If it pleased him to adopt a human child as though she was a pup born of his own loins, then to hell with the consequences. Any who would dare to challenge him would not survive the attempt. Hadn't he always done just as he pleased? Was he not daiyoukai of the Western Lands?
He looked down at Rin, resting peacefully in his lap. Her cut was still bleeding a little.
His pup would not be permitted to suffer. Bending his head, he licked her injured knee again for good measure.
Pup. Daughter. Rin.
AN: For those who have not read the manga, here is a very quick and simplified summary of events pertinent to this story. Kohaku started travelling with Sesshoumaru, we were introduced to Sesshoumaru's mother, Rin died during Sesshoumaru's attempt to strengthen and better understand Tenseiga, Sesshoumaru discovered that Tenseiga can only resurrect a person once, and Sesshoumaru's mother took pity on him and used her pendant to revive Rin, with the warning that she would not do so again. So nice of her, considering that she's the one who sent Rin into Hell in the first place. This story is set sometime after those events, but not very long after.
Youkai – demon
Otou-san – father
Mokomoko – fluffy, Sesshoumaru's furry item over his right shoulder
Youki – demonic energy
Kusari-gama – Kohaku's weapon, chained scythe
Kosode – Rin's clothing (not a yukata, which was not used for anything beyond sleeping until a later time period)
Obi – sash used to tie kimono, kosode, etc.
Hakama – Sesshoumaru's pants
Hitoe – Shirt garment worn by Sesshoumaru
Meidou-Seki – stone pendant used by Sesshoumaru's mother in the manga to summon a hellhound, open portals to Hell, and revive Rin from death
Daiyoukai – very powerful or great youkai