Ephemeral Addictions

Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha; a rather unfortunate truth that I find myself regretting quite frequently. As I am not making profit from this piece of writing, I would certainly appreciate being allowed to borrow the characters for a bit. I take no credit for the creation of the characters that I use but the story is original.

Author's Note: I've wanted to write a Sesshomaru and Rin piece for quite a while but I haven't had the time, the ideas weren't quite right, or I ended up writing myself into a corner so many different times that I had nearly given up entirely. I would like to thank jsickler1, to whom this piece of fiction is most respectfully dedicated, for encouraging me to try my hand at the pairing once again. Apologies in advance for a bit of angst but I think we're all well aware that I can't write a story without it. As this is my first attempt with the pairing, constructive criticism is very much appreciated. I would like to know, most specifically, what you think of my characterizations.

"Pacing isn't going to help them fit any better."

The floorboards creaked gently as he discerned the sound of her feet quickly shuffling to a stop behind him. Although his interests in exactly what she was doing at the moment were minimal now that she had stopped pacing, Sesshomaru couldn't help but let curiosity get the better of him. Or perhaps boredom had motivated him to turn around and find out exactly what the lovely young woman behind him had decided to occupy herself with instead of tracing and retracing her steps across the wooden panels of his immaculate and gleaming floor.

He would have liked to think that his voice hadn't been too sharp with her; he couldn't keep the smirk on his face, however, when he watched one of her small hands rush towards her temple. Sesshomaru watched as she brushed a strand of her gleaming ebony hair away from the delicate features of her face; high cheekbones, slightly bronzed skin, hypnotizing chocolate eyes. The small girl that he'd taken into his care so many years ago had grown into a rather lovely young woman.

Nervously, Rin spun a strand of hair around her index finger and bit her lower lip a bit expectantly. It was a mannerism that Sesshomaru had come to understand defined frustration in her movements, though his understanding of her motivations always seemed to end there. He'd long since given up trying to understand the girl. She'd been difficult enough when she was still a child; he hadn't a hope in any of the seven hells of understanding just what went on in that mind of hers.

"Something just doesn't feel quite right, Sesshomaru-sama," she frowned, looking down at the lovely wooden zori that adorned her feet.

It had been nearly three years ago that she'd received the package. A lovely white box tied neatly with yellow ribbon; it had been placed on the floor beside her bed not long after she had recovered from a rather nasty case of the flu. There had been something so precise about the abstract presence of the box; something unfitting about the perfect appearance of the outside wrappings but something welcome about it nonetheless.

Rin had known exactly who had left it from the moment she'd noticed it.

"I couldn't possibly venture a guess as to what it might be," he had returned his attention to the book he had been reading before Rin's interruption. The same amusement that his first comment had carried was now absent from his voice, though there wasn't really irritation there, either. His words had, perhaps, been a bit sharp but Rin was willing to believe that it had more to do with stress than with her pacing. He added, almost as an afterthought, "But I'm sure it doesn't have anything to do with breaking in your zori."

Rin found the addition to be a rather refreshing change of pace, however. It seemed that, anymore, even some of the smallest things she did seemed to upset Sesshomaru. Biting her lower lip, Rin finally dropped the piece of hair she had been twisting around her finger and wondered when, exactly, it was that things had changed between them. There hadn't always been such a tension surrounding their normal interactions; his stoic demeanor and her wistful behavior. She hadn't always felt the need to be so cautious around him. But Rin found that there were parts of herself that it was just better if she held back; they both seemed happier when she kept her childish bouts of restlessness, wayward instances of playfulness, and spontaneous ideals to herself. Well, Sesshomaru was happier, at least. And that meant she was happy, too. Or, at least, she would learn to be.

"No," she whispered, willing herself to smile. She edged closer to him, hoping that her footsteps would not disturb him from his reading as she slowly slid onto one of the cushions near him. "I do suppose you're right, Sesshomaru-sama. It's not my zori."

He'd never told her why he'd chosen that particular pair and she'd never asked.

But they really were lovely. Smooth, polished wooden soles that were accented with lovely white silk almost seamlessly; the yellow flowers painted on the silk seemed added almost as an afterthought. But the flowers were the part, in her opinion at least, that had made them so uniquely hers; special because only Sesshomaru could have thought to add them there. It showed that he must have put quite a bit of thought into the gift and, confused as she was to have received it with no special occasion in mind, Rin couldn't have been more surprised or grateful.

Eventually, he ventured a glance at the beautiful young woman who was now sitting next to him. She was focused on the doorway, slid halfway open, and Sesshomaru couldn't help but feel his breath catch in his throat when he noticed a breeze gently toying with her long ebony hair. The way the sunshine licked her delicate features made it difficult for the powerful demon to pull his eyes back down to the book that he had been reading. And he eventually resigned himself to studying her, not worried about what her reaction might be when she eventually noticed him.

As Rin finally turned her attention just slightly over her shoulder to look back at Sesshomaru, the slight flush that rose to her cheeks surrendered all of her secrets to the Lord of the Western Lands.

"This is bothering you," he closed the book with gentle hands and turned so that he was facing her. "Now, tell me what is wrong."

Turning her head to the side just slightly, Rin studied Sesshomaru for a moment before closing her eyes and taking a deep breath.

It had been a few long years in the making; had happened so slowly that she'd hardly had the mind to notice it at all. But it was done and, at long last, she had finally realized that she couldn't fight to change the inevitable. It was easy, at first, to pretend. To shake off the knot, like a ball of yarn, in the pit of her stomach when she thought about exactly why things had changed between them. But then it got harder and harder to ignore the cold hard facts as they piled up in front of her and, eventually, the minutes turned to hours and hours became days. Somewhere in those prolonged moments of reverie she often found herself wondering when, exactly, it was that she'd fallen out of love with him.

"The gift," she murmured, turning to look at him with a serious expression on her face. Then, a bit more confidently, she clarified, "The zori you gave me."

It broke her completely when she realized that there were things that he could never love about her. He'd said it himself, shaped his lips around the words, like daggers piercing through her heart. Rin had seen it in his eyes when he looked at her; there was emotion there that he'd never been able to hide from her. Shame when he rolled off of her at night. Disgusted by her weakness when he'd been needed to save her life so many times. It was honesty in all of its brutality because he'd never been able to say those things to her that he felt but his eyes couldn't lie to her. He loved her through his ignominy. He needed her despite his denial.

"They are your favorite, are they not?"

She nodded her response.

There were things she loved and things she loved not-quite-as-much about him. Rin loved the way he said her name when the dawn was just beginning to peak over the horizon. He said it like she was all that mattered to him in the world, like it didn't matter that they were from two different worlds. It was the way he pushed her hair away from her face so that he could drink in the final moments of the ecstasy that only he could provide her; how he looked into her eyes when it was just the two of them. She loved how different he was when they were alone and, guiltily, she loved that she was the only one able to see past his hard mask.

But the things she loved about him less: the way he would become cold within the company of his cohorts, the brush of his skin that would only leave her feeling cold and worthless. The shame he felt for loving her.

"They're beautiful," she murmured, looking down at the lovely sandals on her feet. "Perfectly perfect in every way. I love them, really I do, Sesshomaru-sama."

"But?" he raised an eyebrow as he studied her expression.

He wore his pride like a coat of armor. His armor was all that could protect him from the weakness of loving her. Rin hated that he had so much control over her emotions; that his only form of true happiness could come by the way of slaughtering humans like herself. He would only be happy when the pollution of his bloodline, his younger brother, was forgotten. She would never understand just what it was that made her special in his mind; what it was that made her worth his efforts. But she was grateful for every moment his attention belonged to her; for every moment she was able to take his breath away.

"But the way they fit just isn't quite right," she tugged slightly on the silk straps that held the zori to her feet. The fabric barely gave way under her ministrations and she had proven that her feet were really rather smothered by the ornate slippers. "Even after three years of wear, they still leave painful marks on my feet if I walk too far. And the wooden soles will splinter if I change directions too quickly."

"I see," Sesshomaru ran his index finger across his chin thoughtfully. "Then forgive me for asking why, then, do you still wear them?"

She could swear, sometimes, that he doesn't see her as anything more than a contemptible responsibility.

Just a fight to be triumphed.

Another piece of land to acquire.

Only ever as a blow to his strong armor; his pride.

"I'm not sure," she offered him a smile. It was a bittersweet expression starting at the corners of her mouth and spreading slowly. She was cautious about choosing her words. Sesshomaru could tell by the tone of her voice, "I don't know if I wear them because I love them so much or because I'm just so habituated to wearing them."

"Rin?" the demon frowned, realization finally washing over him.

"You are like my zori, Sesshomaru-sama," she stood up from her place beside him and, with her back turned in his direction, crossed the distance to the sliding bamboo door. "And I wish I knew if I love you because it is written perfectly across my heart or if I love you out of inexorable inclination."

She had retreated to the sunlight outside before the words could really sink in and Sesshomaru was left alone to feel sting of her implied denotation pierce through his armor.

Author's Note: It is not often that I have a need to write two author's notes. However, this story is very near and dear to my heart, as a very good friend of mine recently likened her own failing relationship to a pair of tennis shoes her boyfriend gave her as a gift. This story is largely inspired by her and several tearful conversations that the two of us had, though I couldn't have told you that at the beginning of the story without taking away, slightly, from the ending. I do wonder if you saw it ending the way that it did. Please let me know what you thought of it while you were reading it and how you think that I can improve upon it. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this story!