This feeling that swept through him threatened to topple the taiyoukai where he stood. He looked down into that small face topped with white curls and felt suddenly so very tiny. Fluffy ears turned this way and that as the boy dreamt, declaring his mixed parentage for all to see. He traced the delicate stripes on each cheek with one long claw, gentle lest he scratch that tender pale skin. Frosted lashes flickered and the pup's eyes opened to flash all the colors of the ocean at him in indignation. Her eyes.

His already racing heart climbed to another plateau of thumping, filling his sensitive ears with a roaring, thunderous clamor. Sesshomaru took a hitching breath and blinked. He looked away from his son . . . his son . . . before he lost all his composure. Snapping a look at the servant who held the pup up for his inspection. "Where?"

"A wandering one-eyed hermit left the basket on your doorstep."

"Hn." No ningen should ever have been able to get so close as to do so. "Did you question him?"

"Sesshomaru-sama, your guards did not stop him as he approached. He walked between the gateposts unmolested and left the same way." The female neko-youkai trembled as she looked up into his face. Was he truly that fearsome?

"Were they bewitched?"

"I know not, my lord, but it is possible." The woman looked ready to fall over in fright if he so much as growled in her direction. Not with his whelp in her arms, she wouldn't.

Before he'd really even thought about it, he scooped his pup out of the female's arms, frowning down into his son's serious face. A warm something lanced him in the heart as the boy mirrored his frown. Far from the disgust he'd expected to feel. After all, this pup represented everything he used to hate: The watering down of his mighty bloodline. The breaking of certain laws and customs. So where was all that carefully crafted disdain? Absent. Perhaps this Sesshomaru is his father's son, after all.

Again, he felt all balance leave him as a scent he'd thought never to smell again wafted up to his nose from the babe's strange coverings. Sesshomaru leaned his face close and breathed deep. It sparked a memory . . ..

"Aishiteru, Sesshomaru," she whispered to him in the dark, her dark hair fanned over his chest.

"You would say such a thing on the dawn of this day?" He asked her, wondering if she heard how his heart had sped up at her words. Or if her weak ningen senses kept her oblivious to how she affected him. "This day of all days?"

"I would have you know. You know, in case . . .." Now she lifted her head from his shoulder and looked him in the eye. He saw there the fire that drew him in the first place. Strength and wisdom beyond her scant few years. For all that he'd lived centuries, this onna had the power to make him feel . . . unsure, unsteady. A rare thing that he never thought to tolerate, let alone seek out.

She tested him. In every way. Sesshomaru relished the challenge and rose to meet it. He rolled her small form under his and stared into eyes as blue as the sea. "This Sesshomaru does not require your love. Only that you submit."

And she does and, in so doing, shows him that she trusts him with her life, her heart, everything. Such perfect faith made him want to be worthy of it.

But later, in the aftermath of the final battle, when he'd found himself surrounded by the screams and howls of her pack, he couldn't tear his eyes away from the last place he'd seen her. His pitiful half-brother clawed at the earth there, as though he would find her buried there. Sesshomaru knew better. The miko had gone out of the world, back to her own time, no doubt. He bit his lip to keep himself from joining them in their ululations. The loss he felt too keen to share.

"Rin. Jaken." Sesshomaru spun on his heel and started to walk away. His followers falling into step behind him. He took the reins of Ah-Un in hand.

Inuyasha stepped into his path, growling, "After everything, you're just going to walk away?"

"Hn." He stared down at his half-brother, feeling a familiar sort of contemptuous anger bubble up in him. How dare the hanyou stand in his way? "I have lands to administrate. Now that Naraku is dead, I shall no doubt find that task much easier."

"But what about Kagome?" the kitsune kit wailed as he clung to the demon slayer's leg.

"Don't worry, Shippou, we'll get her back." Inuyasha said, shooting Sesshomaru a glare. "And Lord High and Mighty Asshole here is going to help."

"There is nothing this Sesshomaru can do." They didn't see how much this admission of impotence cost him. Nor would they, if he could help it.

That damn halfbreed made to halt him again. How sorely the baka tested his patience. "How can you say that? You won't even try!"

"Whatever magic allowed her to travel between our worlds is gone. The Shikon jewel is no more," said Sesshomaru as he stepped around Inuyasha. "Be glad she is alive and home. We could instead be burying her this day."

"Let him go, Inuyasha." Miroku grabbed the hanyou's arm before he could continue in his unwise course. Sesshomaru felt a shard of gratitude towards the monk. She'd never forgive him if he slaughtered the insolent pup.

"Keh. That son of a bitch never cared."

How wrong you are, little brother. How very wrong. None of this made it past his stiff lips as he strode away from them. The ones she'd loved. He took one more glance at the place she'd once stood so proud and defiant and whispered, "Aishiteru, Kagome."

He snapped out of his reverie with a curt, "Hn."

Small hands played in his long hair as he nuzzled the pup.

Sesshomaru became aware that his servant had been speaking. He turned his golden gaze upon her to see that she had a scrap of paper in her hand, holding it out to him. He took it from her and commanded, "Leave us."

Us? How easily the boy wormed his way into his regard. The corner of his mouth quirked up in a sardonic smile.

Setting the pup back in his basket, the lord lifted both and sat at his writing desk. Making sure the child lay close at hand, he opened the letter.

'My Sesshomaru,' "And they say I'm the arrogant one." He hummed in amusement and continued reading.

'All these long months, I wondered how you were. What you were doing. If you found happiness. Nothing I could find in my grandfather's library could tell me of what happened to all of my friends. To you. I watched my belly grow with joy and sorrow. And on the day he was born, how I ached wishing you were there to see him. He's beautiful, is he not? Those cute ears.

It is because of his . . . differences that I send him to you, though it breaks my heart to do so. He is not safe here. There is something happening in Tokyo that I don't understand as yet. Strange occurrences that have our people baffled. All my power and knowledge I bent to the task of giving our son a chance to live. And know his father. A boy needs his father.

I know it will be hard. He is hanyou. And you hate the idea of them so much. But please soften your heart to him, as you once did to me. If you ever had an ounce of caring for me, please . . . acknowledge him. Do not turn him away.

His name is Kenshin.


He read with dawning horror. Acknowledge him? Did she not know that naming this pup his heir would most assuredly make him the target of every assassin in Japan? Not to mention his own court bowing to a hanyou? Impossible. Just impossible. How could he set this boy before any full-blooded pup of his he might whelp on a youkai female?

Fear lanced through him as he contemplated raising the pup himself. Was he up to the task? Or would he end up hating the boy when he failed to live up to his father's expectations. It seemed inevitable. He looked over at his son and brushed a lock of silver hair away from one downy cheek. "Oh, miko, what have you done?"