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First Words by Sage McMae

Chapter 1

It is an early fall evening when Sesshomaru and Kagome arrive from the West. The trees are beginning to color and the villagers are at the start of their harvest season. Several of them wave and greet his mate as they make their way past a line of huts to the elder's home.

Ever since Mai was born, they visit once a fortnight, if not more often. The journey gives them both a much-needed break from the court.

And his mother.

If Sesshomaru ever needed convincing that Kagome is his perfect match, it is in how she handles the imposing demoness.

His mother has always been aloof— which is where Kagome believes he gets his impassive attitude from —especially towards humans. When Sesshomaru presented his mate to her for the first time, she simply stood and walked out of the chamber.

Kagome took it in stride. She continued visiting— always with a smile and hopeful that his mother would agree to meet with her.

She did. Eventually.

After thirteen tries, Kagome refused to leave the castle in the sky. She sat outside of his mother’s private quarters until the demoness invited her in for tea.

They came to an agreement that day. Sesshomaru will not categorize their relationship as warm but his mother no longer ignores Kagome. Of course, that might have had something to do with the fact that she is smitten with their daughter. Spending time with Mai is the happiest Sesshomaru has ever seen his mother.

She is not the only one.

His brother’s rabble all adore the pup. They squabble over who can hold her, despite the fact that the monk and the slayer have three of their own brood. Being Mai’s uncle, Inuyasha tends to win. Sesshomaru dreads the impact of his brother on the child. If she ever utters that ramen is her favorite food, Sesshomaru will make good on his long-standing promise to kill the hanyou. 

Kagome enjoys visiting with her friends. She has made connections within the court but her companions in Edo remain her favorite. The adventures Kagome had with them have become the stories she recites to Mai each night before bed. 

Sesshomaru prefers to spend his time in the village focusing on Rin. There is not much to be concerned with these days. His ward has grown-up. As predicted, Kohaku has developed feelings for the girl. In the spring, the young slayer approached Sesshomaru about courting Rin. Though he has given his approval, Sesshomaru still keeps a close eye on both of them. 

He remembers what it was to be in the early stages of love. He could barely keep his hands off Kagome.

Sesshomaru smirks. Throughout their relationship, that urge has not tempered. Mai will certainly not be their only pup.

“What are you so smug about?” his mate quips, noticing his expression.

"I am merely thinking about how Mai requires siblings."

Kagome laughs. “Do you want to carry the next one?”

“If I recall correctly, mate, you were the one who said she would be lonely as an only child,” Sesshomaru says with a knowing grin.

"I guess sleeping through the night is overrated," Kagome teases.

They reach the elder’s hut. Rin and Kohaku are already inside, sharing tea with the Kaede.

His ward springs up instantly. “Lord Sesshomaru! Kagome!”

“Hey, Rin,” his mate greets the girl fondly.

She runs over, making a beeline for Mai. “Oh,” Rin coos, “she’s asleep.”

“Yeah, she loves flying. We barely make it across the Western Palace walls before she’s out,” Kagome says.

“She’s grown already since the last time we saw her,” Kohaku comments as he joins Rin.

“She is a healthy pup,” Sesshomaru remarks.

“Let me see her,” Kaede asks as she stands with her cane.

Kagome glances at Sesshomaru.

It has become a habit between them— checking with the other before doing anything remotely connected with Mai. Their daughter is the most precious treasure in their world and neither of them risks anything when it comes to her.

He nods and Kagome hands Mai to the one-eyed miko.

“Blessed, this one,” Kaede begins. “She has your strength—,” the miko says to Kagome, “ —and your determination,” she adds, looking at Sesshomaru. “Mai is capable of great things, though, I suspect, she will cause you trouble along the way.”

“Well, she is a Taisho,” Kagome returns with a sly grin.

Sesshomaru pinches her side, causing her to jump slightly. Discovering she was ticklish was one of the many benefits to finally agreeing to train her. Sesshomaru does not have to use force against his mate to subdue her. A simple stroke of his finger can undo her as long as he finds the right spot.

As Kaede returns Mai to Kagome, Rin asks him, “How long are you staying?”

“Only for the day,” Sesshomaru answers. “We return to the Western Lands tomorrow.”

Her face falls. “So soon?”

They never stay more than a day or two. Ever since their mating, Sesshomaru’s protective instincts toward Kagome have intensified. With the addition of their daughter, the impulses were undeniable.

The days following Mai’s birth were a blurred memory of snarling and yelling at their attendants. Sesshomaru had not permitted anyone in their chambers, not even his mother. He treated everyone like a threat. It had taken weeks— and several conversations with Kagome —to convince him to calm down.

Even now, almost a full year later, his instincts are a constant challenge to control.

“Sesshomaru’s mother has planned a party to celebrate Mai’s first birthday,” Kagome tells Rin, saving him from disappointing his ward further.

“I can’t believe she’s one already. It seems like Hisui and the twins were just born yesterday but they’re running around the village causing problems,” Kohaku says.

“Much like their father,” Sesshomaru mutters.

Everyone in the hut laughs.

“They are out in the field. Sango suggested we build a fire,” Kohaku informs Kagome. “She thought you’d enjoy that.”

“Thanks.” His mate turns to him. “Are you okay if I head over?”

“Of course. I will join you shortly.”

Sesshomaru leans down and presses a kiss to the crown of her head. Then, he dips lower to do the same to Mai. The pup twists in her blanket but does not wake.

Kagome rests Mai against her chest so their daughter's chin lays on her shoulder and follows Kaede out to the fire.

“I told you that you needed an heir,” Rin says.

Sesshomaru frowns. “And I told you that such topics were not appropriate to discuss.”

“I’m older now,” his ward points out.

He does not need reminding.

Rin stands an inch or two shorter than Kagome. She has excelled as the new village healer, taking over all of Kaede’s ongoing responsibilities. His mate has taught her how to shoot a bow and Kohaku has been sparring with her to ensure she is capable of defending herself while he travels. 

She has grown up.

He does not believe anyone is worthy of her but if Rin had to choose someone, Sesshomaru is pleased to know it is Kohaku. Regardless, the demon lord will not make it easy for the boy.

“What have you two been doing today?” he inquired, eyeing the slayer warily.

“Kohaku helped the villagers with the harvest while I tended to Sayo’s son. He went swimming in the river on a dare and caught a cold,” Rin replies.

“You are not afraid of hard work,” Sesshomaru says.

“It’s not as difficult as clearing out a crow infestation, which is what I was called away to do this week,” Kohaku responds.

Rin beams. “I’m sure the town was grateful. I know Sango was impressed.”

“Indeed,” Sesshomaru murmurs. “What are your intentions for the remainder of your visit?”

“I asked Rin to accompany me to the Autumn Festival tomorrow evening,” Kohaku reveals. “Kaede is watching the twins and Hisui so that Miroku and Sango can join us as our escorts.”

Sesshomaru frowns but does not comment on the choice of escort. Their choices are limited and while he still has reservations about the monk and his mate, he prefers them to Inuyasha. At least the slayer will keep a watchful eye. She respects tradition.

“You will be spending the night with your kin then?” Sesshomaru surmises.

Kohaku nods in confirmation.

“Good. I will expect—.”

“Oh my gosh, Mai!”

All thoughts of intimidation leave his mind. Sesshomaru flies to his mate’s side, his golden eyes instantly latching onto their pup.

“What is it? What happened?” he demands. 

From where they are sitting across the fire, his brother and the monk chuckle. Sesshomaru ignores them. They are not his concern. All his attention is focused on his mate and pup. 

Kagome holds up Mai with a proud smile. “She said her first word!”

The tension in his body eases. He should have expected this. Kagome is easily excitable, though he can hardly blame her. Their daughter is exceptionally gifted, not that Sesshomaru would expect anything less from a direct descendent of the Taisho line. 

“Say it again, Mai. Say it for Papa,” Kagome encourages.

Sesshomaru holds his breath and eagerly awaits the word. He has been urging Mai to call him ‘Papa’ for several weeks now. Hearing her say it in front of Inuyasha will only make the moment more satisfying. 

His daughter grins at him and repeats her first word.

“Hn.”

His mate’s friends all begin laughing, none as loud as his half-brother. The monk slaps him on the back, while the kitsune falls over in a fit of giggles. The slayer chuckles underneath her hand and looks away. Even Kagome is struggling to remain unaffected by this new development. Her lips are twitching with effort as she tries not to laugh. 

His mood sours. “I do not say ‘Hn’.”

“You do,” his mate insists gently. 

He scowls. 

"Don't be mad," his mate pleads, grabbing onto the sleeve of his hankimono. She tugs at it, prompting him to sit next to her.

Sesshomaru relents. He does not deny her anything. 

“I know you wanted her to say ‘Papa’ but there’s still time. After all, ‘Hn’ really isn’t a word. It’s more of a sound,” she says consolingly.

Around the fire, her friends are all watching with thinly-veiled amusement. He glowers at them until their attention turns to the newcomers. 

Rin and Kohaku arrange themselves in the huddle next to the boy’s sister and the monk. Their arrival shifts the conversation away from Mai’s first word and to travel plans for the Autumn Festival. As the discussion develops, Sesshomaru is content to silently observe. 

Mai sits on Kagome's lap throughout the afternoon, curiously gazing at the other children circled around the fire. The twins and Hisui do not have pointed ears as she does, nor are their senses as heightened. She will surpass them in speed, agility, and wit. On that day, he will be the one laughing. 

When night falls, the companions share dinner and tea. The conversation continues as the slayer and Kagome talk about their respective children and the men discuss the village’s harvest. 

Sesshomaru catches Kohaku trying to slip his arm around Rin more than once. Each time, a low growl escapes him and the boy immediately straightens up. Eventually, Kagome catches on and elbows him in the ribs. He narrows his eyes at her but she does not flinch. She has seen him in a far worse mood than tonight. She is not scared. 

“I have to put these three to bed,” the slayer announces, rising with her son tucked against her chest. 

She leaves the twins for the monk to collect. They are both already dozing off. Their father rouses them one at a time, herding them back to their hut. 

“Goodnight,” he says, waving to the group. 

“Night, Miroku,” Kagome bids them farewell. Turning to Sesshomaru, she says, “I guess we should head to bed too, huh?” 

Mai has fallen asleep again. She is slumped against Kagome, drooling on her mother’s shoulder. 

Sesshomaru nods. As he stands, he addresses his ward, “Rin.”

“Yes, Lord Sesshomaru?”

“You cannot remain here without an escort,” he reminds her, pointedly looking at Kohaku.

“And what am I?” Kaede inquires. 

“I’m here too!” pipes up the kit. 

Sesshomaru sighs. He does not have time to waste on their antics. “Fine. I will see you both in the morning.” 

“Goodnight,” Rin says cheerily. 

“Goodnight,” Kagome echoes. 

They find their way to one of the open huts along the river. In terms of lodging, it is not ideal but Sesshomaru knows his mate requires rest. 

He watches Kagome arrange a spot for Mai before she settles onto the bedroll next to the pup. Sesshomaru takes his place beside her, propping himself up on one arm so he can peer over her shoulder to see their daughter.

“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” Kagome asks. 

“She is.” 

Mai’s mouth opens in a wide yawn. Slowly, she opens her eyes. She blinks a few times as she peers up at them. Her lips curl upward in a happy grin. 

“Papa.” 

Sesshomaru sucks in a breath. For a moment, he cannot hear anything else— not the crickets outside, not the crackling of the hearth fire, not even the beating of his mate’s heart. His sole focus is his daughter. 

“Papa,” she repeats, reaching for him. 

Kagome picks Mai up and hands her to Sesshomaru. Mai pats his face, giggling as if she knows she should be proud of herself. 

His mate’s face is softened by the moonlight, which he can see reflected in the tears in her eyes. “Her first word,” Kagome whispers. “It’s you.”

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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