Chapter 1

"Rin, can I help you with the laundry?" the pregnant woman asked as she waddled around to the side of the hut.

Immediately, Rin was rushing to her side to help her sit. "Kagome, you shouldn't be up and walking around," she chastised. "The baby will be here any day now."

Waving her off, the pregnant woman scoffed, "I know, but I just can't stand doing nothing all day. I'm going to go crazy."

"I don't think laundry is—"

"Please!" Kagome interrupted, clasping her hands together. "Anything! Just give me something to do!"

Even Rin couldn't resist her comical pout. "How about I take the laundry off the line and you can fold some of the smaller clothes while you sit in the shade?" the younger woman compromised.

Reluctantly, Kagome agreed, settling herself down beside the line carefully. There was no way Rin would be letting her do too much when the woman looked like she was just about to go into labor. This was her first child after all, and Rin didn't want to see the woman she looked up to like a sister have any complications.

In truth, they looked enough alike to be sisters, with the same long black hair and the same dark brown eyes. Though, Rin had to admit, Kagome's pregnancy made her glow with a radiance that she'd yet to experience. She wondered if she'd look as pretty if she ever had children.

As she worked, the younger woman stared anxiously into the sunny sky. It was clear without a cloud in sight, but this was disappointing rather than exciting for her. She'd been hoping to see something.

"He's coming back to the village today, isn't he?"

Rin looked back at Kagome, who was eyeing her all-knowingly.

Patting her cheeks, Rin asked sheepishly, "Am I that easy to read?"

"I know that look anywhere," the pregnant woman laughed. She paused to take a sip of her tea before she noted, "He hasn't been back in a while."

Three years, six months, and twenty-two days, but Rin didn't say that and instead continued to pull the laundry down with a shrug. "He sends me gifts. He sent me that jade comb a few months ago."

The woman scoffed, "He sent it with Jaken, which is like sending flowers with bees in them. Uppity, brown-nosing, annoying bees you just want to squish."

Rin remembered the encounter clearly, recalling how the imp boasted of his lordship's budding new empire, a true demon kingdom the likes of which no human peasant could fathom. Of course, Master Jaken would say anything to keep her lord's pride as a powerful demon in respect.

"I can't believe you like that guy."

"He's family," Rin defended, handing her some rags to fold.

"Sure, but we're better family, right?"

Putting a hand to her chin, Rin pretended to think for a moment. Protesting, Kagome threw a rag at her and the two women laughed.

Honestly, her time in the human village had altered her view of humans greatly, especially with Kagome and her friends around. Before, she'd only known them as the kind people who traveled with her lord's pesky half-brother, a half-demon of no consequence, as Master Jaken had said, but having lived so closely with them for so long now, she thought of them as family. Though Lord Sesshomaru cared nothing for him, Rin found that hearing family stories from Inuyasha, even if they weren't particularly flattering, helped her to understand her lord better.

"Well, you're definitely not the worst humans I've ever lived with." She picked up the rag and folded it herself before handing it over to Kagome.

"And Sesshomaru's definitely not the worst demon we've ever known." She placed the rags in the basket. "So, did he say when he wasn't going to arrive?"

Trying not to appear nervous, Rin murmured. "He didn't say exactly when, but yes, Lord Sesshomaru will be here soon."

Kagome eyed her carefully before running her over her big belly and musing aloud. "I wonder if Big Brother will stay to see the baby."

"You know he doesn't like it when you call him that!" Rin chastised playfully. "And I hope he does. Perhaps this time, he and Inuyasha won't get into a fight."

"That will be the day!"

The two women laughed and carried the clothing back to the hut. Rin placed the basket in the corner of the room before helping Kagome ease the floor before the fire pit and then went about collecting the necessary items to make tea.

"I can make the tea at least!" Kagome grumbled as Rin set the kettle full of water to boil. "Now sit!"

Reluctantly, Rin did, placing the items beside her. She couldn't help it. She needed something to keep her busy.

With a knowing glance, Kagome murmured, "He didn't say exactly when he'd be back, did he?"

Rin shook her head.

Kagome nodded. "And do you think he'll ask you this time?"

Rin sighed.

Of course, Kagome knew what she was really bothering her. It was the only thing she'd thought about since Rin had been left in Granny Kaede's care. She'd long awaited the day when he'd come for her answer: would she rather continue with Sesshomaru on his journey or stay here within the human world among her own kind? There was nothing she wanted more in her heart than to be by his side again.

As she'd gotten older though, she'd come to a greater understanding of the difficulty of their situation. As Jaken had once told her, she was human and would age and die long before he even established his empire. Not to mention, his pride as a demon would suffer because of her. And it wasn't as if she could help his empire any. Too often had she caused trouble by being kidnapped by demons or self-righteous humans or falling off a cliff, only to have him come save her.

Perhaps, knowing all this, Rin was being selfish in still wanting to be by his side, but she would know for sure her decision when she saw him again.

"Maybe," she finally answered with a smile. "I'll just be happy to see him."

Kagome's smile was soft and sympathetic before she suddenly jumped up. "Oh! I almost forgot!" She started struggling to crawl over to a set of drawers. "Another person who visits rarely and likes to leave you gifts came by."

"You mean Kohaku?"

Rin handed her the tea leaves and opened the drawer that Kagome was pointing to. Inside, she found a small present wrapped in a pretty cloth. "He brought this by a few days ago. You were helping another mother in the village at the time. He said to give you this."

Inside the cloth was an extravagant silver hairpin that must have cost him quite a bit, she thought.

"I keep telling him he's got no chance with you, but he's always leaving these little presents for you," Kagome explained, a wry smile on her face as she poured the tea.

Wrapping it back up, Rin set it aside. "Kohaku and I are simply friends. Nothing more!"

It was true that she and Kohaku had grown to be good friends in the short time they'd traveled together with Lord Sesshomaru. They'd come a long way from their first encounter when he tried to kill her. From time to time, he'd even accompany her to nearby villages that needed medicinal aid. But that was all.

"Oh!"

Tea spilled to the floor from Kagome's hand as she jerked in pain. In an instant, Rin was by her side, helping her to lean back.

"I'm fine," Kagome chuckled painfully before Rin could ask. "She just kicked real hard is all. Right in the bladder too!" Looking down at the now empty cup, she sighed, "There goes the last of my water."

"I'll pour you another," Rin offered, taking up the kettle. "Perhaps I should take a look? It seems as though she's been kicking quite a bit in the last hour."

Accepting the tea with one hand, she waved her off with the other, sighing, "No, no. It's probably just from me moving around a lot. Besides, you just gave me a check up yesterday. Everything's fine."

Frowning, Rin reluctantly agreed. "Just promise me you'll tell me right away if you start to feel the least bit worried." She smiled and held out her little finger.

Hooking Rin's pinky with her own, Kagome chuckled, "I solemnly swear. Really though, I'm not stressing about it. I've been pregnant before. I know my limits."

Wincing, Rin bit her lip.

Kagome continued on, as if she hadn't noticed. "But this time's different though. This one'll make it. I can feel it. What is it they say? Third time's the charm." Gently drumming her fingers across her big belly, Kagome gave her a reassuring smile, her tone belying the reality of what she said. "Besides, you're going to be there this time and with your skill, I know she'll be safe."

There was a quiet yet overwhelming confidence in Kagome's eyes, and her smile seemed all-knowing. Whatever trouble and suffering she'd had before, she stood over them with a cool courage and poise befitting a wonderful mother.

Blinking back the tears that arose in her eyes and threatened to spill, Rin took Kagome's hand in hers and vowed, "I'll deliver this baby to the best of my ability. Promise."

The women smiled at one another for a long while before letting go.

"Ah, do you mind going to get me some more water from the river? You know, since the baby made me spill the last of it?"

"Of course!"

After she poured Kagome the last of the tea into her cup, Rin rose and made her way outside, still warm with the courage that she'd instilled in her.

The weather was still warm too as she made her way outside. The river would feel nice, she thought as she made her way out, but not more than a step or two out the door, she came up against a soft wall. Stumbling back, she looked up to see what she'd hit and held her breath.

The warrior standing before was tall, the spikes on his armor gleaming in the sunlight. At his hip were two blades. As a breeze picked up, the long sleeves of his kimono swayed, displaying its intricate red pattern. Long silver hair also flowed with the wind, followed by the billowing of his white fur. As Rin gazed up, familiar golden eyes stared down at her beneath a blue crescent moon.

"Lord Sesshomaru."