Yet another Support Stacie 'fic! User AuntieSuze has issued me the following challenge.

Hee! Um...Inuyasha fic... Kagome thinks Inuyasha is spending a little too much time...polishing his sword. Make of that whatever you like. Crack!fic, smut, whatever.

Yeah, you can all tell where this is going.

"Never go with a hippie to a second location." –Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock

"Oh, the quote has nothing to do with anything. I put it there to mess with everyone." –Ithilwen, The Polish

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"Souta, tell your father dinner's ready."

"Yes mom," answered Souta, turning obediently toward the door. "DAD, DINNER'S READY."

"COOOOOMING!" her husband's response came echoing from the yard.

"'Go and tell your father dinner's ready,' " the woman muttered into the stew bowls. "Remember to say 'Go,' Kagome. And you—" she snapped the ladle toward her son as if it were her best prayer wand. "—don't you pretend you didn't know what I wanted you to do."

Souta giggled into his hand.

"Oh, you're laughing now. Well I hope you're still laughing while you help Auntie Sango and the girls clean off her armor tonight."

"Aw, mom!" Souta pouted beautifully, but his mother was unmoved. The kid was too cute and knew it, from the bottoms of his dust-running feet to the furry tufts of the two ears that sat, tragically immobile, on the sides of his head. But Kagome had been raised in the jaded epitome of the modern age. No matter how he practiced, no hardworking son of the sengoku jidai could master true brattery.

"Boy," came a voice from the yard, "you better not be sassing Ofukuro in there!"

"But daaaaaaaaaaaaaaad..."

"No sassing! Or I'll polish Tessaiga on your hide!"

Souta shut up quickly. Of all the punishments his parents had come up with, a spanking with the flat of Tessaiga was the most feared. It was usually reserved for his worst offenses—like the time he'd been supposed to be watching Sango and Miroku's youngest and had let the baby wander off instead. Tessaiga was only supposed to slap bad little demons, Inuyasha had explained. He'd left out the part about how it was also supposed to disembowel bad big demons and, thankfully, Souta hadn't put two and two together yet.

In the beginning, Kagome had raised her son with the gentle modern methods that she had learned in her own time. Time-outs and scoldings, mostly. But as Souta had grown older, she'd realized that he had no X-box to take away, no TV to turn off and that being sent to his room didn't mean too much when there was only one room in the house.

Kagome had secretly wondered what the Inu no Taisho would think about his precious fang being used to redden the less-than-spotless naked butt of his misbehaving grandson, but, wisely, she had never mentioned this to Inuyasha. As a punishment, it was just too good. The threat of a fang-spanking was scary enough to keep Souta out of most real trouble but—and Kagome had never said this out loud—not scary enough to stop him from acting up entirely. Secretly, she believed this meant that they were pretty close to just right.

A clawed hand grasped the edge of the door and shoved it aside. Inuyasha and Sango had gone out to handle a slaying today, a small centipede demon, nothing the two of them couldn't have handled on their own. The job had been easy but messy. Inuyasha had come straight home to boast of the top payment he'd negotiated (about two-thirds of what Miroku could have gotten but not bad) and his wife had sent him straight to the river to wash the demon guts out of his hair before dinner.

Kagome turned back to the stew to keep her blush from showing. No matter how banal daily life got, there was just something about Inuyasha... When the late afternoon light hit the very tips of his ears, she couldn't help but remember that puffy-faced boy she'd seen stuck to the God Tree, so helpless and innocent in his magical sleep, just like something out of a fairy tale.

Inuyasha paused near the doorway to ruffle Souta's hair, then moved to hang his fire rat shirt and undershirt on a peg while Kagome handed him a clean one. It was moments like this that reminded her that Inuyasha was definitely not a little boy any more. Now those were nice too.

Kaede had had quite the demure mock-debate about it with Miroku before Myouga had come by for a visit and put the matter to rest. Dog demons didn't age or mature at the same rate as humans. By rights, he should have stayed a slender teenager for years longer than Kagome did, and yet here he was, a strapping twenty-eightish with a man's frame and a man's muscles. Miroku had been sure that the changes in Inuyasha's body had been the result of his daily exercise with Tessaiga, while Kaede and Sango had been sure that he was aging out of his teenaged gangle. Myouga, accompanying Totousai on one of his rare visits, had cleared the matter up. Inuyasha had grown from a skinny boy into a man as his responsibilities had changed. It had reminded her of a nature program she'd seen about the hormone levels of baboons changing, allowing them to grow more muscle mass as they took on higher-ranking roles in their packs.

It had caused Kagome more than one moment of worry. Her husband was growing up but not growing old, while she was doing both. There was no sense in worrying about it, but she did anyway. For now, she'd certainly enjoyed the way certain parts of Inuyasha had matured, Kagome thought with a blush that had nothing to do with the steam from the stewpot ...and they had a lovable no-goodnik son to prove it.

That had been ...well... Not what she'd expected. She'd grown up in the cosmopolitan modern age. She'd thought she'd known what to expect—it had been good once she'd gotten used to it, but it hadn't been what she'd expected, not the be-all end-all of existence. Not love made flesh.

Kagome surreptitiously wiped her hand on the corner of her yukata. She only took out the miko's robes on special occasions, such as planned demon slayings. Wearing the uniform of a holy virgin had started to seem a bit strange around the time she'd hit seven months with Souta.

Inuyasha sat down in his customary place beside the table, reaching for the label as Kagome adjusted her dress around her knees. It was strange how fast life moved. She'd expected things to move at a more manageable place once she'd left the trains and screens behind, but they hardly seemed to get a spare moment for their family.

Sure enough, the moment Inuyasha's delightful butt hit the threadbare dinner cushion, there was a sound of footsteps outside their door.

"Oh God. Oh God. Oh God..." someone was muttering.

Kagome looked toward the doorway with a sigh. Inuyasha had the good sense to look apologetic.

"I suppose you'd better," she said quietly. He nodded and got up, but not before their visitor was in sight.

"Hiya, Uncle!" said Souta, waving.

The once smooth-skinned monk, still handsome but now lean and haggard, iffily shaven and with deep shadows beneath both eyes, gave the boy a frazzled smile.

"Hello, Miroku," Kagome said to the monk. "Don't think I didn't see you try to hide your pickles," she said to Souta.

"Aw..."

"Could I borrow Inuyasha for a bit, Kagome?" asked Miroku. There was a haunted look on his face, as if he hadn't slept in days. Considering that his and Sango's youngest wasn't quite up to making it through the night, this wasn't surprising.

"Hey!" snarled Inuyasha. "What'cha' askin' her what I can do for, bouzu? Ask me!"

Miroku looked from Kagome to Inuyasha and back, a bit of his demure elegance showing through the three-day stubble. "Of course," he said smoothly. "I did not for a moment think that it was your wife who dictated the use of your time. I only wished to apologize for depriving her of your valuable presence."

Inuyasha snorted. "That's better," he muttered. "Back in a bit, hon."

Kagome nodded without looking up.

The two men swished away through the door hangings, but pieces of their conversation filtered through.

"Don't tell me you don't deserve it after all these years."

"They're thirteen! At least I had standards!"

"Hey, to a sixteen-year-old boy, thirteen looks like nineteen," Inuyasha pointed out.

"You're only saying this because you don't have daughters!" answered Miroku, shaking a finger in Inuyasha's face.

There was a whisper of cloth and a slight snuffling sound. Kagome pictured Inuyasha folding his arms with a chuckle.

"Quit laughing!"

The sound got louder. God but that man had a sexy laugh.

"I am a monk!" Miroku insisted. "And a happily settled man, at that."

Inuyasha laughed louder.

"Look, I came to ask for your help—I've done all I can but you still scare the hell out of them. Could you go to the boy's house and—"

"—and flick my ears and wave Tessaiga around and tell him to stay away from my nieces?"

"No! I mean... okay, yes."

Inuyasha laughed again. "I wouldn't worry too much about that. The village whelps are already more afraid of Sango than they'd ever be of me."

"They are— Well they— Yes, I suppose that's true," Miroku admitted, and the conversation grew quiet.

Kagome stopped a sigh. The sengoku jidai could be an old-fashioned place, but most of the time that didn't do any harm. In terms of bodies and boys and sex, though... Well, Kagome might not have been able to set up a sex ed class in the middle of the village without raising eyebrows, but when she'd taken Sango's twins out to gather herbs, she'd made sure that they knew what young girls ought to know about how their bodies worked and how to tell superstitions from reality. But if what Miroku was saying wasn't entirely paranoia, then perhaps she should have been more worried about young men's tales than old wives' ones.

Frankly, she was a bit surprised. Little Barako had been more interested in learning the use of plants and the making of medicines, but her sister Hanae wanted to be a taijiya like her mom. Either way, they both represented strong, non-traditional female roles. She'd have expected all of these medieval boys to be too intimidated to express any interest.

...but then, they did both have their mother's beauty and at least a little of their father's charm. Perhaps she'd been silly to expect that to go unnoticed for long. And if things were starting up at thirteen... Kagome held a hand in front of her mouth. Poor Miroku! Fate had a sense of humor.

A few moments later, Inuyasha came back inside, shaking his head. Kagome smiled, feeling the muscles slide around under the skin of her face. In some ways, the years had been kind ...not kind enough to remind her to bring a bra that would actually fit after ten years and three trimesters, but what she'd stitched together herself seemed to be—ahem—holding up well enough. There had been a couple of iffy months after her old one had finally given up the ghost and its elasticity. She took a deep breath. Her husband's eye still grew warm when it fell her way. She could worry about wrinkles and sagging later.

...at the moment, she had other things to deal with.

"Souta," Kagome scolded gently, "eat your pickles."

"Ummm..." muttered Souta, nudging the pickles around on his plate. Fresh vegetables were seasonal in the sengoku jidai. Pickled ones meant salt, but they also meant vitamins.

"You have to eat your vegetables or else you won't grow up big and strong like your dad," Kagome explained.

The boy grumbled and picked up his chopsticks, still dithering.

Inuyasha frowned. "If we wanted him to grow up big and strong, then why did we name him after your pussy brother?"

"Uncle Souta was a cat demon?!" squeaked Souta. "Mom, why didn't you ever tell me?"

"Just eat your dinner..." murmured Kagome. "Auntie Kaede worked hard to make those pickles."

"Auntie Kaede smells like feet!"

"Boooooy!" Inuyasha threatened in half a growl.

"Sorryyyy..." Souta murmured in half a whine.

"That's better," Kagome said firmly. "You don't talk about Auntie Kaede like that."

"That's right," Inuyasha agreed, echoing her tone. That was how to raise a child: united front all the way. "Kaede smells like that because she's older than dirt—"

"Inuyasha!" snapped Kagome.

"—and she got that way because of all the ass she knows how to kick, so if you want to grow up to be old—"

"Inuyashaaaaaa!" Kagome snarled warningly.

"—you'll keep your yap shut about the smell and the creaking sounds and how she drools when she starts talking about the six million uses of goatweed and the way she—"

"Osuwari!"

Inuyasha's chin hit the floor of the house with a splintering crunch. Kagome swore under her breath. "Now we need a new table," she sighed, running a finger along the table's new edge, which now had a chin-shaped chunk missing. "At least he didn't spill his soup."

"Yeah, nice save, Dad!" Souta said appreciatively.

"That was pretty good," agreed Kagome, nudging her husband's dinner out of harm's way.

An unintelligible gurgle seeped up from the kitchen floor.

"What was that?" asked Kagome.

"I said..." groaned Inuyasha, finally prying his head up, "that a certain young inu demon should remember—" his ears appeared above the edge of the table "—what evil hag it was—" his clawed hands braced at the corners as he forcibly shoved himself up to his son's eye level "—who put that stupid sit-curse on me in the first place!"

Souta blinked. "You mean it wasn't Mom?" he asked.

Inuyasha blinked, "I always said it was the stinking old baba!"

"Yeah, but I didn't know that you didn't mean Mom!"

Inuyasha looked from Kagome, still simmering, to Souta, wide-eyed with confusion, and back.

"No, I meant Kaede," he said simply.

"Oh."

"Pickles," said Inuyasha.

"Yes, Dad," muttered Souta, picking up his chopsticks.

"That's more like it," said Inuyasha, ruffling his son's mostly-human head, then fixing Kagome with one of those really rare smiles that made her think, just for a minute...

Kagome took a deep, cleansing breath.

Moving back here had seemed like a good idea. It had seemed elegant and beautiful—the perfect decision. At eighteen, the long months that she had spent chasing jewel shards and Naraku and justice had seemed a perfect jewel-bright green against the Tokyo sidewalks. She knew now. She knew. It had not been a perfect decision; it had only been a the right one. The stone was still solid once the shiny polish had scraped off, but nothing was ever quite as pretty close up.

She didn't miss fast food (much). She didn't miss the noise and the music and the harmony of the city in the morning (more than once in the while). She didn't even miss clean sheets and dentists (who needed more than the one bicuspid anyhow?).

She thought of Yuka and Hojo and Ayame and Eri from time to time, but there had been some distancing. They'd all known that they'd walk their separate ways after graduation, and they'd all been ready to go. They were fine without her, she knew.

She missed Jii-chan and Mama and Souta. They could only do so well without her. They'd miss her like a limb.

Inuyasha didn't know how she felt. But he knew how they did. He'd been without her for three years. Kagome had had a deadline, not a sure one, but a feeling, at least, that something would surely happen once she was a woman. Graduation had made her an adult, in a way. Her classmates had left for school and jobs and the next stages of their lives. Deep down, she'd been sure that she'd do the same.
Inuyasha hadn't had high school to map his way. He'd moved through time completely blind, watching his friends marry and create homes and families. Sometimes Kagome wondered what he'd have done if she hadn't been able to return to him—or hadn't decided to try.

One of Souta's pickles landed between Inuyasha's eyes.

"Booooooooooy!"

"It was an accident, I swear!"

Kagome gave up and laughed.

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drf24 at columbia dot edu