I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi

Chapter 101

After he left Tameo's compound, Tsuneo hurried to the old miko's house. Taking a deep breath, he walked into Kaede's hut, not really sure what he would find. What he saw was his wife standing up.

"That's enough, Chiya-chan," an aggravated Haname said to her daughter. "If I'm going to go home, I need to be able to walk. You can't carry me."

Haname stood between her daughter and her daughter-in-law swaying slightly. Her bedding lay crumpled on the floor behind her. "If I fall," she said, "you can catch me, but I need to try to walk."

Tsuneo stepped forward. "If you fall, I'll catch you, if you let me."

Heads turned as he spoke. Haname looked at the man who had been her husband for long years with none of the anger she had thrown at him the day before, studying his face. She found no anger there, but plenty of worry and care. Their eyes locked for a moment, and she gave him a small, sad smile.

"I don't know who's better - me tripping or you catching," she said. She sighed and gave him a nod.

Kaede, standing to the side to watch how Haname was doing, looked calmly at the elder. "The meeting's finished?"

He nodded. Slipping off his sandals, he stepped up to the wooden platform and walked over to his wife. His daughter stood there, reluctant to give way. "Chiya-chan, shouldn't you be home?" he asked. "I'm sure your husband and children have been missing you."

Chiya glared at him for a moment, the nodded. "Okaasan needed me," she said.

"I know," he said, nodding "I had things to take care of, but those are done, and now I'm here. Go home to your family, daughter."

Taking a deep breath, she turned and looked longingly at her mother.

Haname shook her head. "Your otousan is right, Chiya-chan," Haname said. Her eyes were not unkind, but her mouth was set in firm determination, not to be denied. "You have been a help, daughter, but you have duties, too. Go home."

Defeated against the combined will of her parents, Chiya gave in. "If you need me, send for me," she said. Picking up a basket she had brought, she walked out of the house.

As Chiya moved, Tsuneo moved into position next to his wife, and he took her hand.

"Haname can go home as soon as she feels steady enough to go," Kaede told the elder. The old miko went back to her seat by the fire pit, where she was preparing packets of herbal medicine. "She needs rest and quiet while she heals."

"Bah," Haname said, looking at the healer. "Don't make me into an invalid, Kaede. Let's see how well I can walk." She took a step forward, and almost stumbled, and Tsuneo caught her.

"See. I am here to catch you. You don't have to prove anything to me, wife," the elder said, giving her a gentle smile.

"Not to you, maybe, husband," she said, leaning against him and closing her eyes in fatigue. "But for me, more than you know."

"You always had to do things the hard way," Tsuneo said, wrapping his arms around her.

"You knew that," Haname said. "You knew that before you married me."

"I did, indeed," Tsuneo replied. "I thought of it as a challenge. Sit down for a moment and catch your breath. There's no rush."

She nodded, and let him help her to the ground. Once seated, she turned to her daughter-in-law. "Go home, Akina-chan. We'll be there in a little bit. Would you make that special soup of yours for me, child? I don't think I'll be able to eat anything else."

Akina nodded and rested her hand on her mother-in-law's hand. She looked up at Tsuneo, obviously worried. "What . . . what did they do to Aki-chan?"

Tsuneo sighed. "They're going to have him work with Kinjiro and Daitaro for a while. He'll be in good hands."

The younger woman closed her eyes a moment and steeled her face, and then, giving her father-in-law a knowing look, nodded. "I'll . . . I'll go home and pack some things for him."

She got up, but before she could leave, Kaede handed her a paper wrapped bundle of medicine. "Take these," she said. "Haname will need to drink this tea the next few days."

Akina took them without a word, and headed out of the house.

Kaede turned back to Tsuneo and Haname. "I'll be outside for a few minutes. Come get me if you need me."

After the old miko left, Tsuneo turned back to Haname. "Ready to get up again?"

Haname grabbed his hand. "I . . . I have . . . " Her eyes searched his. "Why aren't you angry at me?"

"Hush, woman," Tsuneo said. "Don't speak foolishness. I know you weren't yourself yesterday."

"It all seems like a fever dream," she said, turning her head away from him. "But I remember everything I said."

He gave her hand a squeeze. "We'll get through it. Everybody knows you were bewitched. Even InuYasha harbors no grudge."

She shuddered ever so slightly at the mention of the hanyou's name, and nodded. "I can't help it, you know. He looks so much like . . . "

"I know," Tsuneo said, brushing a stray lock of hair out of her face. "I think he understands. That wife of his, I know she knows."

Haname nodded. "She seems . . . very committed to being with him. I was afraid there was something dark there, some magic . . . "

"I suspect it's merely the magic of being young and in love," Tsuneo said. He cupped his wife's cheek. The experience had left her looking frail and older than she was. He rubbed his thumb lightly across her cheek. "I've seen how they look at each other and act together."

She turned away from Tsuneo's touch and dropped her head. "Tell me about Aki."

Tsuneo sighed. "He's . . . well, he tried to beat up Isao to keep him from talking. I think perhaps he's more than we can handle right now."

"He tried to beat up Isao-kun? After Isao was hurt by that cow?" Haname looked shocked.

"I was there," Tsuneo said. "I'm afraid he got too good at playing the 'I'm sorry' game with us."

Haname covered her mouth with her hand, then suddenly turned away. "I've . . . I've failed you there, too." Her voice was filled with a deep sadness.

"No, you haven't. He had me fooled, too. It'll be good for him, to have to work with Daitaro. He's a smart one, and we know how well he straightened Susumu up when he was a boy."

The woman stifled a sob, and took a deep breath. "I..." She shook her head. "Help me up, husband. I want to go home to my own house."

Tsuneo nodded, and taking her hand, helped her to her feet. "If you get too tired, I'll carry you, wife."

"You carry me more than you know." Haname reached up, and gently stroked his cheek with her free hand. "I wish the weight wasn't so heavy."

"It's what I'm here for," Tsuneo said. "Ever since that first day when my father arranged our marriage, it was all I wanted to do."

This time, she couldn't stifle her sob, and began to weep in earnest. Wrapping her in his arms, he lifted her up, and carried her home.

While Tsuneo was at Kaede's house, talking with Haname, Kagome stood in the entry area of Tameo's house, saying goodbye to the women there.

Aomi, Emi's daughter pulled on Kagome's sleeve. "Up?" she asked.

"Ah, you have a friend for life," Emi said, watching her daughter out of one eye as she got ready to serve lunch.

"Not this time, Aomi-chan," the young miko said, squatting down to give the toddler a hug. "I have to go home now."

The small girl frowned, but she was picked up by her oldest sister Yorime. "Come on, Butterfly. Let's see if we can't go get Mitsuo and Suzume. You want to eat, don't you?"

Aomi gave a hesitant nod.

"Then let's go," said the older girl. "It's almost time for lunch."

This didn't please the little girl, who frowned even more.

"I'll come back," Kagome said as she straightening up.

"See?" Yorime said. "Let's go outside."

"Thank you," Emi said to her daughter. "You might see if you can figure out who's going to be here."

The girl nodded and opened the door. The sounds of children's laughter filled the air, muffled only slightly as she slid it closed.

"You're sure you won't stay to eat?" Hisa said, picking up a bundle of cloth off of a shelf. "You really are welcome."

Kagome shook her head. "No, I'd love to, but we really need to be getting home," she said. "Still, I did want to come back to say goodbye before we left."

"InuYasha's waiting for you outside?" Emi asked. She picked up a stack of bowls from the kitchen cupboard and moved back to the fire pit.

"Yes. I hope Miroku's not trying to tease him too much. I think he really needs some quiet time. A lot happened to him today," Kagome said as Hisa handed her the bundle, which were the clothes she wore to the house that morning.

"It has been an . . . intense . . . morning," Hisa said, nodding. "I can understand."

Emi lifted the lid off the big pot and began ladling some into a smaller container. "You'll have to take some stew with you, then. I made too much if everybody's going."

"I'm sorry," Kagome said. "I didn't mean to - "

"Nonsense," Hisa said, giving her a much bigger smile. "It's perfectly understandable. A lot really did happen this morning. I'm sure everybody will be talking about it for days. But you and your husband - you won't be the center of the news this time!"

This made Kagome smile. "That's a change."

"And a good one," the older woman said, nodding.

Emi walked over to where the two women were standing, and handed Kagome a small iron pot. "Please, take this. It really will help."

Kagome accepted the small pot. "Thank you. You two, you've been so helpful these last two days. I don't know exactly how to let you know how much I appreciate that."

"But you're our cousin!" Emi said. "Of course we helped!" She reached forward, and gave Kagome's arm a little squeeze. "You belong to us now."

"That's right. And we do take care of our own," Hisa said. She walked Kagome to the door. "Don't forget. The day after tomorrow - you and Sango-chan must show up her for our woman's circle. And tell Sango it's perfectly all right to bring her children. She has such beautiful girls."

"I won't forget," Kagome said. "I think Sango feels a little . . . shy or something around the other women here. Thank you for inviting her."

"Some people - they just don't know how to deal with people they can't put in neat little categories. But we'll work on that," Hisa said. "Sango-chan is worth it."

"You might as well come. From the sound of it, all the men are going to be at Houshi-sama's temple to work on the roof. As hard as he's talking to people, there may be more roofers than roof!" Emi said.

The women laughed.

"We'll be sure to be here," Kagome said. Bowing her final goodbyes, she stepped out into the sun.

Once back outside and finding her husband, Kagome joined InuYasha where he was sitting on the verandah along with Daitaro, Tameo and Susumu.

"I'm ready," she said to her husband. InuYasha nodded and rose to his feet.

"So, back up the hill?" Susumu asked. "You're going to leave me here with Daitaro to remind me of my wayward youth all afternoon?"

Mitsuo ran to the group of men, and pulled on his father's sleeve. The guard bent down and picked up the boy.

"Nothing you didn't earn," Tameo said, leaning against the wall of the building. "You're lucky I'm not joining in. What's up, little man?" he asked his grandson.

"Okaa said come to lunch," the boy said.

"Did she, now?" Susumu said.

Mitsuo nodded. "And I'm hungry."

"You sound like your ojiisan," Daitaro said, smiling at the boy. "I hear he's a bit hungry, too."

"So, old man," InuYasha asked. "You're staying?"

Daitaro nodded. "Hisa's fish stew is worth waiting for. You're sure you're going back?"

Kagome lifted up her pot. "Emi's sending us home with some."

"Good, good," Tameo said. "Well, I wish it could have been under other circumstances, but it was good working with you both today." He stood up straight and walked a bit closer to the young couple. "We need to find a reason for you two to come here without it being an emergency."

"Yeah," the hanyou said. "I'd like to just go through a couple of days where there's quiet."

"I think we're due," Susumu said.

Yorime stepped out of the front door. "Obaasan said it's time to eat, Ojiisan."

"Well, I guess that's our cue," Tameo said. "Have a nice, quiet afternoon."

And exchanging bows and goodbyes, InuYasha and Kagome turned and headed out of the compound.