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

Chapter 152

Kaede ran her hand over her hair, smoothing it as she looked at the two people in her doorway. "Ah, babies. They never did care much for this old woman's sleep. I seem to remember you were a middle-of-the-night baby yourself, Eiji."

Eiji covered his mouth with his hand as he laughed. "I've heard that story. Haha-ue always said I was contrary, since the moment I decided to come into the world." He shifted the lamp to his other hand. "It must run in the family. My little ones all chose the least convenient moments to show up themselves."

"Yes, yes, I know," the old miko said, smiling a bit. "I was there each and every time, you know."

"True," Eiji said. "I suspect you've met over half the village at least the very day they took their first breaths."

"No doubt," she said, pulling her blanket a bit closer. "Well, I've been expecting it any time now." The old miko turned to the young woman standing next to Eiji. "How is she doing, Asami-chan?"

"Her pains were getting pretty strong, but she was up and eating," Asami said. She, too, looked rather tired, as if roused out of bed. "I don't think her water's come yet."

"Well that's good. We have a little time," Kaede said. She began to turn back towards the inside of her house. "I'll just - "

"Kaede-obaasan?" a sleepy voice said from within the house. "Is something wrong?"

Kaede finished turning around in time to see a sleepy Rin sitting up in bed, yawning as she rubbed her eyes. "No, no, child," the miko said. "It's just that Sayo-sama is going to have her baby tonight."

"Is she?" the girl asked, brushing the hair out of her face, still groggy but growing more alert. "Tonight?"

"Yes, I believe so." Kaede turned back to Eiji and Asami. "Don't leave. I'll be out in a few moments."

"Take your time, Miko-sama," Eiji replied. "We'll be here."

Letting the door close behind her, she moved to the fire pit, and lighting a splint of wood on the coals there, Kaede lit a carrying lamp before moving to the chest where her clothes were. Rin watched her, not saying anything, but made no effort to lie back down.

"So, Rin-chan, what would you like to do?" Kaede said, shaking out her red hakama. "Would you like to stay here and sleep, or come with me, or go to Sango-chan's? I'm sure she wouldn't mind you staying there until I'm done." She slipped into the garment. "Babies sometimes take their time coming into the world."

"Like when Sango-obasan's twins came?" Rin asked, getting out of her pallet. She stretched, then shook a bit, then knelt to roll up her bedding. "Rin thought that took forever."

"Firstborns often do, and it was harder for her because she had twins." Kaede put on her jacket. "Sayo has had several children, and none of hers took nearly that long, not even the first. I'm fairly certain it will take most of the night, though."

"Is that good, not taking so long?" the girl asked. Finished with her bedding, she moved over to help Kaede tidy up her own bed.

Together, they folded her coverlet in half. "Quite good. Although they say it's the pain of birthing that bonds a mother and baby together, sometimes, it's much harder on the mother, and sometimes the child if it takes too many hours." Kaede walked up to Rin, and took her end of the bedding and folded it once again. "Still, I doubt if Sayo will have any problems like that. She's one of those women the kami blessed with the gift of easy birthing."

"Do you think that will be true for Rin?" the girl asked. "I know Naoya came much easier for Sango, too than the twins. Do you think it will be like that for any more of her babies?"

Kaede smiled and rested a hand on the girl's shoulder. "I'm afraid it's too soon to know that, Rin-chan. First you need to finish growing up. We will have to see what happens next with Sango-chan, but I suspect the worst was her first. So where do you want to go?"

Rin sucked on her bottom lip. "Are you sure Sango-chan won't mind if Rin spends the night there?"

"I'm sure, child. We've had this discussion well before." Putting the bedding away, she moved to the fire pit to cover the coals. "Sango-chan knows if I need to attend to someone in the middle of the night, that I might send you to her." Next, Kaede bent over to pick up a basket already packed with the things she wanted for the birthing. "I'm glad I packed this last week. With a baby, you never know exactly when they'll be ready to come." She stood up and looked at her charge. "But if you want to go, then you need to get dressed."

The girl nodded and hurried into her everyday robe. "Rin sleeps better knowing someone's there," she said as she fastened her obi. "And she is still sleepy."

"I am sure, child." Kaede said. "Tell Sango I'll let her know when we're done." She headed for the door, pausing to slip on her sandals. "Bring the lamp, will you?"

The girl nodded and picked it up. "Can Rin visit with Kagome-obasan in the morning?" she asked as she stepped off the raised floor and slipped on her own shoes.

"Not this time." Kaede lifted the door, holding it open for her young charge. "She'll be working with me."

"You're going to teach her how to deliver babies?" Rin slipped through the door.

"At least something about it," Kaede said. "It's too much to learn everything the first time. That is, if Eiji-sama would be so kind as to take Rin-chan up to Houshi-sama's house, and then fetch Kagome-chan to Sayo's house."

Rin handed Kaede the lamp, and looked up at him.

"Well, Rin-chan, it looks like we have a bit of a walk," Eiji said, smiling at the girl. He looked up at Kaede. "Are you sure InuYasha-sama won't mind me fetching his wife this time of night?"

"Oh he might, but he knew she was supposed to do this. I wouldn't worry about it," Kaede said. "Just don't go barging in. That wouldn't be wise."

"Barge in on newlyweds? Even I have that much sense," Eiji said, and laughed. "I'll bring her down as soon as they let me." He looked down on his young charge. "Come on, Rin-chan. Let's see how loud Houshi-sama is going to be when I knock on his door."

"He'll be very loud if you wake up the babies," Rin said.

"I suspect he will. I know I would be!" the night watchman said. "We'll just have to be careful."

Taking one last look at Kaede, Rin followed the village guard towards Miroku's house.

While Eiji went to fetch Kaede and Kagome, there was a careful, but quiet, flurry of action going on at Toshiro's compound and people readied for Sayo's birth. Sayo and her older cousin Nanami stood outside on the verandah, waiting for things to be completed. Lanterns were lit, giving a soft glow to the front of the house. Occasionally a figure carrying a lantern neared, but then disappeared, as the workers made ready.

Sayo who had been walking the length of the verandah stopped, rubbed her hands across her belly and closed her eyes for a moment as a spasm hit her.

"I think Matsu should have the birthing house ready soon," Nanami said, rubbing the younger woman's back. "Although why we didn't have her get it ready a few days ago . . . "

When the contraction passed, Sayo turned and looked at the older woman. "That's true, Nanami-obasan, but there's been so much going on." She began pacing the length of the verandah. "These last weeks are always so crazy."

The older woman chuckled. "When isn't there something going on around this house? At least the children are asleep."

"There is that," Sayo said, nodding. "I thank Kwannon, too. Everything will go much smoother with Daiki asleep."

"Or Umi fretting, as much as she tries to hide it," Nanami said. They began walking the length of the verandah again.

"That, too." Sayo nodded.

"Ah, there you are, Sayo-chan," a male voice said.

The two women turned around to see Yasuo and Toshiro walking up to them. Yasuo smiled at his wife, although there was some anxiety in his eyes. He walked up to her and took her hand. "I was hoping I would catch you before you slipped away to the birthing house."

She smiled back at him. "It is getting close to time to start my work," she said. "You should get some rest."

"I can rest once you get to rest, wife," he said, giving her a slightly sheepish smile. "Birth may be a woman's mystery, and men are supposed to keep their distance, but I've never been able to really relax while you do the hard part."

She lifted her hand to Yasuo's cheek. "Some things, husband, are a woman's work. This is one job I'm afraid we cannot share."

He nodded, and brushed a stray hair out of her face.

"Yurime will come over tomorrow to help while I'm recovering. Please try to keep the children from driving her crazy," Sayo said. "Umi will help, and of course there's Asami and Matsu and the others."

"We will manage, Sayo-chan," Toshiro said. "I'm sure soon as Hisa-chan, dear sister-in-law that she is, hears the news, she'll show up to coo over the new one, and no doubt leave one of her women here as well. We'll be well provided for. Just like we were the other times." He rested his hand on his son's shoulder. "I'll keep a good eye on this son of mine. You don't need to worry about anything. Even Daiki. So no worries about the rest of us. Focus on you and my new grandchild."

She nodded, gave her husband's hand a squeeze, then took a deep breath as another contraction hit.

"Shouldn't you sit down, wife?" Yasuo asked, watching the pain wash over her.

She rubbed her hand over her stomach while letting the pain pass. "I'll be sitting and laying down long enough once this is over, Yasuo. It's not too bad yet. I'm hoping Kaede-obasan gets here before I have to do that."

Yasuo nodded, but his face was troubled, nonetheless.

This was not missed by Sayo. "Go inside, you two," she said. "This is a woman's thing. Leave it to us."

Toshiro, not wishing to cause his daughter-in-law any extra stress, took that as his cue that they should leave. "Come on, son," Toshiro said, resting a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "If they need us, they know where to find us. This is not your battle. I'll make you tea if you don't want any sake."

Yasuo nodded, and reluctantly let himself be led off.

Matsu came up as the men went inside. "The birth house is warmed, Sayo-sama. I have soup and mochi if you want to eat a little."

"It would be better to get out of this night air," Nanami said. "Kaede-sama knows where we'll be."

Sayo rubbed the small of her back. "I guess it's time then," she said. "Shall we go?" And the three women headed down the path to a small, well-lit house waiting for them behind the main house.

Elsewhere, up on the hill on the other side of the village, a slightly nervous Eiji knocked on the door of the small house where the new miko and her husband lived. Much to his comfort, InuYasha didn't bark or brandish his sword as he lifted the door mat.

That isn't to say that he was happy to see the night watchman standing on his verandah. Standing there dressed only in a kosode, not his usual red garments, the hanyou was still an intimidating sight. His brows knit together in an intimidating glare that was bad enough, but his eyes caught the light from the lamp that Eiji was holding up and glowed in the reflected light. If he hadn't known the man by daylight, Eiji would have been unnerved just by that.

He bowed politely. "I'm sorry, InuYasha-sama, to disturb you."

"This better not be about that Chiya woman, or her brat of a nephew," InuYasha said, crossing his arms.

"No, no, nothing like that. Chiya is sound asleep, thanks to some potion that Kaede-sama gave her," Eiji said, moving his lamp so it didn't reflect so much into InuYasha's face. "I don't know if I'd have left my Kimi there with her otherwise."

"Then what the hells are you doing here?" The hanyou's ear twitched, and Eiji found himself watching it in spite of himself.

He pulled his eyes away, and back down to the hanyou's face. "Kaede-obaasan sent me."

"Kaede-babaa sent you?" InuYasha said. "What happened? It's not something with Rin, is it?"

The door pushed open behind him, and Kagome stepped out, right behind her husband.

He glanced at the young miko, who obviously had just gotten up as well, her hair out of place and her eyes curious but still sleep filled. Looking back at InuYasha, he hurried to reassure him. "No, no. In fact, I just walked her to the Houshi-sama's house. It's - "

"Sayo-sama?" Kagome asked. "She's having her baby?"

Eiji nodded. InuYasha sighed.

"I'll go get ready," Kagome said, disappearing back in the house. The door mat rattled behind her.

InuYasha's scowl shifted to one of tired resignation, a feeling Eiji could sympathize with. "And there I was, thinking this day was finally over," InuYasha grumbled.

"Some days are like that," Eiji said, nodding. "Today has been . . . Well, look on the bright side. At least you don't have Chiya for a house guest. My children are at my mother's house. My wife is exhausted being the goddess of mercy. And on this night, I have the night watch."

The hanyou nodded, and gave the man a look of genuine sympathy. "There is that." Turning, he followed Kagome inside and went to get dressed.