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

Chapter 162

Miroku's face fell, and he sighed, shaking his head. "No, no, you misunderstand me, InuYasha. I wasn't -"

"Right," the hanyou said, interrupting him. "Every time you come up to me with that 'I was thinking' bit, it always means you've got some scheme you're cooking up for me to do. But not this morning. Kagome's been up most of the night." He glanced over his shoulder at his wife who was trying hard not to look too amused. His ear twitched as he turned back to the monk, caught somewhere between irritation at the monk and Kagome's sense of humor. "I'm just not going to do it today."

"But . . . but . . . I really wasn't going to ask you to do anything," the monk protested.

"Yeah," InuYasha said. "Keep it that way." He began to walk past the monk.

Not willing to give the hanyou the last word, Miroku tugged on his sleeve as InuYasha moved by. "But it's true. I merely wanted to thank you. What you told me last night . . . I needed to hear that."

InuYasha stopped and turned around, surprise stripping the scowl from his face. "What?"

Miroku let his hand drop. "You told me that I needed to talk to Sango, and to stop feeling guilty if even the women had missed the cues." He gave his friend a rueful look. "I...I had . . . " Surprisingly he seemed to be having troubles finding the right words. "You were right about a lot, that's all I can say. Sango and I, we talked. I think . . . we both made wrong assumptions. Perhaps now, if something like this happens again . . . "

"If you let something like this happen again," InuYasha said, letting his scowl creep back up, "I swear, Bouzu, you're a bigger fool that I thought."

Before the monk could reply, Kaede caught up to the two men, and pushed between them, looking at InuYasha first. His ear twitched as she looked at him with her calm eye, but a slight curve to her lips. Then she turned to the monk, who bowed slightly.

"Now this is a day of interesting omen," she said. "First a child is born of the sex both parents were wishing for, then Houshi-sama admits that InuYasha is right." She shook her head. "What else could happen to make this day better, I wonder?"

"That nobody else needs wounds bound or medicine?" Kagome suggested. She stifled a yawn.

Kaede smiled at her assistant, and nodded. "That would be a very good thing. It would be a day of even better omen if certain men wouldn't block the road, so an old, tired woman could go home and take a well-deserved nap."

For a moment, both InuYasha and Miroku looked at the older woman, slacked-jawed, not exactly sure what to say in response. This, in turn, was something that Kagome found quite amusing. The monk recovered first, unperturbed by Kagome's giggles, and stepped aside, bowing towards the older miko.

"Ah, Kaede-sama, please, feel free to walk on," he said, his tone and motions playfully exaggerated in their deference. "Of all of us, you most certainly deserve to walk unhindered." Then, giving her a more honest look, he asked "Would you like me to keep Rin-chan up at my place for a while?"

"That would be a kindness," the old miko said. She shifted her basket on her hip. "These old bones aren't quite what they used to be. Alas, the infants coming to join us don't really take that into consideration." She yawned. "At least Sayo's are well behaved, and don't cause a lot of fuss coming into the world. I will see you later, children. Please, feel free to stay away until at least mid-afternoon." And with that, she moved on.

They watched her for a moment. Tazu, Kimi's daughter walked up to the old miko, looking rather distressed; the old miko sighed, and she led the girl towards her house.

"I'm not sure everything's going to go smooth today," InuYasha said, his ears flicking forward as the girl talked with the miko.

"Chiya?" Kagome asked, resting her hand on her husband's arm.

"Who else?" InuYasha replied. "Girl's come to get some more medicine."

The monk frowned. "I believe, from what Tameo-sama mentioned earlier, they might need it. I doubt if she's going to like being stuck in a corner until Michio says she can come back home."

"After watching him all night," InuYasha said, "I don't know why he would want her back." He spit, as if to emphasize his point.

"The heart can be funny when it comes to love," Kagome said.

"Keh." InuYasha took her hand and gave it a little squeeze.

"I am hoping we can protect Miko-sama from having to get dragged into it before she gets some rest." Miroku tapped his staff, causing the rings to jingle. "But at least the birthing is over. It was an easy birth?"

"That's what they tell me," Kagome said, nodding. The three of them began walking towards their side of the village. "I've never attended one before. Kaede said all of her births have gone like that."

"Sounded like hard work to me from where I was," InuYasha said. "Maybe not as hard as the time Sango had with the twins, but I wouldn't call it easy."

"You could hear us?" Kagome asked, looking up at the hanyou.

"Not much. But toward the end, Sayo got louder." The hanyou looked down at his wife and shrugged. "I wasn't trying to listen. I moved to the edge of the verandah to try to get away from Michio after he fell asleep. He snores."

"All birthings are hard work," Miroku said. He stopped to knock a largish stone out of the roadway. "Begone rock. You almost tripped me on the way here." He looked back up at his friends. "They say that's how mothers and their children bond so close, by working together. When I was a boy, Mushin said -"

For some reason, this answer didn't set well with InuYasha, and he interrupted. "Easy birth, hard birth. Make up your mind." He crossed his arms and scowled once again. "What'd that old drunk know about births anyway? But I know what type of expert you are. You ducked out of town when it was time for your boy got here."

"I - " the monk began, but Kagome stepped up to rescue him, resting her arm on InuYasha's.

"All birthings are hard work," she said, looking up at her husband, giving him a pleading look not to get into an argument with his friend. "Some are just harder than others. Just because you had work to do when Naoya was ready to be born . . . "

The hanyou shrugged, but didn't let go of his scowl. "Whatever."

Miroku studied his friend for a moment, then clapped him on the arm. "Go home, InuYasha. You're either tired, or you had too much to do, dealing with people yesterday."

"What do you think I'm trying to do?" InuYasha said. "It's not me who went looking for you. It's not me keeping someone he calls a friend on the road."

Miroku bowed his head slightly, in acknowledgment. "True, true. I'll see you later, then, when you're in a better mood. If you see Sango on your way back, tell her to try to keep Rin from coming down. I thought I'd walk back with you, but maybe, I'll go see what Tameo wants me to do. Get some rest."

And with a final nod, turned around and headed down the road that led to Toshiro's home. InuYasha watched him walk off, grumbling something under his breath.

Kagome, giggling just a little, tugged on her husband's hand. "He's right, you know. You're acting really grumpy. Let's go home."

InuYasha was not amused at his wife's amusement. "What?" he asked. "You think it's funny?"

She shook her head. "No," she said, leading him down the road. "It just reminded me of the days when we were chasing after shards. I was just thinking about all those times when you were really grumpy. You must have been tired all the time."

He knitted his brows together, like he was about to say something that matched his irritation, but then he let it go, and took a deep breath, and nodded. "Maybe," he said. "Lots of nights I just found myself watching instead of sleeping. I didn't want anything to sneak up on us."

"I thought so," Kagome said. "Well, today anyway, there's nothing to watch out for. If you're hungry, I can make some soup." She held up a bundle that she had been carrying all this time. "Sayo sent me back with some of her pickles."

"Sayo makes good pickles," he said. "Trying to bribe me with food?"

"Maybe. If you stop complaining and start walking. If we take too much longer, I'll be too tired to get started."

"Can't have that," he said, and with a playful smirk, he picked her up, and bounded down the road.

Eiji sat besides the fireplace at his own house, drinking soup.

Chiya, hidden behind a screen, slept fitfully, tossing as she rested, occasionally moaning. He looked at the direction, and sighed. "I just hope Tameo knows what he's doing," he said, putting down his soup bowl and picking up his rice.

The door mat rattled, and Kimi, his wife stepped inside, and let the door fall shut behind her. "You look so tired, husband," she said, giving him an apologetic smile.

"Night watch can do that," he said, taking a bite of his food.

"And," she nodded towards the screen, "someone's husband." She walked across the beaten earth domo, stepped up on the floor, and joined her husband at her place by the fire pit.

"That, too. He was in sad shape last night. Worse than the last time this happened." He ate some more, while he watched Kimi pour some tea, which she offered him, and he accepted. "It's a good thing that Yasuo and Toshiro were going to be up all night anyway. I don't know what type of trouble he would have gotten into if he hadn't had them to watch with me all night."

"Sometimes," Kimi said, picking up her own cooling cup of tea, "Kwannon smooths the way in spite of what we do. Or the kami."

"It seems so, wife," Eiji agreed, nodding. "Did you find Tazu-chan?"

"I did, and sent her off." She bent forward, and filled her own soup bowl. "I hope she won't have trouble finding Kaede-sama. You are sure we need to keep our guest here until she's sent for?"

"That's what Tameo-sama asked," Eiji said. He put his rice bowl down with a sigh. "I don't think I have much appetite right now."

"Would you like me to save it for later?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said, and watched as she picked up his rice bowl.

"Try to do your soup, at least." Kimi stood up, and moved the bowl to the kitchen cabinet. "You're going to need something in your belly."

He nodded, and picked the soup bowl up again. "It probably worked out for the best that she was already asleep by the time we all got here last night. Maybe with some more rest, she'll be easier to deal with."

"I wonder," Kimi said. "That's why I had to send Tazu off to get some more medicine. She woke up in the middle of the night, and started all of her wailing and grieving again. It was hard getting her to take the last dose."

Eiji shook his head. "Those two. What a couple. I've always suspected that Haname-obasan was right about not wanting those two together." He leaned forward, resting his head in his hands. "Why do things like this happen?"

"Life is suffering," Kimi replied, coming back to join him. She picked up her own bowl. "And attachment causes many griefs." She took a sip. "So many. Not letting go is so hard."

"Ah, you're a saint, woman." He gave her an appreciative look before gazing back at his soup bowl. "I don't really understand all that stuff. I'm just a farmer, not a monk. I just know that today is going to be hard. And I want some more sleep, and to play with my children and plant the soybeans, and instead . . . "

There was a rustling behind the screen, and both of them looked towards it.

"I guess she's woken up," Kimi said, quite softly.

Eiji sighed. "Get here quickly, Tameo-sama." And lifting up his soup bowl, he drained it dry.