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

Chapter 182

"I thought you said she was working in Kaede's garden," Tazu said.

Shippou hopped on the top rail of the fence marking the edge of Kaede's garden patch. The mustards were waving a bit in the breeze where Rin had been working, and the small pile of weeds was right where Rin left them, their green leaves beginning to grow a little limp in the midday sun.

"But she was here," Shippou said, landing on the ground with his basket. Tazu slipped through the rails and came to join him. "See? Those were the weeds she was pulling."

"So where is she now?" the girl asked, raising an eyebrow at the kitsune. "This isn't some kitsune game you're playing, now is it?"

"I wouldn't . . . " he said, letting his voice drift off as he sniffed the air. He squatted for a moment, running his finger over a mark on the ground, then shot up. His eyes widened. "We better . . . we better get out of here," he said, but not before he made a quick grab for the weeds Rin had pulled, putting them into the basket.

Tazu knitted her eyebrows together and crossed her arms. "Why?" A giggle came from a stand of trees beyond the cultivated land. "That sounds like Rin."

"Uh," Shippou said, slipping back across the rails. "Maybe. But she's got company."

"Who is it, Shippou-kun? It's not Nakao-kun, is it? I know he's sweet on her, even if Seiji-sama told him he'd get a beating if he got talking to her again." She steepled her fingers together, and brought them up to her lips, just brushing them, and got a dreamy look. "That would be so sweet."

"No, it's not Nakao. Come on," Shippou said, looking exasperated at the girl. "We need to go."

Tazu looked rather disappointed. "It can't be Sango-sama, or you'd be trying to go there yourself. Or even the new miko and InuYasha-sama." She crossed her arms over her chest. "Who did you make mad this time, Shippou-kun? Who would you make mad that Rin would like to go walking with?"

Another little bout of laughter came from the forest, and then the squawk of a man's voice, obviously not approving of something, although Tazu couldn't make out the words. It was followed by a short, barking command.

Light dawned on Tazu's face. "It's . . . it's Rin's youkai lord, isn't it? InuYasha-sama's brother?" She turned and looked to the forest. " Se . . . sesshi . . . Seshou . . . "

"Sesshoumaru," the kit said. He reached through the fence and grabbed her sleeve. "We need to go, now. He's not going to like it if he finds out we're here. I need to tell Kaede-obasan, and - "

Tazu pulled her sleeve away. "I want to see!"

"You can't," Shippou said. His face was a little panicked. "He's one of the strongest youkai there are. You don't want to mess with him. He'll eat you."

"No, he won't," Tazu said. "She's told me too many stories. I want to see for myself!" With that, she began to run across the field.

Shippou swallowed, looked back once at the village, longingly, and shaking his head, began to run after her.

Kagome stood at the edge of the meadow, peering through the branches of a willow tree at the bubbling stream just past it. The current splashed over a large rock, and made a small pool just downstream that caught the sunlight, but still moved with a strong current. She watched a leaf dance past the rocks, spinning in the pool, and then head into the next bit of rocky water. It was a calming view, and a calming sound.

Having her fill, she turned around to watch InuYasha, who had found a pleasant, shaded area not so close to the stream to lay their blanket out on.

"That water looks cold," she said.

"It is," he replied. "Especially this time of year. I don't think you're going to want to take a bath in it." The blanket spread, he began clearing away dried leaves and other things from a shaded-out spot on the ground

"You're going to make a fire?" she asked.

"I saw your pot and tea things in the bundle," the hanyou replied. "I figured you want to boil some water. The water from this stream tastes really good."

"Cold but sweet, eh?" Kagome said, sitting down next to him. "That sounds like your brother, at least to Rin-chan."

"Feh," the hanyou said. "Only Rin could find any sweetness in him." He got up, and started gathering rocks to make a fire ring. "If I hadn't seen how he acts around her, I wouldn't believe it myself."

"One of the boys in my high school was like that," Kagome said, getting her pot out of the carry cloth. "Everybody thought he was a jerk. He would look right through people, challenge the teachers in class with questions, and just didn't want to have much to do with anybody. But we found out later that he had a crippled sister. I saw them once at a park. Nobody could have been kinder or gentler." She shook her head. "Sometimes I wonder if it were your brother reincarnated."

"Hah," the hanyou said, as he made a neat ring to build his fire in. "I don't think Emma-O is going to let that bastard out of hell for a long, long time once he gets his hands on him. He'll probably keep him around as part of his honor-guard or something. Put him in charge of the hell hounds or something."

"I don't know. During that final battle, when you were possessed, he only did the right thing." She pulled her teacups out of their wrapping. "He even called me by my name once." Next she grabbed the small box she brought her tea in.

"Whatever," InuYasha said. "Been a long time since he picked a fight with me. I know he expects me to keep an eye out for Rin. The way he looks at me . . . " He stood up, and started looking for some fire wood. "Maybe there's too much bad blood between us. At least he doesn't seem to resent the air I breathe anymore."

"Does he come around often?" She asked.

"Not enough for Rin's taste," the hanyou said, picking up a stick. "He usually comes by at least once a month. Been a couple of months this time. I know she's here to learn to live with humans, but I don't know if she'll ever give up wanting to follow that ass around. I hope he shows up soon. Or never comes back." Bringing his armful of deadwood back to the fire ring, he dropped it on the ground, then sat down.

"I think it would break her heart if he never came back to visit her," Kagome said, watching how InuYasha didn't meet her eyes, but instead concentrated on his wood. His ear flicked.

"A broken heart you can get over, eventually," he said, breaking a stick. "But always hoping, hoping, and only being given just enough, that hurts like hell."

Kagome tilted her head to the side as she studied him. "You sound like you know what you're talking about from personal experience."

He turned to her, his face unreadable except for a small scowl. It was a mask he wore when he didn't want people to actually know how raw a point was for him. She had seen it a lot in their early days together, but almost not at all since her return. "I don't want to talk about it," he said, then snapped a stick with greater force than he needed to.

Leaving her dishes and tea, she walked over to him, knelt down, and rested her chin on his shoulder. Her arms wrapped around his chest.

"We don't have to bring him here to our meadow," Kagome said. "It's all right. I bet you could find something nicer to talk about."

He turned his head to look at her, and she leaned forward to give him a better look. The shadow wasn't quite out of his eyes, but he gave her a small grin. "You have something better in mind?"

"Oh maybe," she said, kissing the back of his neck, then reaching up to tease the tip of his ear. "But we need some water first."

He dropped the stick in his hand, turned around and placing a finger under Kagome's chin, looking into her eyes. As she watched, the last of the shadow from whatever memory had troubled him faded away. He leaned forward, brushed his lips across hers. He was about to pull away, but she caught the collar of his jacket, and intensified the kiss.

They broke for air. "I do believe you've chased him far, far away," he said, running his fingers through her hair. "Pretty good magic you have there."

She leaned forward, and gave him another kiss, much briefer. "There's more where that comes from. After you get the water."

"Maybe I should get the fire started first," InuYasha said.

Kagome moved back towards the blanket. "You're sure you haven't already done that?"

"I don't know if it was me who made that fire," he said. Walking over to his wife, he picked up the pot, then headed to the stream.

In a glade not far from Kaede's garden, Sesshoumaru sat underneath a broad tree, leaning against its trunk, while watching the girl sitting next to him. It was a rather peaceful scene, the youkai, the girl, and a small green youkai. It would have been even more peaceful, except Jaken, sitting on the other side of the girl, was watching Rin with a mildly irritated look on his face.

"After Rin showed Tazu-chan and Iya-chan the kosode Rin was sewing, Iya had to show off the one she was making to wear for her brother's coming of age ceremony," the girl said, sighing. "She sews much better than Rin does, and doesn't stick her fingers with the needle nearly as often as Rin does." She looked down at her fingers, wiggling them, "Although Rin is getting better. She goes over to Sango-obasan's house almost every day to practice."

Sesshoumaru's eyes were half closed as he relaxed, breathing in the girl's scent and enjoying the chatter of Rin's voice.

"Bah," Jaken said. "What does that peasant know?"

"More that Rin," the girl said, a slightly sad note to her voice. "But Rin and Kagome-obasan have been learning together. She doesn't know that much about sewing, either."

"Be quiet, Jaken," Sesshoumaru said.

The wind ruffled Rin's hair. She looked up at him and smiled as he spoke, and just the faintest trace of smile touched the youkai's lips. A stranger might not have caught it, but it was enough to brighten Rin's smile.

"Iya likes to tease Rin too much sometimes," the girl continued. "After she showed me her new robe, Iya told Rin that there is a boy in the village who likes her," Rin said. "But she wouldn't tell which boy it was."

That made Sesshoumaru's eyes open, and an eyebrow lift.

"A boy? A boy from this village?" Jaken said. "Impossible." He looked quite upset, and glanced up at Sesshoumaru. "Did you hear that, my lord?"

The daiyoukai looked at the girl. She was no longer the small girl child who followed his every step across the countryside during the year he fought Naraku. Nor was she yet a woman, but he could see the hints of change, the way her body was starting to look, the beginnings of changes in her scent. He was not sure of what it all meant, but the thought of a young male looking at her caused stirrings he would rather not face.

"Silence, Jaken," he barked.

Rin picked up on the undertow of discomfort the youkai didn't know he was releasing and looked at him, mildly confused. He looked back, took a breath. "You may continue, Rin."

Nodding, she relaxed. "And something happened while Rin was out playing. She's not really sure of what happened, but Sango-obasan was very - "

Sesshoumaru's hand shot out in front of her. "Be still."

Rin, like in the old days, froze as Sesshoumaru stood up. Walking across the glade, he stepped behind a dense thicket. There was a sudden shriek.

The girl looked at Jaken. "That sounds like Shippou-kun."