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

Chapter 183

"Can we go yet?" Morio asked.

Joben, looking exasperated, glared at the excited man squatting next to him. "Not yet."

They sat outside, far enough away from Amaya's garden not to put it into danger. Morio clutched a small bundle filled with things which poked against the cloth in sharp lines and bumps. Joben, on the other hand, had a more sizable bundle near his feet, the size of bundle that a person traveling with bedding and clothing would carry.

"Why can't we?" the cursed Yamabushi asked.

"I told you, Morio-kun. We have to wait for Tameo-sama and Chichi-ue." Joben's voice was exasperated. "They will be here soon enough, and then you will get to meet the people who will be staying with you."

"But I want to go now," Morio said, resting his head in his hand. He stuck out his bottom lip, and looked concerned for a moment. "Joben-ojisan?"

"What now?" Joben ran one hand over his forehead. He could feel a headache coming on, and rubbed the spot where the dull ache was starting.

"Do . . . do you think they'll like me?" the childlike man asked, chewing his lip. "Do you think the boys will like to play with me?"

Joben dropped his hand and really looked at Morio, who was gazing up at him with concerned by guileless eyes. After a moment Morio dropped his gaze and hefted his small bundle in his hands, and sighed.

"Why are you asking that?" Joben said. "Of course they'll play with you."

"I..." Morio said, then traced the outline of one of the shapes in the bundle. "I'm bringing the toys you gave me. They're nice toys. They're nicer than the ones I used to have. You think they'll want to play with them with me?"

"I think," Joben said, returning to rubbing his forehead, "that they would play with you even if you didn't have any toys."

"You do?" Morio said, surprised. "Nobody else wants to play with me." He hung his head down and clasped the bundle tightly to his chest. "It's always, 'Get out of here!' 'Go back to your room!' 'Stop making noise!'" He looked up at Joben. "Why does everybody hate me?"

Joben closed his eyes and ran his fingers in circles in the space between his eyebrows. "I don't think everybody hates you, Morio-kun. It's just that . . . well . . . " His voice dropped as he tried to figure out the right words to say. "It's . . . it's that you're too big for a boy your age." He tried to give the yamabushi a sympathetic look, but it wasn't very successful. "You kind of scare them."

Morio looked down at the ground and found a pebble. He tossed it towards the road. "I scare them?" He turned and looked at Joben, and his eyes began to glisten. "Everything scares me. I'm lost and my head hurts and nobody likes me, and there's a monster that wants to eat me and I don't know where Haha-ue or Chichi-ue is, and everybody yells at me." He shook his head. "What if the people at the other house don't like me, either?"

He curled into a ball, fighting off the tears that were welling up and began rocking himself.

Sesshoumaru walked out of the glade and around the thicket. Before he was in clear view to the area beyond the glade, he spotted the kitsune and the girl standing half-crouched behind a bush. At least Tazu was crouched. Shippou, though, was looking panicked and was standing next to her, pulling at Tazu's sleeve.

"Come on, come on," the kitsune said, keeping his voice low, but very emphatic. "You don't want to do this. Sesshoumaru's not going to like this. Come on. We need to get out of here."

"But I don't want to go," the girl said, shaking her head. "Everything Rin-chan's told me about Sesshoumaru-sama . . . she only says nice things about him. I just want to see if he is as beautiful as she says he is."

"Bah," Shippou said. "You haven't seen him fight. You might not think he's so beautiful then. Let's go."

Sesshoumaru lifted an eyebrow as he watched the two young people. He took a breath, his nostrils slightly flaring as he took in the scents, and recognized the smell of the girl crouching as one he had smelled on Rin before.

Tazu shook her head. "No, no. I have to see for myself! I don't want to interrupt them. I just want a glimpse of Sesshoumaru-sama. You've seen him before. Why can't I?"

"But . . . but . . . but . . . I was on a quest with InuYasha and Kagome," the kit said, frowning hard. "I couldn't avoid it! He was just there. Usually he was trying to beat up InuYasha. I wouldn't have been there if I could have avoided it."

"Beat up on InuYasha-sama? Like how Iya's two brothers are always getting into fights?" Tazu asked. "Isn't that just what brothers do?"

"Not this way," Shippou said. He pulled again. "Come on. I bet he's heard us by now."

"No!" Tazu said. Although she had been keeping her voice very soft, she began to get irritated at the kitsune, and gave him a shove, and her voice rose. "I want to see if Rin is right. Leave me alone!"

His curiosity piqued, and a bit irritated by Shippou's noise, Sesshoumaru stepped out of the shadows and in full view of the bickering children.

"Kitsune, you make too much noise," he said.

Shippou, turning, and looking up into the golden eyes of the daiyoukai, shrieked, then jumped into the arms of a very surprised Tazu.

Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed. "Definitely too much noise."

InuYasha pulled off his red jacket and hung it up on a branch before he pushed past the willows lining the bank of the stream to reach the water. Stepping carefully over the rocks, he dipped the small pot into the water. The air there was moist, and he got splashed a little by the spray from the water bouncing off a large rock in the center of the stream.

He looked downstream. There was some sort of structure, broken now, that could have been a bridge once. Old logs and flotsam had piled up next to it. On the other side of the stream there was only a small remnant of stonework, well above the water.

"Damn," he said, lifting the pot out of the stream. "How long has it been since I was here last? That still looked like a bridge the last time I came here."

There was a crunch behind him. He turned to see Kagome behind him, holding his jacket. "What are you looking at?" she asked as she carefully picked her way through the underbrush to join him.

He pointed to the ruined bridge downstream. "Not much of it left. Last time I was here you could still cross the stream on it, if you were careful. I surprised a deer standing on it. Stupid animal jumped into the stream to get away."

Kagome looked at the ruins thoughtfully, then handed InuYasha his fire rat, taking the water pot from him in exchange. "Storms can cause a lot of damage. Maybe they had a flood."

"Keh," the hanyou said, slipping into the red garment. "One big one, or maybe a lot of little ones. But it has been a while since I did more than just pass through here."

"Time changes things, sometimes fast, sometimes slow," Kagome said. She began to move back towards the campfire ring.

"Seems that way," InuYasha said, tying the last of his ties before hurrying up to join her. "Look what happens to the village in your time."

"It did change a lot, didn't it?" she said, putting the pot next to the fire ring.

"If it wasn't for the well and the Goshinboku, I would have said they were in totally different worlds." InuYasha squatted down next to Kagome, and took out his fire making kit.

Kagome nodded, laying back on the blanket, looking up at the sky. "Hard to believe what will be right here in time. Buildings, buildings and streets, as far as you can see. And all the people . . . "

InuYasha blew gently on the spark he made and fed it the kindling he prepared. A white curl of smoke drifted up. "I never really understood how you could stand being around all those people at once. The noise and the smell were enough to drive me crazy."

"Is that why you always acted so strange when you came to my time?" she asked, tilting her head in his direction. "You always seemed to know just what to do here, but when you visited me . . . "

He shrugged, then began putting sticks on his small fire. "Don't know. Yeah, the noise and smells were bad. But maybe . . . it was just so different from here. Feh," he said snapping a piece of wood in half. "Thinking about it, I can kind of feel sorry for that Morio guy. I didn't understand how much of anything there worked, and you kept trying to keep me stuck at the shrine, where I couldn't learn anything about anything. Every time I went looking for you . . . "

He snapped another stick.

Kagome sat up. "I used to get worried for you," she said, running fingers through her hair to smooth the back down. "I mean, you know that guys with white hair and dog ears weren't really common there. I was always worried someone would grab you and try to figure out why you were different."

"Feh," he replied, adding the broken stick to the fire. He sat the little pot on a rock next to the flame. "You think they could have kept me? Sometimes, I thought you were just embarrassed to be seen with me. You tried hard enough to keep me from meeting your friends."

Covering her face with her hands, Kagome laid back down, shaking her head. When she dropped them, InuYasha saw she had blushed. "I don't think it was that," she said. "Or maybe not much. I just always felt overwhelmed when I got home. I had so much to study, so much homework. I was always tired, and there was nobody I could really talk to about what was going on."

"You could always talk to me," he said, adding one more bit of wood before moving next to her.

"I..." she started, then reached up and took one of his hands. "I know that. I think I knew that then."

He stretched out next to her, spooning her next to his chest. "But that's not what you needed, was it?"

She interlaced her fingers with his. "I...I just needed things to be simple. I was trying to hide why I missed so much school. Ojiisan told the school all these weird reasons why I was missing class. It's not like he could just come out and say, 'My granddaughter's going down a magic well to save the world from the evils of the Shikon no Tama and Naraku.' I never knew what he was telling them. And . . . and . . . you were so . . . well, it's like when I asked you to stay at the shrine, I needed you to be there, so I could take care of the other part of my life."

InuYasha kissed the side of her neck, gently, and she leaned back into his hold. "And I was always afraid you wouldn't want to come back, or something would happen to you. What if something happened at that school of yours? Even if I didn't understand anything about that stupid world of yours, I just couldn't let that happen to you." He tucked her closer to him.

Kagome rolled over and looked at him, a small half-smile touching her lips. "I was scared, you were scared. But look how it all turned out."

He leaned forward, took her mouth with his, letting his lips graze lightly then more firmly against hers as he drank down her taste and she intensified the kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck and into his hair. Coming up for air, he rolled her under him, reaching over to pull the pot off the fire.

"Tea later," she said approvingly, seeing what he was doing, and pulled him down for another kiss.