1I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi

Chapter 198

"You're not going to make jokes about Okuro and Momoe's cow tomorrow, are you?" Kagome asked as they walked up the hill. She was settled on her husband's back as they headed home, his idea.

"Not me. I'm not like Miroku or even Daitaro. He and Genjo and Susumu will come up with all the jokes needed to make Erime and Shinjiro wish they had run off instead of put up with the wedding," InuYasha said.

"Why do they want to embarrass them for? They did the same type of thing back . . . back at my mother's time," Kagome said. "People said it was traditional."

"Don't ask me," the hanyou said. "I never was around enough people to figure out any of that stupid stuff."

Kagome leaned her head forward, pressing her cheek against the side of her husband's face. "I lived around it, and never figured it out, either." She gave his left shoulder a little squeeze with her hand. "I'm glad we did what we did. We might not have had a big party, but we didn't have to put up with the jokes, either."

"Miroku was a bad enough tease without it," InuYasha said, nodding. "I'd hate to think what he'd do if he was getting wound up like Daitaro and Genjo seem to be."

"I'm not sure he'd live through it," Kagome said, laughing. "It was definitely for the best."

Even before the reached their little house up on the hill, they could hear laughter, a man's and a boy's coming from the side of the house where they left Choujiro working earlier in the day.

"Someone's having a good time," Kagome said, as InuYasha walked up the path. "Is that Aki?"

"Sounds like it," the hanyou said, his ears focused toward the side of the house. "Who would have guessed he would find an adult who could put up with his ugly self." InuYasha stopped his jog and stood still so Kagome could slide off his back.

She slid off gracefully. "Maybe Choujiro figured out how to find his not ugly self," she said

As they moved closer, they could hear the story the boy was telling the woodworker. "And then Chichi-ue chased me down the river. I thought he was going to scrub me until I didn't have any skin left," Aki said.

Choujiro pounded metal on metal, although they couldn't see what he was doing yet from where they were. "Well, son, that'll teach you to play around with the stuff the women use to color their cloth, now, won't it?" his voice patient and filled with amusement. "Not only to the dyes smell something awful sometimes, the stuff they use to make the dye set can smell worse."

"That's the last time I ever will mess with Amaya-obasan's pots," Aki said, agreeing. "I don't know what was in it, but it took a week before I got it off my skin."

"Be glad it was just smelly," the man said. "You should see some of the stuff Koume-sama uses. Never get into the indigo. That stuff can stink for weeks. Besides, some of the things they use can hurt your skin if you're not careful. And color you up while you're at it. Here. Go stack this one with the other boards."

InuYasha and Kagome quietly walked to the edge of their verandah, and peeked around the corner. Aki was carrying a fairly solid board to put on a stack of several others. It was obvious from the way he carried it that he found the board heavy, but he didn't complain as he put it with the others. The stack had grown into an impressive number of boards while the hanyou had been gone.

"Do you think I can come help you some more?" Aki asked as he put the board down and dusted his hands off. "Maybe tomorrow? I like working with you."

InuYasha was about ready to step out and say something, but Kagome pulled on his sleeve, putting a finger to her lips and shaking her head.

"Better than farming?" Choujiro asked. He placed his splitting wedge in place and began working another board. His question was not accusatory, but more curious. "Even I farm. Even Fumio leaves his forge to go into the fields."

"Well . . . " Aki said, giving the handyman a wry grin. "It's not that farming is bad. But I like working wood, but Chichi-ue and Ojiisan don't let me help much." He pointed to the stack of boards. "It's like you got something when you're done."

Choujiro laughed. It was a friendly accepting sound. "I would say from the size of your tummy, boy, that when you and your family are through with farming, you've got something to show for it as well."

Aki chuckled. "Haha-ue and Obaasan cook really good. But then we eat it all up and have to grow more. When you build something, there's something to look at and you can see what you did. You can't eat it all up."

"That's true," Choujiro said. He regripped the handles of his wedge and began forcing it down the quarter of the log he was working on. "That's kind of why I like doing it, too." He looked up for a moment, and saw the young couple watching from the edge of the building. He spoke a little louder. "You've been a good help to me this afternoon. Maybe I can talk to your family and the elders. You're going to Daitaro's in a couple of days, right?"

Aki sighed. "Yeah. I have to work until they think I've learned enough." He rubbed the bottom of his nose. "Do you think Daitaro will still be mad at me for messing with his sake vat?"

"Well, he does take his sake seriously. But he likes to see young fellows like you do the right thing, too," Choujiro said. "I'll talk to him after his son's wedding. He ought to be in a good mood then." He pointed to where InuYasha and Kagome were standing. The young couple stepped out from around the corner. "Well, look there. Seems like we have company."

Aki looked where Choujiro was pointing, and suddenly froze, seeing the hanyou standing there, silver hair blowing in the breeze, and hand stuffed in his sleeves. InuYasha's face was carefully neutral, neither disapproving nor unhappy to see the boy. For a moment, Aki's eyes were caught in InuYasha's amber ones, but then the boy dropped his head, and politely bowed.

"Now that's an improvement," Kagome whispered, just loud enough for InuYasha to hear. In return, he gave her the tiniest of nods.

"Looks like you've got a lot done today," the hanyou said, looking at Choujiro.

"Yes, yes, we have," the woodworker said, not unaware of Aki's reaction, but pleased how InuYasha was behaving. "That first tree, it was an excellent splitter. After I get this board done, I think I'm going to call it a day. I'm not sure, but I think I'll need to saw the next one. It's a two-person job." He nodded in the direction of Aki. "Perhaps Daitaro might let me borrow this young guy to help out."

"Maybe," InuYasha said, nodding in return.

"You wouldn't mind?" Aki said, surprised.

"If you found something that you like to do," Kagome said, "I suspect the men would be happy to help you know more."

InuYasha nodded. "Better than getting into trouble."

Aki sighed and covered his face with his hands for a moment, then looked back up at the grownups. "I...I think I'm tired of trouble."

"True, true." Choujiro turned back to his work. "Come over here, Aki-kun, and hold the wood steady for me, will you?"

Aki nodded and hurried over to steady the quarter log.

InuYasha watched them work for a moment, then realized Kagome was tugging on his sleeve.

"Let's go in," she said.

He nodded, and then turned towards her. "Good idea."

The two slipped back to the front of the house and went inside.

"Home," Kagome said as she stepped into the entry way.

"Finally," InuYasha said as he let the door mat flap behind him. "I was beginning to think that we were fated to never get back."

"I knew we'd make it eventually." Kagome put down her bundles and basket, but then yawned loudly.

"You sound tired," InuYasha said.

She nodded as she walked across the room."I'm afraid," she said, sitting down at her place by the fire pit, "that if we'd have stayed out much longer, I might have gone to sleep before we got home."

The hanyou sat down next to his wife, grabbing a stick to begin to stir the ashes to find some hot coals to start the evening fire. "You didn't get nearly enough rest," he said. "I'm not surprised to hear how tired you are. Last night was too long. And then everything today . . . "

"Babies come when they come," she said. She leaned against InuYasha. He wrapped an arm around her for a moment, then reached over to get the kindling basket. She, in turn, sat back up and brushed a lock of hair out of her forehead. "It's not the first time I've gone on short sleep anyway. I've done it before." While InuYasha added small bits of wood to the fire and leaned forward to blow on it gently, she got up and walked over to her kitchen cabinet. "All those times I had to study for tests. Too much math."

InuYasha sat up, his ear twitching. "I remember how tired you got." He gave her a look that altered between contrite and unsure. "But I was a jerk in those days. I...I'm . . . I didn't know . . . "

Kagome turned to look at her husband, surprised at how he took her comment and laughed lightly, shaking her head. "You know it wasn't just you and chasing after shards and Naraku that had me up late studying. Even after we got separated, I had to stay up and study a lot of the time. Most of us in school have to do it." She yawned again, covering her mouth. "I'm not really out of practice. The last time was just about a month ago."

Outside, Choujiro called to Aki. "Let's go home! I'm hungry! I'll see you later, InuYasha-sama!"

Kagome chuckled at that. Suddenly, the amusement that was in her eyes faded, with a surprised look. She reached for her rice pot. "Has it only been than long? A month since my last tests? It seems like forever ago. Almost like it happened to a different person."

Bringing the pot back to the fire, she sat down, and stared into the flames before moving to get some rice out to cook.

The hanyou watched her as she began her cooking. Something in her mood shift did not please him. He got up, throwing one last piece of wood on the fire, and walked over to where she was working on the food preparation counter against the wall in the beaten earth doma, and wrapped his arms around her. "Everything that happened before you came back seems like forever ago to me, too. And that's not a place I want to go back to."

"Me, either," Kagome said, pouring some rice in a bowl to wash. She turned around in the circle of his arms, and gave him a big smile, but it didn't totally reach her eyes. "I just never realized how there would be that me and this me."

"I like this you fine," InuYasha said, giving the top of her head a little kiss. "I hope you don't get homesick for those test things."

"Homesick for that?" She glanced up at him and smiled. "For school?" She shook her head. "That's the last thing I'll miss." Her smile faded. Her voice grew soft. "No, that's definitely not on my to miss list." Brushing a lock out of her forehead, she picked up the water pot, and saying nothing more, began washing the rice.